For one thing, seeing L'il Wayne and Kid Rock together at a country music awards ceremony--or, really, together at any kind of ceremony, let alone one involving people dressed in suits and ties--was a fairly big shock. Almost as big a shock as seeing Detroit-proud Rock wearing not only a Tennessee Titans football jersey, but that of, of all people, that of kicker Rob Bironas.
Further signs that was most assuredly not your father's (or even your country cousin's) CMA Awards were the performing presences of Hootie & The Blowfish vocalist Darius Rucker and reggae legends the Wailers, who last time we checked weren't exactly known for any particular Nashville Grand Ole Opry creds. Not that we're knocking the musical/societal "inclusiveness" angle that was clearly in play here, right down to Brad Paisley and Keith Urban riff-referencing Deep Purple's "Some On The Water," complete with equally arena-rock widespread guitar hero stances.
On hand to present the award for Entertainer of the Year, the appearance by the positively stunning-looking Twain (that is an oxymoron, isn't it?) caught everyone by surprise. That included even winner Kenny Chesney, whose first words upon reaching the stage--"You really look good!"--seemed to echo the sentiments of all concerned, especially the show's director, who several times during Chesney's acceptance speech changed camera shots so as to bring Twain into the frame.
With no new studio albums released since 2002's Up!, and her Svengali disappearing in her rear view mirror, it remains to be seen precisely where the now 43-year-old country-popster will find herself if and when she returns to the competition. "I hope to be seeing more of you, too," a clearly touched Twain told the CMA audience that rose to give their voluntarily exiled Queen a standing ovation. As they say: stay tuned.
- Brad Paisley