<p>The Civil Wars</p>

The Civil Wars

Credit: AP Photo

The Civil Wars cancel tour citing 'internal discord'

Grammy-winning pair abruptly ends European outing

We guess it wasn’t so civil after all.  After one celebrated full-length album and two Grammy Awards, The Civil Wars have announced the cancellation of their current tour because of “irreconcilable differences.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, Joy Williams and Paul White wrote: “We sincerely apologize for the canceling of all of our tour dates. It is something we deeply regret. However, due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time. We thank each and every one of you for your amazing love & support. Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.”

Additionally, they offer to refund anyone’s non-refundable charges incurred with the cancellation, including service charges and travel reservations. The pair were in the middle of a European tour with dates in Australia and New Zealand to come in 2013.

The last line about new music is a nice idea to hang one’s hopes on, although it’s hard to imagine that they could overcome whatever “internal discord and irreconcilable differences” they have that are intense enough to make them quit in the middle of a tour. But bands have certainly reunited after far more acrimonious situations.

White and Williams met in Nashville in 2008 and began writing together. They released an EP, produced by Charlie Peacock, that featured title track “Poison & Wine.” The song was featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2009. 

The Civil Wars released their first and only full-length set, “Barton Hollow,” in February 2011. The plaudits came fast and furiously as the duo was nominated for CMT Awards, Americana Music Awards, CMA Awards and for two Grammys for best folk album and best country dup/group performance. The group won both Grammys.

The Civil Wars were also featured on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack on the tune “Safe & Sound” with Taylor Swift.  The soundtrack’s producer T Bone Burnett more recently used one of their songs, “If I Didn’t Know Better” to close the first episode.

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Credit: AP Photo

Hail, Hail Madonna: Our all-time top 10 Madonna tracks

We celebrate Madge on the 30th anniversary of her first Billboard chart appearance

It’s election day, but today is special for another reason. As Madonna fans/obsessives know, today marks the 30th anniversary of the Material Girl’s first appearance on a Billboard chart

Billboard chart editor, No. 1 Madonna fan and all-around good egg Keith Caulfield put together a great primer on Madge’s chart history starting with her Nov. 6, 1982 debut on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs chart at No. 40 with “Everybody.”

Since then, she amassed some amazing stats, including 156 No. 1s culled from her appearances on all of Billboard’s charts. Madonna has logged 56 Hot 100 hits, 38 of which have gone Top 10.

For fun, I compiled my own Top 10 list of Madonna songs culled from her 38 Top 10 hits. See if you agree and post your top 10 in the comments section below.

[More after the jump...]

10. “Hung Up” (2005) The perfect blend of Madonna and Abba (the song samples “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).” Two of the biggest artists in the pop pantheon coming together for this twirling dance hit. What could be better?

9. “Cherish” (1989): A return to the light-hearted dance pop of Madonna’s very early years.  It’s a skip-down-the-street kind of song. This is what pure joy sounds like.

8. “Material Girl”
(1985)  Madonna poked fun at her image perfectly with this peppy ode to all things materialistic. The video turned a catchy song into an iconic one. Plus, her delivery is delightful.

7. “Ray Of Light”
(1998) Simply groundbreaking at the time as it helped usher electronic music into the mainstream. If you weren’t into the dance scene, you’d never heard anything like this before coming out of your speakers. It’s also worn very well.

6. “Open Your Heart”
(1986) Again, not a great vocal performance from Madonna, but she strikes a convincing vulnerability as she pleads for a little consideration.  Yes, it sounds dated, but in the best possible way in that you remember where you were when you first heard it.

5. “Don’t Tell Me” (2000): A great change of pace for Madonna, this country-tinged track, written by Joe Henry, combines a classic country feel with a dance production by Mirwais. Throw in the lack of effects on Madonna’s voice and the occasional silence pauses and it shouldn’t work, but it does. Brilliantly.

4. “Secret” (1994): She’s not really comfortable in that low range, but there’s a wonderful aura around this mysterious, hypnotic long song. This one’s all about the slinky, sultry production more than Madonna’s vocal performance.

3. “Express Yourself” (1989)” One of the greatest female empowerment pop anthems, despite the fact that she’s chained up in the video. But as she explained at the time, she’s the one doing the restraining, so it’s still empowering.

2. “Like a Prayer”
(1989): Everything about this single is perfect: Madonna’s delivery, the production, the shifts in tempos and instrumentation throughout.  One of the best records ever made. The choir: perfection.

1. “Borderline” (1984): It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Madonna still had a sweet innocence that  was soon left in the dust, but here it’s present and delightful. Besides, who hasn’t had a love who deliciously makes them feel like they’re going to lose their mind?


Which songs make your top 10?


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<p>J. Cole</p>

J. Cole

J Cole sets release date for second set, 'Born Sinner'

Guests include Melanie Fiona

J Cole, whose 2011 debut, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” bowed at No. 1, will release his sophomore set, “Born Sinner,” on Jan. 28, 2013.

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: AP Photo

Rihanna's 'Unapologetic' tracklist features Eminem and Chris Brown

Who else is on the Nov. 19 release?

Rihanna’s “Unapologetic” doesn’t come out for two weeks, but today she tweeted fans a hand-written track listing.

And yes, the album includes the tune “Nobody’s Business” featuring Chris Brown. Can’t wait to hear the lyrics on that one. God bless her, she knows she’s just ratcheting up the hype at this point and that we’ll all get our panties in a twist about her collaborating with him again following their partnership on “Birthday Cake” and “Turn Up The Music.”

She reteams with Eminem on a track called “Numb,” which would be awesome if it’s a sequel to “Love The Way You Lie.” Other guests include Future on “Loveeeeeee Song” and Mikky Ekko on “Stay.”

The album contains 14 tracks, plus a bonus track called “Half Of Me.” First single, “Diamonds,” has already hit No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Songs chart.

As we previously reported, a few different versions of “Unapologetic” will be released including a limited edition box set for $250 that includes a diamond bracelet and exclusive photos.

Tracklist for Unapologetic


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<p>The cover of Aerosmith's new album</p>

The cover of Aerosmith's new album

Album Review: Aerosmith time travels on 'Music From Another Dimension'

First set of new material in 11 years is solid slab of rock

Few bands that are still standing have as twisted and troubled a history as Aerosmith  It’s nothing short of a miracle that the five principals are still alive, no less still together, making music.

It’s been 11 years since Aerosmith released an album of new material (the last studio album was blues cover set, 2004’s “Honkin’ On Bobo”). “Music From Another Dimension,” out Nov. 6, is a welcome return that sonically spans that band’s full history, usually for the better than for the worse.

Given the title, it should come as no surprise that the album opens with a “Twilight Zone”-like voice over that heralds, “you’re about to enter a great adventure...from which you may never return.”

Then the band is out of the chute with “Luv XXX,” a Beatlesque track that also incorporates elements of “Love In and Elevator” without the sharp sparkle. Still, it’s a strong opener: a cohesive, inviting track that shows off Steven Tyler’s still healthy rasp.

From there, the band leaps into “Oh Yeah,” a track that crosses The Stones with Blur. It’s one of the album’s catchiest tunes and should be a single contender, even if it doesn’t have a strongly memorable chorus.

The members of Aerosmith can do mid-tempo rockers like “Tell Me” in their sleep, but the acoustic-leaning “Tell Me,” still has its appeal, with Joey Kramer’s hypnotic drumming and the band’s background vocals hitting all the right beats.  A similarly heard- this-before vibe penetrates the loose-limbed “Out Go The Lights,” a rock slab that includes the classic Tyler lyric, “Liquor in the front/poker in the back” (if you don’t get it from reading it, read it outloud...Tyler’s harmonica ending is a welcome coda. First single, the rollicking “Legendary Child,” which details the band’s history, should have done better at radio,  given Joe Perry’s  blazing guitar and the steady, welcoming rock thump.

Ever since the band landed its first No. 1 with “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,”  syrupy sweet love ballads have become part of their legacy. It’s already looking like the band will have an AC hit with “What Could Have Been Love.” The song sounds straight out of the Diane Warren playbook, even though it was written by Tyler, Marti Frederiksen and the album's co-producer Jack Douglas (who also produced "Rocks").  However, Warren does make an appearance with the keep-the-faith, inspirational ballad, “We All Fall Down.” It screams for a major movie placement (just as “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” appeared in  1998‘s “Armageddon").

Carrie Underwood, who previously duetted with Tyler various television shows, returns for a second helping on the mid-tempo, heavy track, “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.”  They are both belters, but they do a good job of not working together instead of out-shrieking each other. Still, unless there’s some major remix, you won’t be hearing this alongside Underwood’s other tunes on country radio.

There’s something comforting in the fact that after 40 years together, Aerosmith remains  composed of the same bad boys making the same blues-based rock after all these years. To be sure, the musicianship feels strong, but more economical, these days and Tyler’s voice has yielded a small bit of its rubbery flexibility to time, but the band is still vitally and nicely intact. Furthermore, despite all the break-ups, the rough and tumble years, and times of personal enmity, they still sound like a band, very capable of leaving whatever issues still haunt them outside the studio door.  Just listen to “Freedom Fighter,” a song featuring Perry on lead vocals, and the groovy pocket the band slides into towards the end. That’s something only time and triumphing over tribulations brings.

For older fans, “Sweet Jesus” provides the money shot. With its rumbling freight train vibe and long, propulsive outro, it would have sounded right in place on an early Aerosmith album from the mid-'70s.

The album closes with the gorgeous, dreamy “Another Last Goodbye” co-written with Desmond Child, who helped pen some of the band’s biggest hits during its ‘90s resurgence. A more restrained vocal by Tyler may have made it more radio friendly and help match his delivery with  the lovely piano and strings, but his alley cat screeches sound authentic. To be able to say that after everything Aerosmith has been through feels like some kind of major victory.

This is the band's last album on their contract with Columbia. Should it be a swan song-- and hopefully it's not-- it represents Aerosmith and its legacy well.

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<p>Brandy in &quot;Wildest Dreams&quot;</p>

Brandy in "Wildest Dreams"

Watch: Brandy's boots are made for walking in 'Wildest Dreams' video

R&B singer continues on comeback trail with new single

Brandy brings it old school with the new video for “Wildest Dreams,” the current video from her comeback album, “Two Eleven.”

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: Richard Shotwell/AP

Music Power Rankings: Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Britney Spears top the list

Blake Shelton and Eminem also make the cut

1. Taylor Swift: “Red” sells 1.2 million in its first week. It's the strongest opening frame since Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” 10 years ago. Can a duet between the two be far behind?

2. Blake Shelton: His win for CMA male vocalist of the year? A sure thing. His win for CMA Entertainer of the Year? A total shock—to him just as much as to anyone else. He is “The Voice.”

3. Bruce Springsteen:
He proves himself a true son of New Jersey as he headlines a benefit for Hurricane Sandy along with Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and that Englishman in New York, Sting.

4. Britney Spears:
She makes it through the first live episode of “The X Factor.” Of course, all she had to do was not drool or face plant. And Sam Lufti's lawsuit against Spears and her parents is thrown out.

5. Kid Rock:
He finally joins the new millennium and offers his new album, “Rebel Soul,” on iTunes. Welcome to 2004.

6. Rihanna: She will promote her seventh album in seven years by playing seven shows in seven days in seven countries. She’s no doubt traveling on a 777.

7. Eminem:
His Eminence hints that a new album will be forthcoming in 2013... via the side of a baseball cap. Hey, it will probably turn out better for him than or the Tigers.

8. Tim McGraw
Finally unshackled from Curb Records, he announces the title of his first album for Big Machine, the not-so-cryptically titled “Two Lanes of Freedom.”

9.Alt-J: British quartet who’s starting to find favor on these shores grabs the the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Prize for its debut album, “An Awesome Wave.”

10.Chris Brown: He dresses as an Arab terrorist for Halloween. Oh Chris...every time we think you may have turned the corner, you do something unbelievably stupid. When “Suburgatory” makes you a punch line twice within first two minutes, you are not yet forgiven.


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<p>Taylor Swift at the CMA Awards</p>

Taylor Swift at the CMA Awards

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Will Taylor Swift's 'Red' enjoy another week atop the Billboard 200?

What happens with Meek Mill's debut album?

Taylor Swift keeps her room at the top of the charts next week as “Red” is poised to sell up to 340,000 copies on the Billboard 200.

It’s unclear how much Hurricane Sandy hurt album sales, but Hits Daily Double postulates that Meek Mill, who has a strong Northeast fanbase, likely  ends up with lower sales than he would have had there been blue skies and no power outages.  Even so, he’s still a lock for No. 2 as “Dreams & Nightmares” will sell up to 180,000 units.

In addition to rapper Mill, four other artists bow in the Top 10. Rod Stewart’s first holiday album, “Merry Christmas, Baby,” lands at No. 3. Toby Keith’s “Hope On the Rocks” likely starts at No. 6. Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s “Psychedelic Pill” comes in at No. 8 with sales of up to 35,000, and Trans Siberian Orchestra’s latest Christmas opus, the “Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night)” EP at No. 9.

Filling in the rest of the top 10 are this week’s No. 2 set, Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” at No. 4. Jason Aldean’s “Night Train” at No. 5, Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” at No. 7 and Pink’s “The Truth About Love” at No. 10.

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<p>Jason Aldean arrives</p>

Jason Aldean arrives

Credit: AP Photo

Live Blogging the 46th Annual CMA Awards

Will Taylor Swift capture her third Entertainer of the Year award?

7:55 p.m.  The CMA Awards will kick off in a few minutes. Who will take home the most trophies? If Taylor Swift wins Entertainer of the Year, she will be the only woman to have won it three times. Will Lady Antebellum take home group and album of the year? We'll be watching the show along with you.

8: Jason Aldean opens the show with a dedication to New York and New Jersey before launching into "The Only Way I Know," a tune off his new No. 1 album with Luke Bryan and Eric Church, who has the most nominations of all artists, with five. They are all dressed down as possible without coming out in pajamas. I know it's what they usually wear in concert, but it's a special night, guys. Have a little respect. Big names to open, but the performance is fairly standard as opposed to some kind of blockbuster one-of-a kind event.

8:06 Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley reunite to host again and come out with their now-familiar routine of coming up with a parody song, this time, they switch "Moves Like Jagger" to "Moves Like Haggard."  They then go into a bit busting on Taylor Swift breaking up with Conor Kennedy. Please note, and this may be a first, the camera does not pan to Swift during the bit. That shows you just how much power Swift has. 

8:08  Paisley just busted a move "Gangnam Style." Underwood follows suit. They are so relaxed with each other after a few years of doing this that they are willing to swing for the fences...whether it's galloping to Psy's horsey dance or making a motorboating joke. Another reason it works is because it reflects Paisley's goofy sense of humor.

8:12: Lisa Marie Presley is presenting Single of the Year. I predicted it will go to "Springsteen." She seems like she'd rather be anywhere but there and saying "Oh God," before she announces Little Big Town's "Pontoon" as the winner doesn't help. LBT, after toiling for years, finally landed their first No. 1 with "Pontoon," and this win feels like it's more for their career efforts than for this song, which is a fun trifle. Now they can go home and explain to their kids what "motorboating" means. Fun!

8:18:  Paisley and Underwood are back, and with a costume change for both, go into a bit about inducing labor on Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, who looks like she could bust any minute. Whether you think the humor works, there's no denying that their loose-limbed playfulness and chemistry is real. They throw to TIm McGraw, who's playing the new single to his forthcoming album, "Two Lanes of Freedom,"  and first for Big Machine after a protracted legal battle with Curb. "One Of Those Nights" is a straight-up-the-middle mid-tempo country song that is fine, but nowhere near McGraw's best. It doesn't matter. It will go straight to No. 1.

8:23  Thompson Square wins vocal duo of the year, stopping Sugarland's multi-year run. Yes, Shawna Thompson does talk about her "me-maw's mason jar... " You are not going to hear that phrase on the BET Awards, I'm guessing.

8:28 Reigning female vocalist of the year Miranda Lambert pushes the show into overdrive with a high-octane performance of "Fastest Girl In Town." Sadly, the cameraman seems way more infatuated with the guitarist, who's matched his shirt with his guitar, than Lambert, so we miss most of her twirling away. Best performance of the three so far.

8:32 Lambert's performance is about as energetic as country gets. You're not going to get the acrobatics and dance moves (something horrific like Luke Bryan's "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)' nonwithstanding) on the CMAs. instead, you're going to get acts that really sing. There's generally no lipsyncing allowed here. Zac Brown Band are the perfect example. They may as well be statues for how much they're moving, but the Eagles-like harmonies and playing are on "Goodbye In Her Eyes." 

8:40  Dierks Bentley's so laid back on "Tip It On Back" that he might just topple over. What's with the fog machines, dude? It's a song about drinking with some sly sexual innuendo.  It's good, but there's something really sexy abut the recorded version on his current album that this performance doesn't capture.

8:45 We're getting lots of first live performances of new songs tonight: first McGraw and now  The Band Perry with "Better Dig Two," the first single from their sophomore album. Reid Perry is rocking a cowboy hat that just looks silly. The set is filled with lasers, which don't fit the song's western, old-timey vibe, but at least they don't have the dirt smudges on their faces that they have in the ads for the single.

This rolls right into Church performing "Springsteen," and no, there is no chance that Bruce is coming out to join him.  In fact, we've never heard any reaction from The Boss about the song. My goodness, Church is injecting a very-slowed down version of "Born To Run" into the song. Yeah, baby.. tramps like us, you know what we were born to do.

8:50 And now straight into Eli Young Band singing "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," which is up against "Springsteen" and three others for Song of the Year. Kellie Pickler, whose hair is growing out adorably after she cut it off to support a friend undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and Darius Rucker. The winner is "Over You," a song Blake Shelton co-wrote about losing his brother in a car accident when Blake was 14 years old.  Shelton talks about how his dad told him he should write a song about his brother. Now Shelton's dad is dead, but Shelton says "he's still right." Lambert, who co-wrote and sang the song, is too choked up to get out more than a few words. There's not going to be a more sincere, beautiful acceptance speech of the night. It's a lovely, bittersweet moment.

9:02: The second hour opens with Paisley, alone on stage, playing the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show," while photos of Griffith from that TV show through his appearance in Paisley's "Waiting on a Woman" video clip appear behind him. Nice. As a North Carolina girl, I sure wish Andy were still around.

9:05 Taylor Swift recreates the Paris scenery of her video for "Begin Again" as she debuts the song on the show. As you know, "Red" sold more than 1.2 million copies in its first week, the best of any album since Eminem in 2002.  It's a low-key understated performance that suits the song. It's nice how the background shifts from day to night (or maybe our screen is just going dark). She gets a Standing O, but it's not for that performance, it's for pretending she's still a country artist and showing up. I have no problem with that.

9:11 LBT is performing newly-minted single of the year, "Pontoon," on what look like four individual boxes, but it turns out it's a pontoon boat. Clever lighting takes us onto the water for a little motorboating. It's a lifeless performance. Can I demand a re-vote? OK, that's a little harsh, but LBT has so many songs that show off their gorgeous harmonies better and are much more interesting, but I'm not going to begrudge them this win... for long.

9:18: Like Bryan's bringing it on his ode to goodbye sex, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye." While I'm not always a fan of his songs, he's developed into an engaging performer. Oh.. there goes the cap flip. Is it written in his contract that he has to switch his cap from brim in the front to backwards every song? I'm just being churlish. It's one of the evening's strongest performances.

9:21: A still-pregnant Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are presenting album of the year. My prediction is for "Chief."  Yay! Got that one right! Church must have been sweating it there for a moment after "Springsteen" lost both single and song of the year. "I spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in... too country, too rock.. I want to thank y'all for giving me somewhere to hang my hat," Church says. You mean he takes that thing off? We've never seen him without it or the sunglasses.  When he finally changes his looks it's going to cause as much excitement as when Shelton got rid of his mullet.

9:33 Faith Hill is performing her new single, "American Heart. "  When it doubt, throw in images from sea-to-shining-sea into a song for that pan-geographic appeal. Sadly, Hill is struggling to get her career back on track but this song may do it. It's No. 31 in its sixth week on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.  You can feel the room rooting for her.  This segues into Brantley Gilbert singing his first No. 1, "Country Must Be Country Wide." He may tip the scales to baseball caps over cowboy hats for the heat topper of choice. His vocal mix is horrible. As my colleague Holly Gleason noted on Facebook, there's a certain irony to having Gilbert name-check "Cash, Hank, Willie, and Waylon" in a song before naming the radio station winners. Don't make us point out why that's ironic.

9:47: Following a spirited performance by Keith Urban and Zac Brown, last year's new artists of the year, The Band Perry, present the award to Hunter Hayes.  "Wanted" has been a huge hit that's starting to cross over, and the feeling is that he could grow into a strong artist. It some ways, it's a little premature. It's take a few years to see if the voters' faith is rewarded.

9:51:  I am a major Brad Paisley fan, but his vocals are off tonight on new single, "Southern Comfort Zone." The song, however, is another reason I love Paisley. There is no other country artist out there right now who embraces the typical country tropes of trucks and sweet tea, but also addresses such topics as civil rights (as on "Welcome To The Future") or, in this case, realizing there's a big wide world out there and it's okay to want to see it all. My only problem with this song, and it's not a small one, is the incorporation of "Dixie." For too many people, it's a song that's linked to slavery,  in the same way the Confederate flag is. We know that's not  Paisley's intention by any means, but it's just an association that totally takes us out of the song.

10:04:  Nothing says tornado like confetti. Seriously, Carrie Underwood, in a gray outfit the same color as the one her wax figure wears on the cover of "Blown Away," performs the album's title track.  The song is her equivalent of Martina McBride's "Independence Day." She is a powerhouse vocalist and she's bringing it tonight. Yikes, she just hit a major clam, but recovers nicely. We'll see later if she can snare female vocalist from Miranda Lambert. Vocal group of the year goes to Little Big Town. I'd predicted it would go to Eli Young Band, clearly misreading the goodwill that LBT has built up over the years.  As Kimberly Schlapman says, "This has been a 13-year journey." Then Karen Fairchild, drunk with excitement, starts thanking Jesus after every r thank you. Their husbands can't get a word in edgewise. We're not even sure Jesus himself could. It's a well-deserved award .

10:11: Jason Aldean, in his second performance of the night, rips through "Take A Little Ride," his latest No. 1 and first single off of "Night Train."  On a side note, he seems to have totally weathered his little indiscretion from a few weeks ago. That's because he quickly admitted he was wrong, apologized and moved on.  While his actions may have been questionable, his response was note perfect.

10:17: What do Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill have in common? Neither one of them gets played on country radio these days as a solo artist... Meow. Here comes further cattiness. "Don't Rush" is a bad song that sounds like it got pulled out of a 1983 time capsule. Other than Gill's always impeccable, tasty playing (and his absence is radio's loss), it is a dated soft rock relic. Is it just me? Clarkson even sounds like Crystal Gayle on the track.  As long as I'm being mean, what's that sofa covering she's wearing?  Blake Shelton wins his third consecutive male vocalist of the year.  That probably means that Miranda Lambert is a sure bet for her third consecutive female vocalist award. Shelton admits that he's had a few drinks since we last saw him on stage and he wasn't prepared for this award. Country music's most prolific (and hilarious) Tweeter admits he thought the award would go to Aldean or Bryan who have to smile and look like they aren't bummed about losing.

10:28: Kenny Chesney is performing the sultry "Come On Over," which, frankly, I'm surprised wasn't nominated for song of the year. He represents the old guard here. Think about it. He's one of the few performers (other than TIm McGraw and Faith Hill) whose career started in the early '90s.

10:32: In a meta-moment, the female stars of "Nashville" are presenting an award--and doing it very awkwardly at that. This category includes Kelly Clarkson, who is not a country artist,  and Carrie Underwood, so "American Idol" is the real winner here.  Want to know who the winner is? Scroll up to my prediction a few paragraphs back. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert get to keep the titles of Queen and King of country for one more year. Lambert takes time to praise all her fellow nominees, including stabbing Martina McBride in a true-life "Nashville" moment by talking about listening to her when she was little, and gives a nice Girl Power speech.

10:40: I'm not really sure why there's a tribute to Willie Nelson tonight, but it's never a wrong time to pay homage to the Red Headed Stranger, so we're in. It starts with a tender, understated version of "Always On My Mind" by Lady Antebellum, which segues into a so-so take on "Crazy."  Shelton, Urban and Mickey Raphael (who has played with Nelson since Moses) tear into "Whiskey River," which could be the hard-drinking Shelton's theme song. There's not a lot of chemistry between Shelton and Urban, but it works well. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are duetting on "Good Hearted Woman." I don't know which one is supposed to be Willie and which one is supposed to be Waylon. The master takes the stage to show them how it's done singing "On The Road Again" for the 538,325 time. His guitar solo is beautiful.  Ah, the first ever Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award is being presented to  Willie Nelson. Now it all makes sense. He's 79. I hope he's still going strong for years more.

10:55: Friends, our marathon is almost over. The only award left is Entertainer of the Year. I predicted Jason Aldean would win, but the way the evening is going, it could be Blake Shelton. Or maybe Little Big Town will win as a write-in candidate.

10:57: The awkward attempts to tie in with ABC shows continues as Reba and Tim Allen present entertainer of the year to... even he looks shocked... Blake Shelton. He gives a very sweet, lovely hug to his good buddy Reba, who's tearing up...maybe because she remembers when she used to be up for this award. "What is this? I don't even know!... I love country music more than anybody in this room." 

11 p.m.: Some immediate post-show thoughts. The big losers are Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift. But here's the thing about Swift. Country music is not going to turn its back on her...not after the reception "Red" has gotten. Early prediction? "Red" is up for country album of the year next year even though it's only about .05% country. Aldean could follow Toby Keith, who hates the CMAs (even though he won best video this year) out the door and feel they don't recognize his artistry.

The show was solid, greatly enhanced by strong acceptance speeches by Shelton/Lambert (together and separately) and Little Big Town. Paisley and Underwood, who largely got out of the way after their opening scene, remain a strong partnership. There were no truly stand out performances and no horror shows, but if I have to give a best, it goes to Underwood for "Blown Away."

What did you think of the CMA  Awards? Did the voters get it right? 



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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Listen: Bruno Mars has it bad for 'Young Girls' on new single

And that ain't good

Following the stutter-stepping brightness of “Locked Out Of Heaven,” Bruno Mars returns to his mid-tempo ballad strong suite with “Young Girls.”

He first introduced the song when he appeared on “Saturday Night Live” a few weeks ago, and today, he released the studio version from his forthcoming sophomore studio set, “Unorthodox Jukebox.”

[More after the jump...]

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