by Julian Spivey
CBS aired the much-talked about ACM Superstar Duets special on Friday, May 15 that has drawn a mixed response from country music fans since it was announced a few months back. Some country fans were excited to see today’s modern country stars perform with legends from the past, while other fans were irritated from the very beginning that their favorite country legends would be performing duets of their classics with certain artists clearly beneath them.
The special turned out to be a mixed bag with performances of legends pitted with today’s biggest stars that honestly had no business singing country classics and other performances that worked remarkably well. Pretty much the performances you thought would be good on paper were and those that you thought were odd pairings, like Dwight Yoakam with Sam Hunt were as disappointing as expected.
The performance that drew my ire the most was the one between Yoakam and Hunt doing his 1993 hit “Fast As You.” The reason why it bothered me so much is Yoakam is one of the great country music traditionalists who’s music will stand the test of time and Hunt, though widely popular now, is a hopefully flash in the pan who’s currently one of many artists doing their best to destroy country music. Yoakam and Hunt’s voices did not mesh well at all on this song. Whoever thought to pair these two together really must have been out of their mind.
The other performance that really bothered me was Alan Jackson and Cole Swindell doing Jackson’s 1993 classic “Chattahoochee.” Swindell claims that Jackson was a huge influence on his music, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to it. The performance wasn’t as off-putting as that of Yoakam and Hunt collaborating, but Swindell prancing around the stage like a punk during an Alan Jackson song was indicative of what modern country music has become.
The rest of the duets weren’t really disappointing, but at the same time few of them were really anything to get worked up over.
The best duets were Miranda Lambert and Patty Loveless doing Loveless’ 1993 hit “Blame It On Your Heart” (1993 must have been a huge year for these younger artists) and Clint Black and Joe Nichols doing Black’s 1997 hit “Nothing But the Taillights,” but you could pretty much tell on paper that those performances would be great. Lambert and Nichols are two of the few modern country artists who actually seem to fit with the greats of the era before.
Another good duet was that of John Anderson and Keith Urban doing Anderson’s 1982 classic “Swingin’,” though I would have preferred the two share another one of Anderson’s great tunes. This gets me to one of my biggest problems with the duets special … I thought many of the duet choices were too predictable. Some of these artists should’ve ventured outside of the box slightly and possibly have done other songs in these legend’s repertoires.
Other decent performances during the ACM Superstar Duets special included Dierks Bentley, Kip Moore and Ashley Monroe doing a medley of Waylon Jennings’ hits “Good Ol’ Boys,” “Lonesome, On’ry & Mean” and “Ain’t Living Long Like This” as well as Kenny Chesney going solo on a tribute to the great George Jones doing his “One Woman Man.”
The final highlight of the evening came in the form of Brooks & Dunn reuniting five years after they broke up to perform their last truly great single together “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” with Reba McEntire, who was the inspiration behind the song.
The ACM Superstar Duets special was a good idea, but with some of the duets being too obvious and other pairings frankly being disrespectful to the legends involved (I really wish Yoakam had refused to do a song with Hunt) it definitely proved to be a mixed bag throughout.