(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)
Taylor Paints It Red
Taylor Swift was in New York City on Oct. 22, 23, 24 -- awakening at the crack of dawn, singing on Good Morning America before the rooster crowed. She never frowned, never complained and she looked like a billion bucks. Her bright red lips, red fingernails, red dress, and white teeth were smiling on display around the world. "I'm blown away by the crowd," she said. ABC-TV announced that Taylor had Times Square's largest crowd ever. I don't know about largest ever, but the place was mobbed as far as the eye could see.
What has Red done so far? Topped the all-genre Top Albums chart at iTunes within 36 minutes of release with sales of 262,000 at iTunes alone. Thus far, Red has sold 4.5 million song downloads at iTunes in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, Red reached No. 1 at iTunes on the first day of release in 32 countries.
Taylor told George Stephanopoulos that she was blown away by the crowd. "There's so many out there," as she pointed.
He asked, "Is this album different?"
"This album is more adventurous," she said. "It's edgier than what I've been allowed to do. I was writing with others. My songwriting heroes. I saw how they do it. I learned from them."
She told Stephanopoulos that she writes all the time. She writes what she's feeling. When she was 12, she said she would go to her bedroom and write about things that happened at school that day. As she grew older, she'd write about friends, mostly boyfriends.
When George asked who she wrote a certain song about, she denied it was about any one individual. I read where someone asked Taylor if she wrote lines in Red about John Mayer and other lines about Jake Gyllenhaal. She denied those claims. Taylor doesn't like to talk about her boyfriends. She'd much rather sing about it and set it to music.
When asked what was the hardest song on Red to write, she said it was "All Too Well." She had to call her co-writing friend Liz Rose to "filter it down" with her. "It had 10 verses," laughed Taylor.
Here are some reviews of Red:
Rolling Stone: "Taylor Swift is a turbine of artistic ambition and superstar drama, and Red is a 16-song geyser of willful eclecticism. Her self-discovery project is one of the best stories in pop."
Entertainment Weekly: "Red should be required listening. 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' is the snarkiest pop kiss-off, ever."
Los Angeles Times: "No bumps in Red. Only clean, perfectly rendered American popular music."
The Washington Post: "Another winner. What Swift does better than anyone, she connects with clear, concise, relatable love songs that are thrown like punches and steeped in everyday details."
Billboard: "Red puts Swift front and center with big-beefy hooks that transcend her country roots for a genre-spanning record that reaches heights unseen."
MTV News: "Fantastic. This is an album she's spent her entire career building toward. Red is her bid for artistic freedom, not only her most mature and accomplished album but also her most unapologetic. It is her album, on her terms, the album of her life."
The Guardian (UK): "It's clear that Red is another chapter in one of the finest fantasies pop music has ever constructed."
Observer (UK): "Swift seems to know just the right phrase to pull you inside her narrative."
Sun (Canada): "Swift has grown into one of the finest songwriters of her generation. Red is all the proof you need. All in all, color me impressed."
If she settles with a Kennedy or finds another, Music City is more in love with Taylor than ever before. Wishing her happiness, now and forever.
What a Hall of Fame
Garth Brooks has never been ashamed to weep and never afraid to pray. To me, that's two attributes of a real man. So many people cannot reach that deep into their emotions. New Country Music Hall of Fame member Brooks reached deep enough that he said, "It was the best day of my professional life."
Upon entering the building on Oct. 21, Garth said, "I came to this town for one reason -- to get George Strait to record 'Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).' Tonight he's singing it." Garth, Connie Smith and Hargus "Pig" Robbins were the inductees.
Garth's all-time hero, George Strait, along with Bob Seger and James Taylor, were there to pay tribute to him. Connie Smith was honored by the Quebe Sisters, the Whites, Lee Ann Womack and Merle Haggard. Ronnie Dunn, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap and Gene Watson paid homage to the great piano man, Robbins. Since 1959, Robbins has played on songs and helped to make hits for Nashville's biggest stars. Blind since he was 4 years old, the Pig is one of the most respected musicians in this town. Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy inducted him. Robbins said, "I'm honored to go in with Connie since I played on her first records and I played with the mighty Garth, of course."
The audience gave Smith a well-deserved standing ovation. One of our all-time great singers, Connie was one of 14 children, born Constance June Meador in Ohio, and today is called by many the Rolls Royce of girl singers. Her first hit "Once a Day" was penned by Bill Anderson, and she was the first country female to score a No. 1 hit with her debut single. The great Merle Haggard flew in from California to honor Connie. Said Haggard, "There's more reasons to love Connie, but mostly because she sings so good. I can't remember anything she ever recorded that I didn't love." Always humble and beautiful, Connie said, "I just wanted to sing and feed my kids." Connie had five children.
The great Garth Brooks has sold more than 128 million records. His stage show took country music and country artists to another level. Today we have artists swinging over the audience, arriving on the stage via an elevator or on a rope. They learned these stunts from Garth and the youth love it. More youth is listening to country music today than ever before. Country music is charting these days on Top 200 as well as the country charts. Bob Seger remarked, "What I love about Garth is his passion. Even with his enormous success, he's still a really good guy." The great Strait said as he was inducting Garth into the Hall of Fame, "I remember hearing about Garth swinging on ropes and blowing things up onstage and thinking, 'This is country music. Can he do that?' Yes he can."
Garth has been a real blessing to country music. I don't know what he will do next but whatever it is I know it will be from his heart and for the good of all of us.
News and More News
Twenty-five thousand screaming fans turned out to watch superstar Luke Bryan perform in a free concert on Lower Broadway. He brought Kelleigh Bannen and Jon Pardi along for the ride last week.
Jeff Dunham's comedy special Minding the Monsters is funny as heck and a million folks know it because the release went platinum in six days.
Jason Aldean is aiming for stadium shows in 2013 at Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. His Night Train album zoomed in with sales of 409,303 in its first week out.
Whispering Bill Anderson and his acoustic trio went face to face with a moose! Yep, the moose bit the dust when Bill's bus hit him head first.
After listening to Lisa Marie Presley's album Storm & Grace, T Bone Burnett said he thought her father would be proud of her. He called her music honest, raw, unaffected and soulful.
Congratulations to Jake Owen on his first headliner role with CMT on Tour 2012: The Summer Never Ends. It has the most consecutive sold-out shows since the CMT Tours inception some 11 years ago. Sellouts for Jake! Yeah!!!
Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley have announced their 2013 Locked and Reloaded tour set for a Jan. 17 kickoff. I noticed that the couple have one date set in Miranda's home state, in Wichita Falls, Texas, and one date set in Dierks' hometown of Phoenix. Then they are all over the place.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Sweet Potato Pie.