LeAnn Rimes Redeems ACA Awards with Patsy Cline Tribute
Sometimes you can find the most stunning beauty in the strangest of places.
The Fox Network’s 2013 American Country Awards did not go particularly well by a number of measures. Forget that the fabricated awards show really has no weight in the grand country scheme compared to its more established and revered competition in the CMA and ACM Awards, and it seemed to struggle to garner both media attention and top tier country music talent in support of its 2013 effort. The simple transitions between performances, presentations, and commercial breaks seems to find new frontiers of live TV awkwardness, while the fumbling of words was at moments excruciating.
We all can make mistakes and feel the pressure of the live television camera, but Gary Allan wobbled so hard in one segment he had to start completely over. Co-host Trace Adkins invented a new word, “Simular,” which is a cross between ‘singular’ and ‘similar’, which ironically mean the exact opposite things. And the half-assed feel of the entire night was encapsulated when the night’s biggest award for Artist of the Year went to Luke Bryan, but instead of playing a Luke Bryan song as the star made his way to the stage, a Florida Georgia Line song played instead.
It’s not clear if the snafu was the fault of a lowly board operator, or the house DJ (yes, instead of a band, the ACA’s had a DJ), one Deejay Silver, who brought the audience back once from commercial break with a straight up hip-hop song—not a country rap or even a rap song by a country artist—just simply a rap song, which seemed somewhat appropriate on a night when rapper Big Smo said on national TV, “There was a time when you had to choose between country or hip-hop. But not any more!”
The ACA’s generally served their purpose of selling ad time to sponsors, and showcasing some second-tier names that normally don’t receive any face time on the bigger award shows, artists like Justin Moore, Kellie Pickler, and Rhett Atkins, but the whole thing felt tainted, because of the circumspect nature of the awards themselves, and because the production and writing team did no favors for the hosts, presenters, and performers.
But then here came a Patsy Cline tribute in the last quarter of the show and the whole sad sack theme of the night did a complete 180. In a year that saw the death of George Jones, honoring anyone but The Possum seems a little strange on its own, and why after a solid 1 1/2 hours of smearing the legacy of country’s roots the producers decided to go in this direction seems even more curious. But there was LeAnn Rimes, singing a medley of Patsy Cline songs, and who better to do it than her? Since the beginning of LeAnn’s career, the Patsy comparisons have come pouring in.
But LeAnn, a once top flight country artist full of promise, has fallen on hard times in the court of public perception. Unfavorable headlines about infidelity and divorce have put her at odds with the foot the country music industry wants to put forward with its female artists. LeAnn has been virtually forgotten by the industry, but ironically that’s what made her a perfect fit for the ACA’s.
So the LeAnn Rimes medley of Patsy Cline songs starts, and you’re glad to have a respite from all the pop country shenanigans, but you’re not expecting too much. Medleys are always frustrating to some extent because you never get to feel the full brunt of any individual song. But LeAnn, having been a tireless student of Patsy Cline since her formative years, continued to elevate the moments more and more as the tribute transpired until your attentive hate watching of a circumspect award show fell by the side and you were completely enthralled at the channeling of Patsy Cline’s ghost transpiring before your very eyes. And at the end of the medley, when LeAnn went a capella, and the tasteful sepia filter that the ACA’s had placed on the cameras to afford a vintage feel on the first part of the tribute turned back to color, a downright evocation emerged during Patsy’s “Sweet Dreams” that even the embattled and valiant LeAnn Rimes eventually couldn’t even fend off, bursting into tears during the final turn of the chorus.
No video will ever do the moment justice, because it was a moment you had to share in live. At some point you saw LeAnn smile, like she recognized the spirit of Patsy had entered the room, and then the emotion immediately began to well up in LeAnn, and all who were paying attention.
Trace Adkins, after the commercial break, broke script, took off his hat, and complimented LeAnn with a sincere token and acknowledgement of that singular moment LeAnn was able to create, that was anything but similar to what the ACA’s, and really any modern country music award show is able to deliver.
In a mainstream country landscape searching for female stars, to the point of going outside the genre to field awards show nominees, and in a genre that has virtually abandoned its roots, LeAnn Rimes proved that there’s female talent screaming to be showcased, and continued value in music that has withstood the test of time to deliver moments to remember. Booty-shaking anthems and buxom broads singing songs forged in a cubicle farm aren’t just unfortunate because of the lack of nutritional value of their tunes, it is because they push aside those sweet musical moments that we will reminisce on for the rest of our lives.
Two guns up!
bigfoot is real (and a stickler for geometrics)
December 11, 2013 @ 10:31 am
“But then here came a Patsy Cline tribute in the last quarter of the show and the whole sad sack theme of the night did a complete 360.” ..but that would return it to exactly where is was.. a 180 turn would place it opposite of where it was… just sayin’…
December 11, 2013 @ 10:35 am
ACM & CMA are just as phoney. Kiss on stage, Taylor Swift always winning for her 1,000% pop music. And lets not forget ever since Joe Galante left Sony, it’s been the Blake & Miranda show every year at every award show. These awards shows no longer give awards based on merits. What rule book? lol!
December 11, 2013 @ 11:00 am
That was really lovely. I’m also happy to see her looking healthier than the last time I saw her on television.
Do you suppose she’s going to attempt a comeback? There’s a cynical part of me wondering if that tribute (random, right? Especially when we lost George Jones thus year.) was set up specifically for her. Maybe I’ve become jaded, but I can’t help thinking that every moment of these shows has some sort of marketing angle.
December 11, 2013 @ 11:40 am
There had to be some calculation to this. I’m guessing it was Fox’s way to be different. George Jones would have been obvious, and ACA’s can’t bring in some of the male talent that could do a Jones tribute justice. They like younger “hipper” artists, and none of the males they had on performing are talented. NONE.
So, they came up, to their credit, with a tribute 50 years after Patsy’s death and got Rimes. She is young. Still in the media circles for young fans although it hasn’t been for her music lately. So it worked well.
Maybe somewhere in Leann she is sick of seeing the hacks wining awards too and going to get back in the game?
If Garth and Leann are firing the engines back up, that is a good sign. Not the greatest sign, or the end all to our problems, but a signal that there is some talent required this racket and coming back into this racket.
Leann dropped the hammer on that show with a performance that made everyone else look amateur.
You wonder how artists like her don’t have record deals and aren’t topping charts as opposed to the 2nd rate garbage that performs and wins awards on the other 99% of these shows.
December 11, 2013 @ 12:13 pm
LeAnn just released an album “Spitfire.” It’s not like she’s been living under a rock, though being signed to Curb hasn’t done wonders for anyone’s career lately, though “Spitfire” is her last Curb record I’m sure.
December 11, 2013 @ 12:24 pm
I always think of Tanya Tucker as a good career comparison for Leann Rimes. Tucker had a whole string of huge hits as a teenager in the early seventies and then for a number of reasons (many self inflicted) her career totally tanked from the late seventies until the mid eighties. There were a few years where she was totally out of action and then she made an amazing return while still relatively young (around 30) and became a core country artist for a decade. I think Leann Rimes could do that if committed and with the right label backing. She certainly has the talent.
December 11, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
Scotty, I think that opportunity only opens up for LeAnn if all the mainstream classic country artists have retired, and she is willing to commit to the traditional country sound. The pop country trend has gone so far that at some point country music fans will long for someone to carry the torch for the classic country sound. In the previous decade that person could have been Brad Paisley or Carrie Underwood, but both chose to take the pop country route (which probably made sense commercially, since several classic country artists like Alan, George, Reba, etc were still recording at that time).
December 11, 2013 @ 3:16 pm
I thought about why a Patsy tribute, and then I realized, it was 50 years ago March that she died. Then, it makes sense. Although, I would have LOVED to hear Leann do some Jones.
December 11, 2013 @ 11:42 am
She may be crazy as hell, but that girl can SING!
December 11, 2013 @ 1:46 pm
Excellent medley, especially “Leavin’ on Your Mind” at the beginning. Way to remind the ACA audience what real country music sounds like!
December 11, 2013 @ 2:25 pm
You know, I liked LeAnn Rimes back in the late 1990s. She was the little girl with the big voice (in retrospect, you could say she was the un-Taylor Swift). She was recording songs that were too mature for her age (about 14 at the time?) while Shania Twain was dumbing down pop country. So I’m not surprised she put on a good performance at the ACA’s.
LeAnn has the voice for those classic country songs. Her problem is that because of the way she was marketed back in the 1990s, her brand has always been about her youth, and the public has been very harsh and unforgiving any time she has done anything that didn’t fit in that 14 year old angel box. Usually it is very hard for a child star to make a big comeback as an adult.
Just a hunch here … when all the older stars like George Strait and Reba who were recording classic country songs back in the 1980s and 1990s have retired, if LeAnn wants to focus on recording songs with a classic country sound, she might just get her chance. If the male country rappers overstay their welcome, and Taylor continues to annoy country fans with her dubstep, mainstream country fans over the age of 30 might decide that LeAnn is worth another listen.
December 11, 2013 @ 3:24 pm
I just want to get something off my chest. From your comments, I keep getting the impression that you feel that country music fans have sexist tendencies. Given that I know very little about the country music fan base at a personal level, I will defer to you on this matter.
My point is this: if it is true that country music fans are sexist and want female singers to fit some specific stereotype, then maybe those fans are not worth catering to. I am pretty sure that Americana fans are not generally sexist, at least when compared to the average music listener. Perhaps female singers looking to be taken seriously without having to worry about how they are “marketed” should go to Americana instead of mainstream country.
December 11, 2013 @ 3:31 pm
Eric, No I do not think country fans are sexist. From what I’ve seen the majority of today’s mainstream country fans are female, and they tend to be fans of male artists. I do not consider that to be sexist though.
My point was that Nashville has chosen to market female country-POP crossover artists by playing on stereotypes that POP music fans have about country folks. Perhaps there is a tendency on the part of POP music listeners to have sexist stereotypes about country females (e.g. “hot, sexy, and dumb” or “sweet, innocent, and dumb”). I did make the point that any female artist who wants to be known for her songwriting talent should not market herself as a country pop crossover artist, because that would play into those stereotypes.
December 11, 2013 @ 4:09 pm
I see what you mean. So in your opinion, what career strategy should female singers who wish to mix pop-rock and country, and yet be taken seriously, pursue? Should they go for:
a) Hollywood, or
December 11, 2013 @ 8:50 pm
Eric, I think a better strategy for such an artist would be to build a reputation as a singer-songwriter in the pop/rock world first, and then branch out into country. For example she could be marketed as a folk singer-songwriter and played on adult contemporary/pop radio first. If she is successful there, and wants to record some country songs, I’m sure Nashville will welcome her with open arms when the time comes.
The Americana path would be more appealing to me personally, but it is still too much of a niche for an artist with mainstream ambitions.
December 14, 2013 @ 2:29 am
Patsy cline was the first female country singer whose songs crossed over to the pop charts. By no means did she fit stereotypes you just listed.. she went from wearing cowgirl outfits made by her mother for her performances. To wearing very elegant and sleek gowns. Patsy at first didnt want to become known as a pop singer because she didnt want to lose her country following like brenda lee did after going pop. Being a crossover pop/ country singer did work for Patsy and it did get her where she is today an icon. So i see nothing wrong with a country girl singer/writer going pop.. it worked 50 years ago so why wouldnt it work today?
December 14, 2013 @ 9:11 am
“it worked 50 years ago so why wouldnt it work today?”
I see this argument all the time. Because music, just like every single other facet of life, was completely different 50 years ago than it is today.
December 14, 2013 @ 7:39 pm
Jim, a lot has changed in the last 50 years.
Fifty years ago there was no hip hop in pop music. In those days pop music was more melodic, more lyrical, and had more of a folk influence than today.
Our country today is also much more culturally polarized between urban and rural constituencies. Lots of pop music fans strongly dislike country music. Thus it is very difficult for a country singer to successfully cross over these days unless she records songs that are not country.
And today’s pop audiences have been conditioned by a stream of crossover artists (e.g. Shania, Faith, Carrie, Taylor) that fit popular stereotypes about country girls, making it harder for a crossover artist to break out of that mold.
August 10, 2021 @ 10:37 pm
Much like her young protege Barbara mandrel patsy was a pop singer who chose country music as her mileu
August 1, 2021 @ 11:00 pm
I agree Americana is a good fit for Leann at this point in her career. The traditional country instrumentation on spitfire reminds me of Americana. The lyrics remind me of the great Roxanne cash divorce albums. (Ok it’s not that good). Every time I’d hear rosanne I’d want to divorce my husband not because I didn’t love him but because she made it sound so damn cool Leann even covers buddy miller with gasoline and matches. Leann probably deserves more credit than she gets for putting her heart into spitfire. She must have known that curb records wasn’t going to resign her or invest any money promoting it. Curb made it to fulfill a contract. Leann could have done the same but she gave the fans spitfire. It’s a worthy addition to her caktalogue.
December 11, 2013 @ 5:34 pm
As Jason would say “well, I miss the days when women were ugly….”
December 11, 2013 @ 10:19 pm
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December 13, 2013 @ 9:52 am
December 13, 2013 @ 4:07 pm
” LeAnn Rimes proved that there”™s female talent screaming to be showcased,”
I just watched/listened to a one hour spotlight on LeAnn Rimes.
Wow is she good. I knew she was a good singer, but”¦. didn’t realize how good she is.
and good looking.
she must be wondering what the hell is going on in the music business.
great review thanks.
December 13, 2013 @ 9:24 pm
Mark, I agree. But the mainstream music business today is not about talent, it is about marketability. Unfortunately, pop is more marketable than country. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift with her vocal limitations and her cult following is much more marketable than LeAnn Rimes. It would take a lot for LeAnn to get another chance. Just look at how little activity there has been on this thread.
December 28, 2013 @ 4:51 pm
She does have a record deal. With Curb records…….
December 28, 2013 @ 5:02 pm
I believe “Spitfire” was her last official album with Curb.
December 28, 2013 @ 5:08 pm
LeAnn Rimes has said in previous interviews that there was a time in her career where she wanted to out sing everyone and be the best country singer out there. But, then she changed and wants to do the music that makes her happy. She co-writes her music with Darrell Brown (her producer). So I would say that she is happy in her career and her life, She tours all over the world. I think she has gotten to the point where she lives her life and career on her terms. Not anyone else’s.
August 8, 2021 @ 7:56 pm
The acm reminded me how much I miss Leann. Whether you like her personally or not there’s really no one in the current mainstream to take her place. There’s no doubt country music is conservative especially toward women. However I believe the fuss would have blown over if she had let it. She spent a couple years making sure everyone knew she was doing things her way she rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with the ill considered reality show and some of the tabloid antics. She told us and showed us more than we really wanted to know. Hopefully now she is concentrating on her music and she will be welcomed back
October 8, 2021 @ 1:51 pm
Kenny rogers and Rodney Crowell saw their recording careers tank with divorce drama
August 10, 2021 @ 10:53 pm
If patsy had lived she would have been country musics first true superstar. She would have opened country music to the mainstream and given it a whole new audience a younger audience would have embraced Barbara mandrel as a child star before they did. It took another generation to make Dolly Parton a superstar She opened doors for people like Tanya tucker and Leann rimes.