(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
So the 50th Grammy Awards ceremony will finally go ahead on Sunday (Feb. 10) after the striking writers guild agreed to a waiver to agree to not picket. Seems a strange way to strike, but I think the writers feel that musicians are not the enemy. So be it.
Anyhow, I look forward to the evening, as much for the pageantry as for the unexpected. The music is now and then inspired, and sometimes a great moment will creep in. I'll be very curious to see what transpires with the musical trio of John Fogerty, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. That's a lot of years lived and a lot of musical memories up there on the stage. And some totally unpredictable personalities. The Aretha Franklin tribute may be memorable. Asking Herbie Hancock to perform a tribute to Gershwin seems to me totally goofy when he's nominated for album of the year for his recorded tribute to Joni Mitchell. The Beatles tribute will no doubt be over the moon. And totally overdone, to a crisp. But that's all right. It's what you expect.
Country music, as usual, will get short shrift in performances on the telecast. I think Vince Gill was right to not perform a one-minute song, as he was asked to do. Carrie Underwood will do well. And maybe one or two others.
The Recording Academy is going full-bore to market and promote this show, not just on the telecast day but throughout the year. Major advertisers include General Motors, McDonalds, Target, some Hollywood studios, Proctor & Gamble and Apple. GM will use the show and a follow-up music campaign to roll out its new fuel-efficient cars.
Show sponsors include Delta Airlines, Google, iTunes, Starbucks, eBay, XM and Hilton. Delta is painting one of its 757s that will fly the N.Y.-L.A. route for the next three years with a Grammy motif.
As for country artists themselves and how they fare, that's always a crapshoot. In the general music categories, there are some interesting possibilities. In the album of the year slot, Gill is up against Hancock, Foo Fighters, Kanye West and Amy Winehouse (unfortunately named, given her recent difficulties, eh?). I would like to see Gill win for his very risky but rewarding These Days album. West will likely take that award. The last Las Vegas odds forecast I saw had West heavily favored.
Also in the general categories, Taylor Swift is up against Winehouse, Feist, Paramore and Ledisi for best new artist. Vegas says Winehouse. Last time I checked the news, Winehouse still couldn't get a visa to leave the UK because of her legal difficulties to go to Los Angeles for the show. I like Swift for this.
And in the song of the year category, Carrie Underwood (who won best new artist last year) has her "Before He Cheats" competing with songs by Plain White T's, Corrine Bailey Rae, Winehouse and Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z). I like Underwood in a walk for this. Vegas agrees right now.
In the country categories, in best female country vocal performance, we have Alison Krauss ("Simple Love"), Miranda Lambert ("Famous in a Small Town"), LeAnn Rimes ("Nothin' Better to Do"), "Before He Cheats" and Trisha Yearwood's "Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love." The winner has to be "Before He Cheats."
Best male country performance: Here we have Dierks Bentley ("Long Trip Alone"), Alan Jackson ("A Woman's Love"), Tim McGraw ("If You're Reading This"), George Strait ("Give It Away") and Keith Urban ("Stupid Boy"). My long shot: Strait.
Best performance by a duo or group: Brooks & Dunn ("Proud of the House We Built"), the Eagles ("How Long"), Emerson Drive ("Moments"), Montgomery Gentry ("Lucky Man") and the Time Jumpers ("Sweet Memories."). Probable winner: Eagles with "How Long."
Best country collaboration: Steve Earle and Allison Moorer ("Days Aren't Long Enough"), Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson ("Because of You"), Tim McGraw and Faith Hill ("I Need You"), Willie Nelson and Ray Price ("Lost Highway") and Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood ("Oh Love"). Probable winner: Reba and Kelly.
Best country instrumental: Russ Barenberg ("Little Monk"), the Greencards ("Mucky the Duck"), Brad Paisley ("Throttleneck"), Andy Statman ("Rawhide!") and the Time Jumpers ("Fidoodlin'"). Probable winner: Paisley.
Best country song: "Before He Cheats," "Give It Away," "I Need You," "If You're Reading This," "Long Trip Alone." Probable winner: "Before He Cheats." Although I would like a side bet on "Give It Away."
Best country album: Dierks Bentley (Long Trip Alone), Vince Gill (These Days), Tim McGraw (Let It Go), Brad Paisley (5th Gear) and George Strait (It Just Comes Natural). Probable winner: Vince Gill. Side bet: Paisley.