Were songwriters always such hotties? (Answer to this rhetorical question for the kids: No, children, they were not.) But the red carpet at Nashville's annual BMI Awards is a lot more glamorous than it used to be, thanks to the fact that the likes of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and the Band Perry's Kimberly Perry are now among the winners.
It doesn't hurt when Nicole Kidman shows up to stand by her man. Or when Miranda Lambert and LeAnn Rimes come by to help pay musical tribute to the legend who's getting the lifetime achievement award, the inestimable Bobby Braddock.
Thousands of young hearts will be broken to learn that Swift was not named songwriter of the year, as she was at last year's awards dinner. She did pick up three plaques, in honor of the vast nautical miles of airplay afforded to "Mine," "Back to December," and "Fearless" in the year surveyed. (Honors for her latest singles, "Mean" and "Speak Now," will presumably have to wait till 2012.)
Instead, the honor for songwriter of the year — which is not voted upon, but scientifically arrived at by an accumulation of data — was a tie between frequent collaborators Rhett Akins and Dallas Davidson, who somehow managed to rack up even more collective airplay than T-Swift. Among the recent hits for which the pair claim responsibility: Josh Turner's "All Over Me" (named song of the year), Blake Shelton's "All About Tonight," and Rodney Atkins' "Farmer's Daughter."
We would show you a photo of Davidson and Akins picking up their trophy, but we have pictures of Nicole Kidman to get to. You do understand, and they probably will, too.
The BMI Awards are traditionally The Place To Be on CMA Awards Eve, not just because it is "the greatest cocktail party in country music," as one of the hosts put it, or even because it offers the stars a more relaxed and collegial chance to schmooze than the following evening's festivities. The real draw is the musical entertainment that takes place after the dinner, with top performers paying salute to the honoree who's been named an "Icon."
This year, that was Braddock, and in the video montage that follows, you'll see snippets of the Pistol Annies, Blake Shelton, John Anderson, and LeAnn Rimes performing some of his most cherished classics:
Of course, many people consider George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" to be the greatest single country song of all time, if it's possible to qualify such a thing, and Lord knows we all try. Rimes was joined for the climactic rendition of history's all-time tearjerker by hot session guitarist and sought-after harmony vocalist Vince Gill. "My sweet Vince," Rimes tweeted after the show. "All I know is, we know how to be professionals. Neither of us could hear anything, but we rocked!" (The singers performed at center stage while the band set up across the room on a separate platform, which does lend itself to the occasional difficulty.)
John Anderson also rocked "Can You Catch a Falling Star," and was the one performer of the evening to be singing a Braddock song he actually had a hit with, since he took that number into the top 10 back in 1982.
Blake Shelton got the night's first standing ovation, and was judged the standout by much of the crowd, for a Braddock song he did record but which was never released as a single. That tune was "Same Old Song," from Shelton's debut album, one of three that Braddock produced after taking Blake under his wing. Shelton couldn't have given it a more fiery reading, after introducing it by saying, "Anybody who's coming up as a songwriter right now should listen to the words of this song." Taking those borderline-accusatory lyrics in anew, it's easy to see why "Same Old Song" was never released as a single, even though it holds up as an undersung classic:
Now I love country music
And I guess I always will
But these days, when I turn on the radio
It's just not the same thrill …
Hey there Mr. Songwriter
Come and visit in my home
Then tell me about life being perfect
And love that goes on and on and on
Then ride with me in my old Bronco
Down to the factory for eight hours
Then let me introduce you to my supervisor
Then write me a song about sunshine and flowers
That was about the only song, or performance, that could have possibly made "He Stopped Loving Her Today" seem anticlimactic.
But Mrs. Blake had a fine moment of her own, joining up with her Pistol Annies cohorts for the opening reading of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." (Between this and the downbeat "Dear Diamond" on her new album, Lambert seems to have no problem with tempting fate by singing anti-wedding anthems.)
And now, as promised, Music City's very own Princess Grace, along with the shaggy-haired King of Monoco who brought her to town. For the record, Keith Urban picked up an award for "Put You in a Song" -- and of course, he has put his lovely bride in a song many times, which is all the justification we need for putting a non-musician in a featured photo.
Here, also, are few other glimpses of what went down in BMI's parking lot (yes, the performing arts organization transforms its garage into a glitzy ballroom for this event every year):