The Best And Worst Of The 2010 CMA Awards Performances

Last night the stars came out in Nashville for what is billed as Country's Biggest Night at the 44th Annual CMA Awards. Overall, they put on an entertaining show with some great performances, but there were also some that missed the mark a bit.

Carrie Underwood opened up the show on a high note, belting out her hit "Songs Like This" with Brad Paisley on guitar and Keith Urban on banjo. The song set a nice pace for the evening and flowed well into Carrie and Brad doing their opening dialog talking about, and joking about, the happenings of 2010. The pair has some great chemistry and really do a good job with their hosting duties.

My two favorite performances of the night came from Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. Miranda did her best to channel the spirit of the Ramones during her performance of "That's The Way The World Goes Round," but yet still came through with that strong country twang and charm that she has. The song just absolutely rocks in a good way.

Taylor's rendition of "Back To December," performed by her at the piano with just a small string section was a proper "screw you" to everyone that says she can't sing. Over the years, I've seen a lot of artists with worse vocal abilities on shows like the CMAs and they do their best to cover their vocals with a wall of sound from the backing music. Not Taylor, the decision to come out and sing a ballad even more stripped down than normal was a gutsy one and I think it paid off big time. It is a very emotional song and Taylor's voice and performance perfectly captured the mood for me. I'm pretty convinced that 99% of the people that say she can't sing are just jealous that she is young, beautiful and outselling their favorite artist.

Miranda also impressed me with her performance of "Coal Miner's Daughter" where she was joined by the legendary Loretta Lynn herself, looking and sounding as great as ever. The only thing that marred that performance for me was the appearance of Sheryl Crow. She came out dressed in a drab black dress looking like she was headed for a funeral. Maybe she's mourning the death of her career, I don't know.

Other performances I was impressed by include Dierks Bentley's "Up on the Ridge," and Zac Brown Band's "As She's Walking Away," which they performed with Alan Jackson. Both songs stood out from the crowd as I sit here writing the review, they show that country can stretch outside of the pop boundaries and sound more like classic country music.

Performances that didn't live up to the mark include Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song," which just seemed like the phrasing wasn't right and didn't live up to the album version at all for me. It goes to show that you can have some amazing vocal talent and still not be able to nail a song.

Reba McEntire's "If I Was A Boy" also left me feeling flat. There was nothing technically wrong with her performance, but I just didn't buy the song coming from her. I've always thought Reba shines best when she's belting out an uptempo song with attitude, so maybe I was just bummed out to hear her choose this ballad.

George Strait, one of my favorite artists of all time, seemed to labor a bit through his song "The Breath You Take." It was still nice to see him up on the stage after all these years. There's a reason why he's got more CMA nominations than anyone else, he is country music.

In the "I made a movie and someone paid a lot of dough so I could sing on a national awards show" moment of the night, Gwyneth Paltrow sang "Country Strong," the title song of her new movie. Sure, it took some guts for her to do it, and that's why she got a standing ovation, because the performance itself was just passable.

Overall, about the night that we expected on the performance front. Who won the awards? Well, that's a topic for another story!

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