The Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony had little to offer in terms of surprises Sunday. The same pedal-steel-laden pop acts put on the same sparkling spectacle as every other year. The same four or five acts swept up most of the awards (Carrie Underwood won Entertainer of the Year for the second year in a row, Brad Paisley took home the top male vocal award and Miranda Lambert won the female equivalent).
The Academy didn’t stray very far from the elite few who dominate mainstream country radio but did resist welcoming one expected newcomer into the inner circle — Taylor Swift, who took home several Grammys earlier this year and has a multi-platinum album still selling, was snubbed completely.
This is kind of shocking considering the amount of success Swift has had both commercially and critically as well as the domination of much of the press that her awards have received. And most of the articles I have seen about Swift’s shortcomings continually mention another blonde songstress — the black-magic-gypsy woman, Stevie Nicks.
Nicks sang with Swift at the Grammys, where Swift remained off-key for the majority of Nicks’ Welsh-witch ballad “Rhiannon.” The juxtaposition of the teenage pop star with the gold dust woman shows a clear shift in the expectations in popular music from 30-plus years ago to today.
Nicks crafted songs with the ability to enchant the snobbiest of music elitists (Pitchfork named Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours one of the greatest albums of the ’70s), whereas Swift writes pop tunes able to keep the heads of preteen girls and soccer moms bobbing in the Starbucks line.
Granted, straight pop songs aren’t all bad. There’s a place for Swift’s music — it’s the perfect soundtrack to preteen fairy-tale dreams.
When Swift sings, “It’s a love story, baby, just say, ‘Yes,’” it’s easy to feel the exhilaration of high-school romance. It just doesn’t hit as hard or reach as deep as when Nicks sings, “I’ve been afraid of changing, because I built my life around you.”