New ACMs co-host Luke Bryan shakes things up
FILE - This April 1, 2012 file photo shows country singer Luke Bryan at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Bryan is joining Blake Shelton to co-host the 2013 Academy of Country Music Awards on April 7. Bryan replaces Reba McEntire, who served as host for more than a decade before stepping aside to concentrate on her new sit-com “Malibu Country.” (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, file)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Envision rising country star Luke Bryan on stage, dressed all in black with a line of scantily clad dancers behind him shaking it for all they're worth as he paces back and forth, stopping more than occasionally to grind his hips in the direction of the camera and a national television audience of millions.
A male country star shaking his booty? Call it country music's pelvis moment. Bryan's performance of "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" marked the first time a man in music's most straight-laced genre really cut loose in the way Elvis Presley launched rock 'n' roll with a sexy sneer and that little wiggle.
Since Bryan made archetype-shattering appearances on the CMT Video Awards and the Country Music Association Awards in 2011, his career has been on a rise so steep 18 months later he's headlining his own arena tour and releasing two albums in a four-month span. And in his biggest moment yet, he's set to co-host this weekend's Academy of Country Music Awards with Blake Shelton — a rival of his in the entertainer of the year category.
"I always felt like any of your TV opportunities, you better come out of the damn blocks with something," Bryan said. "Because TV's not going to give you many second chances if you tank a performance or if your performance was so boring that everybody changed the channel. So I had enough sense to know you better give something that people are going to watch."
And while those performances caused some head scratching and even momentary mocking along Music Row, they instantly won Bryan fans who've helped make him country's newest sensation — a triple threat with hit songs, No. 1 albums and sold-out arena shows.
"If you look at superstars over the years, look at their personality," said Bob Romeo, the academy's chief executive officer and a longtime country concert promoter. "Garth Brooks could relate to the people. Luke clearly has got that gift, and I think it's a gift. If you have that gift and the ability to write music and sing, I think if all those line up, you've got the potential of being a big artist. And you see it in a handful of people."
When Reba McEntire ended her long run as ACM host, Romeo and show executive producer Rac Clark took a chance and paired Bryan with Shelton, who co-hosted the show twice with McEntire. There may have been more likely candidates with television host experience. But Romeo said everyone saw something in the way Bryan maintained a relationship with his audience that made them pay attention. It was clear he was having fun all the time — even when he fell off the stage at a show in Burlington, Iowa.
"He was doing his funny dance and he accidentally fell off the stage — I think it's on YouTube — and they caught him," Romeo said with a laugh. "They pushed him back up and how do you recover from that? He stopped the song and said, 'Wait, wait, wait! Maybe a lot of you didn't see it in the back, but this dumbass just fell off the stage,' and everybody was laughing. And he says, 'But I just want to know who grabbed my ass?' or something. The song starts back up and he goes right into it. What a great recovery."