Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks walks the ACM Awards red carpet
Credit: AP photo

Live blogging the 49th annual ACM Awards

Will Taylor Swift win entertainer of the year? Blake Shelton? Luke Bryan?

7:50 p.m.: Hello from the 49th annual ACM Awards in Las Vegas.  We'll be blogging live from the press room, which means we'll be commenting on the action you're seeing on TV, but also on what's going on backstage as the artists come back to talk to the press. The Band Perry are opening the show with an explosive version of "Chainsaw," and the performers' list is a virtual who's who of country: Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, George Strait, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and more. There are 25 performances in all. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are co-hosting for the second year, so there should be plenty of laughs.

8:04 p.m.: The Band Perry opens the show with a midtempo tune called "Chainsaw." It's all sizzle and very little steak, with Kimberly Perry stomping around, confetti flying, and Reid Perry tossing his hair and his body around as if he's a member of AC/DC. At least they're playing live. Very tepid audience response.  I run hot and cold on TBP, and I'm definitely feeling cold about that one... am I wrong? Maybe it played better on TV than on the press room feed.

8:05: Blake Shelton lays down the gauntlet. Luke Bryan stresses that everyone is playing live and Shelton adds, "If you don't want to hear love music, go down the Strip and go see Britney Spears"... Bryan then calls out Carrie Underwood in the audience and commends her on "The Sound of Music" ratings. Give it a rest... yes, she got panned by some critics, but the ratings soared, so she's a winner in the poll that really matters and she's probably ready to move on... OK, we just lost the house feed. It's back now as Bryan makes a joke about Shelton not being Entertainer of the Year, but maybe Entertainer of the Minute... "and I'm spotting you 30 seconds." Their bromance is alive and well...

8:12 p.m. Florida Georgia Line perform "Stay," or as I like to call it, "What if I wrote you a love song... " However, as you may not know, artists are now trying to make song titles one word because it's better for social media when it comes to tweeting, etc... Can you imagine if "Stairway to Heaven" come out now? It would be called "Stairway," or, to keep it country, "Friends in Low Places" would be called "Friends." But I digress, which I guess is my commentary on how non-compelling I'm finding FGL's performance...though it's nice to just see them standing and singing. Too harsh?

8:15: Brad Paisley debuts new song, "Riverbank," poolside surrounded by lovely looking men and women in bathing suits. It's one of those fun-timing, easy going kinds of songs that Paisley excels at and the timing is perfect for it to break as we head into warmer weather. It's a fun, laid back performance.

8:23: Blake Shelton performs "My Eyes," the 4,325th single from "Based on a True Story," with Gwen Sebastian, while his wife Miranda Lambert sings along in the audience. It's a fine, sexy, mid-tempo song, but the show is in need of some uptempo, rocking performance about right now... and we're almost 30 minutes in without an award being presented. They're still going to hand some out, right?

8:27: Brett Eldredge, one of the three male nominees up for new artist of the year, performs a snippet of "Beat of the Music" from the Mandalay Bay. The ACMs have apparently taken over every MGM-owned property in Las Vegas (and note that Spears is not at an MGM property or I'm pretty sure that joke would have gotten cut).

8:35 p.m.: George Strait, that's King George to you, does what he always does, stands there and sings and make it look totally effortless. He's on a victory lap as he completes his last tour. "I Got A Car" is a bit of a strange song about a couple meeting and having their first baby... he's north of 60, so it's a big of a strange fit, but if there's one thing I've learned in my years of covering country music, Strait is unassailable. See...he just got the first standing ovation of the night just for being himself. Not that I can think of a better reason for someone to get one.

8:38: Confession time... I am the last possible person that would ever drive a truck, and yet Lee Brice's "I Drive Your Truck" gets to me every time. It's killing me that he's not getting to sing the whole song. It's a killer song and is understandably up for single record of the year and song of the year. Guy Fieri is now introducing a segment on Party for a Cause, but he's really here to plug his new restaurant at one of MGM's properties, let's not kid ourselves.  8:40 and still no awards have been handed out...

8:45: Eric Church performs "Give Me Back My Hometown." I'm a latecomer to join the Church of Eric and I like this song, but I'm going to fall asleep if there's one more mid-tempo tune... The performances have all been perfectly fine (although I thought TBP was weak) but nothing special. Can someone please do something uptempo? I've now placed a bet with myself on whether any awards will be presented within the first hour. I don't know what I get if I win... this hour of my life back?

8:57: Blake Shelton and Skaira perform "Medicine"  Their voices have a bit of a leather and lace appeal. A little surprised that NBC let two of "The Voice" coaches debut a song on a rival network.

9: Taylor Swift, who looks classy and beautiful, presents Vocal Duo of the Year to Florida Georgia Line-- the first award of the night. There was no way they weren't winning that. It was one of the weaker categories with no real competition for them. They, of course, thank God, for their award.

9:09: After Shelton and Bryan do a funny skit about trying to replicate Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie that broke the internet (their chemistry is the highlight of the show so far), Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks to a mash-up of "Golden" and "Rihannon." Their harmonies are spot on and I have to give Hilary Scott points that she can sing with Stevie NIcks, looks right in her face, and not stop and scream, "Can you believe I'm signing with Stevie Frigging Nicks" right now!"

9:13: God bless Keith Urban. I adore him anyway, but he just saved the show with "Even The Stars Fall 4 U," tonight's first full-on uptempo track and he kills it. Between the three drummers, his guitar playing and the overall performance, the show is back on track. Should definitely be a single for Urban.

9:14: Kip Moore is singing "Somethin' About a Truck," but I'm not listening. I'm too busy enjoying the gun show. Good God almighty...

9:24: Luke Bryan's new single, "This Is My Song" is one of those tunes that makes an emotional connection with people because we've all said that line about a million times throughout our lives when a favorite came on the radio, but it just feels like sloppy writing to me, though as usual, he's able to completely sell it.

9:26: Justin Moore wins new artist of the year. The weird thing is he's not really a new artist, but of the three, he's the most deserving. He's also a fun spark plug of a guy and it's sweet that he gets a little choked up as he's accepting.

9:34:Now Bryan and Shelton are spoofing on Daft Punk's helmets.  I'm digging the two of the them together.

9:37: Miranda Lambert wins single record of the year for "Mama's Broken Heart."  She thanks the producers and songwriters, but seems more focused on her upcoming performance.  I would say that's a mild upset over "Cruise," which was No. 1 for 22 weeks or something insane like that.

9:46: Lambert is performing "Automatic," another mid-tempo track, in a sparkly statement necklace and a wifebeater... it's a look that I don't think is going to catch on (Plus, after Louis C.K.'s great "SNL" monologue last week, I think we need to come up with another name for a sleeveless white tank top...) As you may have noticed, i've reported no backstage action yet because there hasn't been winners or presenters have made it back here yet.

9:49: Olivia Munn, her breasts, and Aaron Rogers are presenting song of the year, an award that goes to the songwriters. I'm rooting for Bob Dylan to win for "Wagon Wheel." Wouldn't it be hilarious if he were there? The award goes to "I Drive Your Truck," which, as you know from what I wrote earlier, makes me very happy. The song is based on a true story. Yikes, co-writer Connie Harrington gets played off before either of her two co-writers can say anything.

9:57: Tim McGraw debuts a new song, 'Meanwhile Back At Mama's," a look at the traditional life that country music so dearly loves to embrace. Supper's cooking on the stove, dad's smoking a cigarette, everyone's watching the game. McGraw is in a tuxedo for a song that's about hanging out on the porch....and his wife, Faith Hill, who's joined him (as we tweeted she would last night), is in formal wear as well... They look fantastic, but it's strange attire for a song about walking around in muddy boots, etc... or maybe the point is about how their lives have gotten so far away from what's going on at Mama's.

10:01: Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan are performing "This Is How we Roll" complete with the motocross team that appears in the video. And here's part of the problem with country music right now... between FLG and Luke Bryan, they are on their third or fourth appearance tonight. Better to make the show shorter than keep going back to the same performers.

10:06: Jason Aldean repeats as male vocalist of the year.

10:08: Toby Keith, who is up for nothing, is performing a song called "Shut Up and Hold On..." Why?  I'm really beginning to believe this show needs to go back to two hours. But I feel that way about all award shows. There's no reason for any of them to be three hours... even the Grammys and the Oscars.

10:17: Justin Moore is backstage and he admits he would have been "pissed off" if he'd lost  best new artist. I asked him if it felt a little weird that he'd been doing this for six years and he's just winning best new artist now, and he said, "I would have taken it if were for female vocalist of the year." He added that he didn't want to jinx his chances. "I wanted this one, guys, I wanted this one so bad. This wasn't make or break in our career, we've put out two albums...we've had a lot of hit records, we're out headlining arenas, but this was very, very important to me and my team." I felt like a coach who could win games in the regular season, but could never win in the post season."

10:21: Band Perry wins vocalist of the year. Hunter Hayes performs "Invisible." It's not going to be his biggest hit, but for anyone who's been bullied, it will be his most significant one. Hayes is selling the performance, but he's a little pitchy.

10:32: Jason Aldean came backstage and talked about lots of things (we'll put up the video later) but took time to praise Miranda Lambert, who will tour with him when he plays stadiums this summer. "She's a chick that can tear it up with any guy in country music."  And cue Lambert winning female vocalist of the year.

10:36: Darius Rucker performs "Wagon Wheel." It must feel strange to sing a song after it's lost two awards.

10:38: Kacey Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park" wins album of the year. "I'm really proud to be a woman representing country music," she says. Ain't it the truth. There aren't many of them making it onto the charts right now, including Musgraves. Hopefully, this will help get her some more mainstream airplay.

10:40: The Band Perry comes backstage and Kimberly reveals that band's third album will be "all about's going to feel good live." As far as the band's show opening performance, they added their motto was "We came, we saw, we confetti'd."  They were in the press room during the presentation of the Crystal Award to Merle Haggard, but I caught his acceptance speech, which had to be the shortest one in history. It took him longer to walk to the stage than to accept the award. In all fairness, the 77-year old (today is his birthday) has pneumonia, so it's a miracle that he managed to show up at all. Legend...simply one of the greatest of all time. 

10:50: Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley with Sheryl Crow are the last two performers of the evening before the big award: Entertainer of the year. It goes to George Strait, who deserves to win, but is also the sentimental favorite. Given that it's a fan-voted award, his win is all the more impressive, given that he was up against acts like Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, and Blake Shelton, who have younger, more social media savvy fans. "I've always said I had the best fans in the world. I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case," Strait says.

11:00 p.m. Shelton and Bryan come back out as Shelton, very gracious in defeat, greets Strait and says, "Our hero won tonight." Damn straight (or should that be 'Strait') he did.  And it's a wrap. It felt like a very long show. There were no horrible performances, but there weren't any stand outs either. It was a show that took no risks and played primarily to the mainstream country fans who listen to country radio and don't care much about veering outside the lines.

What did you think?

 P.S.: Looking ahead, ACM head Bob Romeo and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came backstage to promote next year's 50th annual ACM Awards, which will take place at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Since the show will honor the current music makers as well as look back, Romeo said he took tonight as a chance to chat with artists about which of their influences they'd love to perform with, such as Strait with Haggard. He added that Shelton talked about loving Earl Thomas Conley and Bellamy Brothers. He also talked to Garth Brooks, who idolizes Strait and Haggard.



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5 Seconds of Summer

5 debuts leap onto the album chart next week, challenging 'Frozen's' supremacy

Will one of the newcomers toss 'Frozen' out of the top spot?

 It’s a big week next week for debuts on The Billboard 200 with at least five new titles bowing in the Top 10.

The big race is between the soundtrack to “Frozen,” which is vying for its 9th week at No. 1, but is facing a big challenge from boy band 5 Seconds of Summer and its EP, “She Looks So Perfect.” Hits Daily Double says the two are too close to call, with “Frozen slated to sell between 140,000-150,000 and “Perfect” between 135,000 and 145,000.

The contenders for No. 3 and 4 are also close, but 100,000 copies separate them from the No. 1 and No. 2 slots. Chevelle’s “La Gargola” and Christina Perri’s “Head Or Heart” are both expected to move around 40,000 units each.

Coming in at No. 5 will likely be country duo Dan + Shay’s “Where It All Began” (read our interview with the pair here).

Shakira’s “Shakira” falls to No. 6 (30,000), Johnny Cash’s “Out Among the Stars” to No. 7 (24,000), Pharrell Williams’ “G I R L” to No. 8, Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” to No. 9 (20,000) and Nickel Creek’s “A Dotted Line” bows at No. 10 (20,000).

The full chart will be released next Wednesday.

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Miranda Lambert

2014 Academy of Country Music Awards predictions

Who's going home with the most trophies?

Tim McGraw is the leading nominee for the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, with seven nods, but he may be going home empty handed on Sunday night. Below are my predictions in the main categories for the April 6 ceremony, which airs on CBS live EDT starting at 8 p.m.

Entertainer of the Year
Luke Bryan
Miranda Lambert
Blake Shelton
George Strait
Taylor Swift

SHOULD WIN: George Strait. Even though some will consider it a sentimental win, he’s still selling out arenas and going out at the top of his game.
WILL WIN: Blake Shelton

Male Vocalist of the Year
Jason Aldean
Lee Brice
Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton
Keith Urban

SHOULD WIN: It’s a bit of a strange category: Where’s Brad Paisley? Where’s Eric Church?  Of this group, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban are the stand out vocalists, with Shelton winning by a nose.

WILL WIN: Blake Shelton

Female Vocalist of the Year
Sheryl Crow
Miranda Lambert
Kacey Musgraves
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

SHOULD WIN: If we’re going solely by voices— and it is a vocalist award— Carrie Underwood, but she seems to have fallen out of favor with voters the last few years.

WILL WIN: Miranda Lambert

Vocal Duo of the Year
Big & Rich
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Love and Theft
Thompson Square

SHOULD WIN: Florida Georgia Line. No one else has come close to their success this year. Perennially a weak category, Thompson Square is the other duo that could give them a run for their money

WILL WIN: Florida Georgia Line

Vocal Group of the Year
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

SHOULD WIN: The year’s strongest category, this is a toss up between The Band Perry and Little Big Town and Lady A (although Lady A was dormant for much of the time)

WILL WIN: The Band Perry

Album of the Year
Blake Shelton, ‘Based on a True Story…’ L
uke Bryan, ‘Crash My Party’
Florida Georgia Line, ‘Here’s to the Good Times’
Kacey Musgraves, ‘Same Trailer Different Park’
Tim McGraw, ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’

SHOULD WIN: Kacey Musgraves. “Trailer” is the strongest, most consistent album of the bunch.

WILL WIN: Blake Shelton, “Based on a True Story…”

Single Record of the Year
Florida Georgia Line, ‘Cruise’
Tim McGraw (Feat. Taylor Swift and Keith Urban), ‘Highway Don’t Care’
Lee Brice, ‘I Drive Your Truck’
Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’
Darius Rucker (Feat. Lady Antebellum), ‘Wagon Wheel’

SHOULD WIN: The best written song of the bunch is “I Drive Your Truck” (although this is not a songwriters’ award), and the funnest song in the bunch is “Mama’s Broken Heart,” it’s really a tie.

WILL WIN: “Cruise,” Florida Georgia Line. It was simply unstoppable last year.

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Kurt Cobain

Remembering Kurt Cobain's death 20 years later

How could the Nirvana frontman have already been gone so long?

There are some moments you don’t forget. I remember exactly where I was when I heard Kurt Cobain had died.

I was sitting in my cubicle at Billboard’s New York office at 1515 Astor Plaza. I was the magazine’s talent editor. It was Friday, April 8, 1994.

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Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey pouts her way through girlish 'Meet Me In The Pale Moonlight': Listen

Is this from 'Ultraviolence' or a stolen track?

A new Lana Del Rey tune leaked out today and it’s a safe bet that unless she’s going in a different direction, “Meet Me in the Pale Moonlight,” will not be on her new album.

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Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw's new album coming Sept. 16

'Sundown Heaven Town' will be preceded by summer tour

Tim McGraw will release “Sundown Heaven Town,” his 13th studio album, on Sept. 16. First single, “Lookin’ For That Girl” is at radio now.

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Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton
Credit: CBS

7 reasons to watch Sunday's ACMs: Blake Shelton, Stevie Nicks, Taylor Swift and more

Plus, we've come up with a drinking game

The 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. on CBS.  While slightly more prestigious than the American Music Awards (which are similarly produced by dick clark productions), the ACMs are to the CMA Awards what the AMAs are to the Grammys: they are a little less stuffy and a little more loose-limbed. The ceremony is in in Las Vegas, so artists are out of their Nashville hometown and they feel a little less constrained.

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Pharrell Williams
Credit: CBS

Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' makes it six weeks at the top

Williams' surpasses Elvis Presley in a vital statistic

Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” continues its residency at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for a sixth week. The song, remarkably, continues to make gains at radio, this week garnering 225.9 million all-format impressions. That puts it in second place behind Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring Pharrell and T.I., for the all-time record.

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Courtney Love

Courtney Love reforms Hole with mid-'90s era line-up

Is there new music and a new tour coming?

Courtney Love is reuniting the mid-1990’s-era iteration of Hole.

It’s unclear yet if the intention is to record new material or to tour or to do both, but Love told The Quietus that she, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Eric Erlandson and Patty Schemel have been rehearsing new material.

“I started playing with Patty and Melissa and Eric, just to see how that was,” she said. “We already played like three or four times in the last week.”

Love plans to release a new single, “Wedding Day,” shortly before her May U.K. tour, but she doesn’t mention if the tune is one of the songs she and her former band mates worked on.

Auf Der Maur, Erlandson, and Patty Schemel last recorded with Love on 1998’s “Celebrity Skin” before having various falling outs with the singer and breaking up in 2002.

Love formed Hole in 1989 with Erlandson. Auf Der Maur replaced bassist Kristen Pfaff, who died of a drug overdose in 1994.

The Love/Erlandson/Auf Der Maur/Schemel line-up reunited ever so briefly in 2012 when Love joined the other three for two songs at the afterparty following the premiere of "Hits So Hard," a documentary about drummer Schemel.

Previously, Love released 2010's "Nobody's Daughter" under the band name Hole, although Erlandson, Auf Der Maur and Schemel were not on the set.


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Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae reinvents David Bowie's 'Heroes' for Pepsi

She says the Thin White Duke is a fan

Janelle Monae upends David Bowie’s classic, “Heroes,” for Pepsi’s “Now is What You Make It” campaign.

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