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A Swift Takeover of the CMAs

Kara King | Friday, November 20, 2009

While most on campus have yet to realize Scene’s abysmal coverage — or lack thereof — of the Country Music Awards, I’m taking it upon myself to attempt to rectify the situation (over a week late, apparently Scene took awhile to pencil me in).
I love country music. Apparently, it’s a surprising quality I possess, but country music is the one aspect of my otherwise well-concealed Southern roots that I’ll publicly announce.
Those people who claim they like any music but country music are either a) lying, b) wrong or c) stupid. At least now Taylor Swift has arrived to show everyone the error of their ways.
Last Wednesday, Swift made country music history, winning all four awards for which she was nominated, including a major victory in usurping Kenny Chesney from the Entertainer of the Year throne that he has held for five of the past six years.
Any casual country music fan fails to realize the magnitude of this upset. The Country Music Association, which votes on the CMAs, is a notoriously conservative body, and tend to be unnecessarily harsh on crossover artist that aren’t “country enough.” After the nominations were announced, George Jones lambasted Swift and other recent artists, saying “They’re definitely not traditional country music,” and accusing them of “stealing [classic country singers’] identities.” Immediately after receiving Entertainer of the Year, Wynonna Judd, the younger and overly-orange half of country duo The Judds, said Swift shouldn’t have won, due in part to her young age.
The last solo female artist to win Entertainer of the Year was Shania Twain. In 1999. Before that, it was Reba, in 1986. Faith Hill, Swift’s idol, never won. Neither did Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood or Tammy Wynette. So Swift capturing the top honor was quite possibly the biggest upset in the country music world in awhile.
But just because it was surprising does not mean it wasn’t deserved. Swift has been under contract since she was 15 (doesn’t that make you feel so unaccomplished?). She’s been writing much longer. She has shattered records in album sales for country, worked with some of the best country musicians and is headlining her own tour. She is a global phenomenon and has earned the recognition that she is receiving.
While I have been a Swift fan since I first heard “Tim McGraw” the summer before freshman year, I have to disagree with her being awarded Female Vocalist. She is an entertainer. Her songwriting and performance skills are unbelievable. But she is known for her combination of raw talent and energy rather than for a booming, powerful voice. Up against some of the strongest voices in music, including McBride, McEntire and Underwood, she pales in comparison. But, perhaps showing their own adaptation to the change sweeping the country, the Association continued piling the platitudes on Swift.
Swift’s other two awards, for Music Video and Album, were no-brainers, and provided an excellent set-up for multiple Kanye jabs. Her upset win in Entertainer of the Year, though, wasn’t the only shocker of the night. Sugarland beat out soon-to-be-defunct Brooks & Dunn for Best Duo. Lady Antebellum ended Rascal Flatts six-year reign in the Vocal Group category and Darius Rucker became the first black country singer since Charley Pride to win a major solo award win he nabbed the Best New Artist Award.
Overall, it was a great night (that should have been covered in a far-more-timely fashion. I’ll work on that for next year). The performances were quality, and, as I watched with my country-hating roommates, I actually felt knowledgeable about the music world for once. Now the real challenge for Swift is to see if she can continue on her upswing and repeat it all next year.