Had any one of the cheering fans who stood opposite the red-carpeted entrance to BMI’s Nashville headquarters Tuesday night (Nov. 8) been whisked inside and allowed to gawk freely, he or she would have almost certainly passed out from glamor overload.
There, gliding through the cocktail crush, came the blond perfection of Taylor Swift, trailing her just-as-blond, just-as-tall, just-as-pretty publicist.
Blake Shelton, crisp and imperially slim in his white shirt and tight vest, stood nearby, grinning and towering over a cluster of well-wishers.
And still they kept coming: Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Gary Allan, Big Kenny, football titan Terry Bradshaw, Chris Young, Kix Brooks, Billy Currington, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus and Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman.
Well, you get the idea.
The event at hand was BMI’s annual country songwriter and publisher awards banquet.
It began at 6 p.m. with an hour-long cocktail party in the cavernous reception hall and moved upstairs to the elaborately decorated fourth-floor parking garage, the only space in the building large enough to seat and feed all the celebrants.
By the time the extravaganza ended — just before 11 p.m. — Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins had been crowned songwriters of the year (in a tie decision), and their co-composition “All Over Me” reigned as the Frances W. Preston song of the year.
For the 10th year in a row, Sony ATV Music snapped up the publisher of the year trophy.
Guests arriving in the reception hall were confronted by a massive photograph of songwriter Bobby Braddock hanging on the wall behind a chest-high bandstand.
Later in the evening, Braddock would be presented BMI’s Icon Award for having written or co-written such standards as “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “Time Marches On,” “I Wanna Talk About Me,” “People Are Crazy,” “Golden Ring,” “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous,” “Texas Tornado,” “Would You Catch a Falling Star” and “I Feel Like Loving You Again.”
The tendency of the guests to stand and chat with each other caused everything to run late. Formal presentations were scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m., immediately after dinner, but didn’t get underway until 20 minutes later.
Finally, dapper Del Bryant, BMI’s president and CEO, strode to the stage to greet the hundreds of celebrants.
He joked with Braddock about his many years of songwriting distinctions.
“Just doing the math, you must have come to town in diapers,” he said. “I’ve heard stories about your being in diapers.”
Looking down at the table where Shelton and Miranda Lambert were seated, Bryant said, “I want to say hello to my favorite newlyweds,” alluding to their marriage in May.
He thanked Urban and Kidman for bringing “a certain international glamor to the community here.”
Spying American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina, Bryant said, “It’s her birthday tonight. Stand up, Lauren. All these guys are going to be pitching you songs, I guarantee you.”
Bryant also spotlighted and spoke directly to Bradshaw and CBS-TV newsman Bob Schieffer, both of whom, he reminded the audience, were also BMI songwriters.
Each of the Annies — Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — took turns singing lead, and Presley played guitar.
After a number of songwriting awards were handed out, the entertainment resumed with Shelton singing a little-known but grin-inducing Braddock tune called “Same Old Song,” which excoriates the clichés of country songwriting with the refrain, “I may be country, but I’m not dumb.”
Bryant returned to the stage to shower more praise on Braddock and to introduce the final musical tributes to him.
He noted that Braddock has been a BMI member for 47 years and has won more than 40 songwriting awards from the performance rights organization.
He cited the “instant believability” of Braddock’s songs, his ability to use “simple words to state complex thoughts” and the “wit and whimsy” in many of his songs. (Among Braddock’s flights of fancy are such lyrical stretches as “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith, Too” and “House of Negotiable Affections.”)
Bryant commended Braddock for mentoring younger songwriters and recalled he brought then-teenager Matraca Berg to BMI with the request that Bryant look after her songwriting personally. Berg would later distinguish herself by co-writing such hits as “Strawberry Wine” and “You and Tequila.”
The tribute to Braddock was diminished considerably when a group of guests in one corner of the room continued to talk loudly during Bryant’s remarks in spite of his admonition from the stage for them to quiet down. Even reprimands from their fellow guests were of no avail.
Next came a video in which Schieffer, with the CBS logo and the Capitol building making it appear to be his regular newscast, extolled Braddock and his accomplishments.
“We’re not just honoring a big talent,” Schieffer intoned, “we’re honoring a great man.”
A second video from a very relaxed-looking Toby Keith told about Braddock pitching him “I Wanna Talk About Me.”
John Anderson then brought the crowd to its feet with his doleful rendition of “Would You Catch a Falling Star.” Anderson had the original hit on the song in 1982.
“To hear these new interpretations of these old songs just thrilled me,” Braddock told the crowd after he accepted his award.
He said he read and memorized the Billboard charts when he was a kid and noticed the songs he liked most were BMI-affiliated songs. This made him resolve, he explained, not just to become a songwriter but a BMI songwriter.
Braddock reminded his fellow composers in the room of just how fortunate they are.
“A lot of people don’t like their jobs,” he observed. “We’re able to earn a living doing something we love.”
Bryant gave heartfelt thanks to his mentor and predecessor, Frances Williams Preston, who sat in the audience. He told the crowd that in her honor BMI’s country song of the year would henceforth be given the Frances W. Preston Award.
With his co-hosts Jody Williams and Clay Bradley, Bryant concluded the ceremonies by announcing Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins had tied for the songwriter of the year honors, that their song, “All Over Me,” was the year’s top song and that Sony ATV Music was again BMI’s publisher of the year.
By this time, most of the guests had departed, many of them returning to the reception hall for desserts, coffee, liqueurs and the good-night music of Harold Bradley’s country band.View photos from the event.
Here is a complete list of BMI’s most-performed country songs of the year:
“All About Tonight” Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson
“All Over Me”
Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson
“American Honey” Shane Stevens
“The Boys of Fall” Casey Beathard
“The Breath You Take”
Casey Beathard, Dean Dillon, Jessie Jo Dillon
“Come Back Song” Casey Beathard
“Farmer’s Daughter” Rhett Akins, Marv Green
“Fearless” Liz Rose, Taylor Swift
“Free” Zac Brown
“Gimmie That Girl” Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson
“Hello World” Tom Douglas, David Lee
“Highway 20 Ride” Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette
“The House That Built Me” Tom Douglas
“I Gotta Get to You”
“If I Die Young” Kimberly Perry
“Let Me Down Easy”
Marty Dodson, Jennifer Hanson, Mark Nesler
“Love Like Crazy” Tim James, Doug Johnson
“Lover, Lover” Daniel Pritzker
“The Man I Want to Be” Tim Nichols
“Mine” Taylor Swift
“Our Kind of Love” Busbee, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley
“Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer”
“Roll With It”
“The Shape I’m In” Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson
“She Won’t Be Lonely Long” Doug Johnson, Phil O’Donnell
“Someone Else Calling You Baby”
Luke Bryan, Jeff Stevens
“Somewhere With You”
“Stuck Like Glue”
Kristian Bush, Shy Carter, Kevin Griffin
“Temporary Home” Luke Laird, Carrie Underwood
“’Til Summer Comes Around” Keith Urban
“Undo It” Kara DioGuardi, Marti Frederiksen, Luke Laird, Carrie Underwood
“Unstoppable” Jay DeMarcus, James Slater
“Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” John Wiggins
“Why Wait” Tom Shapiro, Jimmy Yeary
“Wrong Baby Wrong” Brad Warren, Brett Warren