HOLLYWOOD—The 51st Annual CMA Awards show took place on Wednesday, November 8, airing on ABC with country superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood presiding over the evening and returning as hosts for the 10th consecutive year. Song of the Year went to Taylor Swift, who was not present to accept the award for “Better Man.” Swift is a once-in-a-lifetime generation songwriter.
From the very beginning, she’s displayed a knack for melody and storytelling that most artists never master. Her first number one, “Our Song,” was written for a high school talent show. A typical tale of a teenage romance until the final lines: “I grabbed a pen/And an old napkin/And I wrote down our song.” That’s smart, and quite self-assured songwriting for someone who wasn’t old enough to even vote. Notably, the lyrics insert the musician directly into the narrative-something she developed into a tried and tested trope.
The static vocal lines, where she sings at one pitch for a sustained period, crop up on all of her albums- and increase in frequency when she switches lanes from country to pop. You can hear it on all four songs she’s released ahead of her new record, “Reputation,” which comes out this week. It’s most apparent on the lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” where the entire chorus is delivered in a sinister monotone.
Taylor Swift’s career is built on being accessible. She might have 10 Grammy awards, but she recently invited loyal fans to an album playback at her oceanfront mansion in Rhode Island. In 2008, when she was 18 years old when she accompanied another fan, Whit Wright, to his prom in Alabama. She regularly delivers handwritten notes and gift packages to her Instagram followers.
Repetitive melodies that center around a single note are part of that appeal. They emphasize her relatability by mimicking the cadence of speech. It helps that her lyrics are effortlessly conversational and vernacular. Taylor uses the device most often in verses, shifting the chords beneath her voice to give the melody a sense of movement, in the same way that moving a light around the room casts different shadows. When the chorus soars up the musical scale, it’s like a rush of energy. The emotional highs become even higher. Taylor has a flair for melodrama.
Taylor didn’t invent these one-note melodies, of course. Gregorian chant, one of the earliest recorded forms of Western music, was predominantly monotone. If you believe the tabloids, she spends most of her time warbling about famous ex-boyfriends and feuds with fellow pp stars-but if you pay attention, Swift’s catalogue is full of deft lyrical minutiae. In fact, she has the rare ability to tell a whole story in the space of a sentence.
In “Look What You Made Me Do,” she uses the one-note melody in another way-to convey anger and defiance. The target here is Kanye West, who stage-crashed her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and has dogged her career ever since. Her masterpiece is a song called “Ronan,” a little-known charity single, released in 2012. It was written about Ronan Thompson, a four-year-old boy who died of rare form of cancer. Taylor’s delicate delivery, and the sorrowful contours of her melody are simply devastating. Taylor Swift is a brilliant songwriter. No wonder she won the Song of The Year at the CMA Awards show.
With the holidays approaching us, iconic country music entertainer, Reba McEntire will have a superstar lineup at her disposal as she hosts “CMA Country Christmas” for the very first time on November 27 on ABC. Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, CB30, Dan + Shay, Brett Eldredge, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch, CeCe Winans, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young were announced as performers for the sold-out, and its eighth annual broadcast, held this year at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee.
Reba will perform a piece from her new Nash Icon Records album, “My Kind of Christmas.” The newly packaged album follows last year’s limited release and includes collaborations with Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Lauren Daigle, Darius Rucker, and Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood. The show will have a new look and feel this year, making Reba’s first year as host a can’t-miss country music event.
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