CMA Award voters, perhaps trying to avoid the partisan politics that have handcuffed Washington this year, took the safe route by giving the album of the year award to Blake Shelton's "Based on a True Story..."
That skirted the most dynamic entries in the category: Taylor Swift's international, cross-genre blockbuster "Red" and Kacey Musgraves' rootsy, old-school country effort "Same Trailer, Different Park."
The other nominees were relatively conventional contemporary country outings from Shelton, Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood.
The albums from Swift and Musgraves represent almost polar opposites -- Swift's album is more unapologetically pop-oriented than its three predecessors, featuring a variety of collaborations with hit pop and R&B producers and songwriters, while Musgraves' collection centers on traditional country sounds and themes as expressed in songs more distinctly shaped than most of those populating the upper reaches of the country charts today.
And both "Red" and "Same Trailer" have been critically lauded, with Swift's album scoring a 77 (out of a possible 100) on the Metacritic.com aggregate website, and Musgraves' album posting an even stronger 88, making it one of the best reviewed albums of the year in any genre. But the comparative sales show a very different story.
"Same Trailer, Different Park" has sold about 231,000 copies since its release in March, while "Red" is closing in on 4 million, giving Swift her fourth multi-platinum-selling album since her 2006 debut, "Taylor Swift."
Musgraves did, however, take home the CMA Award for new artist of the year, which surely generated cheers from fans of traditional country, for whom she's become a poster child during 2013.
Other awards in the first half of the show went to Florida Georgia Line for duo of the year and their hit "Cruise," named single of the year. Lee Brice's hit "I Drive Your Truck," inspired by the story of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, landed the song of the year award for Lee and songwriters Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yearey.
Before the show began, Swift, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban collected two awards each for their collaboration on the hit single “Highway Don’t Care,” winner of both musical event and video of the year honors.
The double win brought McGraw’s lifetime CMA award total to 14, while Swift now has nine, and Urban has snagged eight over the years. Swift was nominated for four more, including another for “Highway Don’t Care,” which lost to "Cruise" in the single of the year category. She also was nominated for album for female vocalist and the top prize of entertainer of the year, which she’s taken home twice previously.
With her six nominations, she came into the show tied with newcomer Musgraves to lead the field this year. Urban was up for his fourth male vocalist CMA honor, along with his three nominations related to “Highway Don’t Care."
Swift also was given only the second ever CMA Pinnacle Award, presented to an “an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence through concert performances and record sales at levels unique in country music. The artist has also attained the highest degree of recognition within the broad expanse of music worldwide. The artist’s talent and presence will have a long-term positive impact on the appreciation of country music for generations to come.” The first was handed out in 2005 to Garth Brooks.
The 47th annual CMA Awards ceremony were held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and tape delayed for prime-time telecast to the West Coast starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The show was hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
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