The holidays came early at this year's Jennifer Nettles-hosted CMA Country Christmas. Live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, the biggest and brightest names in country music gathered to ring in the holiday season. From "Silent Night" to the daring "Carol Of The Bells," everyone's favorite holiday classics were performed during the nearly three-hour taping. As could be expected, a handful of performances were filmed twice, but consummate host Nettles didn't falter for a moment, filling the dead silence with her witty charm and bubbly personality. Radio personality and reporter Storme Warren was also on hand to pass the time; at one point, he approached a dashing young boy (who was celebrating his birthday) and allowed him to try his hand at singing the Frozen theme song "Let It Go." Needless to say, the arena burst into thunderous applause and cheers. It was a good time to spread that holiday cheer.
While the stage dazzled with trees, shiny red ornaments, unwrapped tantalyzing packages and various other decor, the performances were the real stars. From newcomers Dan + Shay and Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale to mainstays Hunter Hayes and Carrie Underwood, the evening was a delightful treat for country fans everywhere. Each performance was as good as the last, and no one wanted the night to end. But for the fun of it, let's countdown the Top 5 most razzle-dazzle performances, shall we?
Here are the night's Top 5 performances:
5. Clare Bowen – "Santa Baby"
Unraveling her sex appeal, this Nashville star took this slinky track in a cool new direction. While she didn't stray too far off the original melodic path, she doused the lyrics with enough Marilyn Monroe-esque styling and her unique phrasing to make it non-derivative and classic.
4. Leann Rimes – "Carol Of The Bells"
This is THE performance which elicited the fastest standing ovation of the evening, and rightfully so. Despite a lyrical glitch at the beginning of the first recording, Leann Rimes ripped into the holiday classic with pinpoint precision. As one of the toughest holiday standards to deliver, Rimes proved her voice is as powerful as ever. It was magical, really. It's a performance like this that makes all her personal turmoil fall away (which, at this point, media/critics need to stop talking about).
3. Jennifer Nettles & Idina Menzel – "Let It Go"
Admittedly, when Idina Menzel was announced as a performer, there was a glimmer of hope this song would be performed. But this collaboration was not expected. Jennifer Nettles, who has previously demonstrated her nuanced powerhouse delivery, kept up with Menzel's Broadway pace. Their voices blended like a delicious cup of rum and eggnog. It was intoxicating.
2. Carrie Underwood & Michael W Smith – "All Is Well"
It would be hard for Carrie Underwood to outdo herself, but she did with this truly haunting performance. It was balanced for Michael W Smith's more grounded, tenor voice, allowing Underwood to charter to the dizzying heights of her voice, in a way she has never done before. Not to overhype this moment, but this is Underwood's finest, most blistering performance she has ever delivered. Ever.
[Video Credit: maddkat11]
1. Steven Tyler & Brad Paisley – "Run Run Rudolph"
As soon as rock god and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler took the stage, the entire arena was on its feet…for the entire performance…which was filmed twice. It was a rockin', groovy performance by two accomplished musicians. As Tyler offered up his signature hard-rock vocals, Paisley hinged the performance on a hot guitar licks (complete with a solo later on) that simply proves he's in a masterclass of his own. As screams echoed across the audience, it was evident this was a moment in time.
[Video Credit: Lance Aldridge]
Other Sure-fire Highlights: Dan + Shay offered one of the night's most tender, emotionally-poignant moments with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"; Little Big Town with Michael W Smith on "Silent Night" (a delightfully harmonious performance); Alan Jackson's "Let There Be Christmas Everywhere" (there's many, many reasons he's a legend: this is one); Sara Evans' "Go Tell It On A Mountain" (another female who sounds as good, if not better, live as on record); & Hunter Hayes' "Merry Christmas, Baby" (an exciting, energetic performance).
Additional performances included Brett Eldredge ("What Christmas Means To Me"), Lucy Hale ("Mistletoe"), Nettles ("Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "This Angel," "Jingle Bells"), Jackson ("Winter Wonderland"), Rimes ("Someday At Christmas"), Little Big Town ("Pray On Christmas") and Menzel ("Do You Hear What I Hear," "White Christmas").
CMA Country Christmas airs Monday, Dec. 1 on ABC.
[PHOTO CREDIT: CMA World]
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