Monday, April 6, 2009

New Country: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

My College Professor, Dr Paull Shinn (now a Washington State Legislator), taught me more about East Asian History than I ever thought I’d ever want to know—and I had just returned from a year in combat in Vietnam! When I asked him how he stirred up such an interest from me, he quoted Victor Hugo:

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”.

Sunday night’s 44th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards might have been one of those moments—an entertainment idea whose time has come.

We all watched as the Stars of Country Music, who normally dominate these awards, sat politely and watched the Youth of Country Music literally take over.

For the first time in memory, an artist who has never had a hit song won the Top New Female Vocalist Award. Now, that’s a departure from the norm!

Here’s another anomaly: Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins were the only “Hat Acts” to win…well, if you don’t include that strange hat Sugarland’s Kristian Bush was wearing. The rest of the “hat acts”—George Strait, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Kix Brooks, Eddie Montgomery, and Kenny Chesney occupied their front-section seats all night long.

Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts are the longest-running acts to receive ACM Awards this year. That, too, is a major sea-change.

There are dozens more examples to make the point, but there’s one thing for sure: the idea of New Country was exhibited in force in every way imaginable—from the over-the-top production to the winners, the audience surrounding the performance stages and even the performers, who included Hannah Montana.

The Award of the Artist of the Decade to George Strait will be in a separate show taped the day after (4/6) and set for a May 27th slot on CBS-TV. Is this being done to separate Country music's history from its present, or is it truly a special honor to George? That’s something further to ponder.

Word leaked out of the closed rehearsals that Tim McGraw walked out of the rehearsal and refused to do the show. His wife, Faith Hill, apparently departed Las Vegas with him prior to showtime. Such a move has been career-enders for artists in the past. Will it end Tim (and Faith's) careers?

The overriding question of any great idea is this: will the audience “get it”? Will they find it compelling? Will it be a sea-change, or will it be a one-night-stand?

If the time has come for the “idea” of New Country, then the Academy of Country Music, dick clark productions and CBS-TV bet the farm on it Sunday night in Las Vegas.

Will Radio do the same?