Backstage at the CMA Awards, there was the usual amount of discussion about who got statues and why. But one of the other big topics was how Miranda Lambert got either more or less (depending on your viewpoint)... statuesque.
In three words: Girlfriend is slim.
"I just feel like I needed to get ahead of the game," Lambert told the assembled press. "I’m gonna turn 30 on Sunday, and people say, are you okay about it? I guess I am, but I guess I’m not. Because I feel like everybody always says it goes down hill from there, so I just thought, maybe if I can get ahead of it a little, I can kind of not have to work so hard later in life."
Not that many of us were complaining about her previous look, and in fact, Lambert was celebrated as a normal-sized gal. But she used the dawning milestone as occasion to think about turning over a new leaf. "All through my 20s, I worked a lot. I was on the road since I was 17, and the road life is a lot of fast food and a lot of late nights and a lot of drinking. I didn’t give up drinking — I refuse! I’d give up my husband. You have to drink to put up with that. Just kidding." Heh.
"Anyway, I just felt like I should get a little more healthy. I have a record coming out in the spring, and it’s a very important album to me; it’s my fifth. And I’ve got a great spot in country music, and I want to keep it. I want people to know that I’ve found my niche and I care about it in all aspects, basically — in my songs that I write and what I talk about, and I want to look the part, too. So [it was] just finding a new spot in my life and working hard. I didn’t give up really a lot — just Cheetos, mostly. I might have some tonight, just to celebrate."
Hubby Blake Shelton addressed what has come to be a predictable set of his-and-hers trophies for best male and female vocalist every year.
"We’re starting to feel like the people at the party that just never pass it around. You know what I’m saying?" No, we don't, Blake. Is this related to the Cheetos somehow? But continue. "There are just so many people [waiting in line] on both the male and female side, I don’t know what we’re doing, and why I'm standing here again. But it’s awesome." Noting that it'd been pointed out to him that his wife had tied Reba McEntire with her four consecutive wins in the female vocalist category, "When you’re in that kind of company, it’s hard to get a grasp on it."
A reporter asked Shelton what he had in his boot flask. "I almost feel like that mayor from Toronto, the way you’re saying that. 'I smoked crack, but I was drunk when I did it.'… When I won male vocalist of the year again, I did urinate, and it ended up in my boot, if that answers your question. It got all over my flask. Thank you very much. That’s the kind of class I like to bring to the CMAs."
He made a crack about the nonstop aspect of The Voice when someone asked if he'd be taking his two new trophies (including one for best album) to the show to lord over Adam Levine. "These will be going to The Voice to try to get me some country artists on my team for season... whatever. I feel like I’m on The Price is Right lately; the show is on every day. Whatever season I can use ‘em on, I’m gonna use ‘em."
Shelton won Entertainer of the Year last year, but ceded his belt to George Strait this time, and could only be so disgruntled about that. "That’s how it needs to be," Shelton said. "He’s not just entertainer of the year, he's entertainer of the last three decades. Or four decades — who’s keeping score." (Strait released his first record 32 years ago, so Shelton rounded it off about right the first time.) "He’s King George, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out."
Taylor Swift, who won the top trophy the year before Shelton did, also took no exception to the evening's sentimental climax.
"I was standing with Faith Hill, our arms around each other, crying," she said. "We were so happy because both of us have opened up for him. I was having all these memories and flashbacks. One time he showed up to one of my first headline shows in Texas just to say good luck. It was right after I opened up for him — really early, I was 17 or 18 and he and Norma came just to say 'Good luck with your first big headlining show.' When you’re that kind of a person and you win something, everybody’s cheering for you and people are crying, and that’s the kind of legacy you want to leave behind."
Strait offered his support again by being one of a lineup of superstars Swift had once opened for who stood on stage to present her a Pinnacle Award. This came as a shock to her, she swore. "With the Pinnacle award, the way it was explained to me was, they’re going to give you this award they gave Garth Brooks a couple of years ago… It was kind of presented to me as if it was an off-camera thing. I wasn’t let in on the fact that it was a big deal and there was a video package" featuring stars like Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts, and Justin Timberlake offering testimonials. And seeing "my former bosses who took me out on tour with them as an opening act… I’ll never forget walking up and seeing them all standing there. I thought, this is a dream, this isn’t a real thing that’s happening to me now… I have to thank the CMAs for putting that together without me knowing. It's one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me."
Kacey Musgraves was also taken by surprise, not even so much by the win but by the awkwardly rushed introduction of the Best New Artist category.
"It’s honestly a complete shock," she said. "To be completely truthful, I really didn't hear that they were announcing that award till I heard my name, and then all I know is there I am speaking in front of thousands of people—millions." She felt apologetic about having been so unprepared to give a speech that she left out a lot of the key players who'd helped her on her way up... who she then proceeded to name in front of the press, in better late-than-never fashion.
Asked about ABC censoring the "Roll a joint" line three times during her performance of "Follow Your Arrow," Musgraves said, "I guess for some reason people feel the need to censor that word. But they decided to leave the word 'crack' in there. I’m not really sure why." (Maybe because the song is pro-joint but not pro-crack?) "But to me, 'Follow Your Arrow' is a really positive anthem, just encouraging people of all kinds to do whatever makes them happy, across the board. If that’s your thing, great; if that’s not, cool—that’s our freedom, and that’s our right." Well, in some states.
George Strait is always a man of few words, but he offered slightly more than a few as he assessed his first Entertainer of the Year win since 1990.
"I was just really happy to be nominated again this year" for the first time since 2006, Strait said. "I thought maybe there was an outside shot, but not really seriously. Obviously I hadn’t prepared anything to say. But I’m blown away by it. We had such a great tour last year, and I had so much fun, I’m looking forward to my last year, next year."
Any second thoughts about the touring retirement? "When I first started out this year, the first few shows I about lost it every night — not going up, but leaving the stage, thinking 'This might be the last time I ever play on this stage.' Like I've said before, I’m not totally quitting. I’m just slowing down a little. But I don’t know," he added, looking at his trophy. "this gets me fired up again. The cowboy might be riding back in, I don’t know!"
At that, reporters perked up, and wondered if he might renege after all, but he assured everyone that'd been a joke. There will be no How Can We Miss the Cowboy If You Won't Go Away post-farewell tour. "No, I’m not gonna do that. I said I was done, and I’m done touring. I’m still gonna do a few things every year. I don’t know what. But I can’t imagine ever not having a band. I’m not selling the bus or anything. I just can’t imagine not being in this business. I signed with MCA Records for five more records… But I think pretty much after next year my big touring days are over."
Young Ms. Swift has only just begun, of course, and she used the last part of her time backstage for an impromptu fan appreciation speech.
"When I think about my fans as a group, I just think of the little things," said Swift. "I think about the letters that I get from classrooms, and I think about the YouTube videos that my mom sends me of some little girl opening up her Christmas present and it’s tickets to my show and she freaks out. And I think about videos of young girls playing songs on guitar that they just learned. Sometimes I’ll sit in a position where I can watch people leave the shows. Not trying to be creepy — it sounds creepy! But I will watch people leave the shows and I’ll look at their signs, and I’ll look at the shirts that they made. Some people cover themselves in Christmas lights, just so that we can see them from the stage. Or sometimes I’ll go and I’ll stalk my fans’ Twitter pages. Which also sounds really creepy — I’m blowing this.
"You know sometimes fan groups have a reputation for being bullies or aggressive or kind of rude to other artists? But I just feel so proud that my fans are always nice to other fans and always nice to each other. They don’t really say hateful things or say they’re gonna set people on fire or anything, which is something I’m really proud of. And all those things put together, who they are as a group, is what I think of when my name gets called. I don’t really think about it being for me, because they’re the ones who did all those things with the Christmas lights and the presents with the tickets and the memorizing tickets and the not sending death threats to other people." She took a breath. "I just talked for four hours!"