Tuesday, 8 April 2014

ACM Awards: Recap

Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line practise for their ACM Awards performance.
They came back! Beloved Academy of Country Music Awards hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan joined forces as Bluke to oversee one of the best shows so far. I live-tweeted the annual Las Vegas event from my chilly southern Manitoba home, and thoroughly enjoyed the high-profile celebration of trendy and timeless country music artists across the genre.

Bryan and Shelton opened things up with a couple semi-funny jokes and some awkward moments of silence after The Band Perry started the show with a rock-and-roll performance of Chainsaw that left dressed-up audience members with confetti in their hair. "If you don't like live music, then you need to go down the block and see Britney Spears," quipped Shelton on one of his better lines.

Unfortunately, that ultimately put salt in wound of the most controversial performance, when Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox got busted doing a bad lip-syncing job of Rewind. Viewers were all over the group on Twitter. It later came out that LeVox had simply lost his voice and didn't want to cancel. It was the right call, but even though it was only a day after, the explanation came too late. I think the lesson here is that social media has no patience.

People started complaining on Twitter after the cameras cut to Taylor Swift swaying to Darius Rucker's delivery of Wagon Wheel. Seriously, what's the problem with dancing?

The highlight of the night was most definitely Bluke's impersonation of Daft Punk. The two co-hosts dressed up in the mysterious duo's signature helmets and tuxedos and came on-stage to Get Lucky  before pulling off their helmets and startling viewers. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Besides all the hype and hoopla, though, there actually was really great music. This time it was Brad Paisley crashing parties, as he performed his new feel-good single River Bank from a packed local outdoor pool. Florida Georgia Line wowed viewers at home with a Luke Bryan duet – there were live bikers jumping ramps over fireworks behind them. I saw one Twitter user posted that the drummer must have been praying for no mess-ups, as that could have meant a tread mark on the face. Hunter Hayes seemed to be fighting a cold or something while singing Invisible, but still gave an inspiring performance for an inspiring song.

And of course, George Strait takes home Entertainer of the Year. I think that made everyone happy. There were a few Twitter feuds going on between nominees' fans beforehand, but when Strait won, everyone respected it and calmed down. Congrats on a long, outstanding career!

Make sure to check out more highlights at acmawards.com, and if you watched, let me know below what your favourite part of the show was!

Photo courtesy of acmcountry.com.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Album Review: HIGH NOON

Jerrod Niemann seems to be one of those artists who initially broke through the national country music scene, then dropped out while retaining a niche section of the market. His 2010 single Lover, Lover was a number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, but since then, he only broke the top ten once – that is, until High Noon. His 2012 album failed to gain much momentum, but the debut single from his latest is already up to number four.

Drink to That All Night is the kind of crossover that has been racking up country airplay in recent years. The catchy tune starts with a little bit of rap in the verses, then launches into a rising pre-chorus and pounding chorus. "Everybody knows it gonna be one of those..." I love the bridge, too – the flaring hip-hop offbeats make this song completely original in the country world.

But while the single drew me in, I was disappointed that most of the other songs failed to live up to it. The opening track Space is just meh. "I just need a little space/An opening hiding place."

Buzz Back Girl doesn't have much to differentiate it from countless other comparisons between love and alcohol, and some of the lyrics are cliche. "You don't even know what you're doin' to me."

On the bright side, though, Come On, Come On is fun and laid-back. I especially like the line, "Mix the city life with some country style." Instead of building tension for an effect, this song is completely relaxed and inviting, and I think that works well.

Lucky #7 is a little self-degrading, but very well-crafted lyrically. "I look in your eyes and my only question is how did a seven wind up with an 11?" This song is personal yet lighthearted, and reminds me of Lee Brice's huge hit A Woman Like You.

Donkey is really one of the gems on this album. The lyrics become a bit suggestive by verse two, but the premise is a guy going to the bar riding, well...a donkey! You might think the outrageous scenario causes the song to lose its realism, but it actually doesn't. The rap/rock combination is awesome, too. "George Jones took a John Deere tractor/Hope my donkey gets there faster." Lol.

The hip-hop musical combinations and effects on this album are standout calibre. You really notice them in Beach Baby and later in a duet with Colt Ford titled She's Fine. The latter starts off with a keyboard-only verse, but breaks into a crooning chorus. The tune is so unconventional, but showcases Niemann's range and works as a rap song too. "You can't buy that kind of pretty/They don't grow them like that in the city."

On second thought, High Noon is completely one-of-a-kind, and I like it. However, I don't think it holds enough mainstream appeal to be wildly successful. The production values and vocals are killer, but too many of the songs are weak.

Country Luke's Rating: 7/10

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/JerrodNiemann.