Laura Bell Bundy has to work on country ‘cred’

Laura Bell Bundy performs  at the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 18, 2010.  (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Laura Bell Bundy performs at the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 18, 2010. Photo by Matt Sayles | AP.

Like anything that happens on Live TV these days, Laura Bell Bundy‘s performance on the Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday night drew quick response from the Twittersphere.

While there were many accolades and a lot of credit for clearly not lip syncing her performance of Giddy on Up - work a few more pauses into the choreography next time; girl’s gotta breathe - there were also many dissenting voices such as these:

  • Looks like the Britney Spears of country music, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
  • What that heck is a Laura Bell Bundy? She’s NOT Country. lol
  • Just bc you say giddy up & wear chaps, doesn’t make you country!
  • Do you ever wonder if Johnny Cash is turning in his grave when he hears Laura Bell Bundy?

Harsh. But therin lines the big challenge for our Lexington Broadway Baby-turned-Nashville Star: country credibility. Though it may not always seem like it looking at the country music landscape these days, this is a genre where “credibility” counts, and even if you dreamed of a country career since birth, coming straight to Nashville from New York City will make you a little suspect.

So will smashing the mold.

A big factor in the divisive reaction to Laura Bell was that her performance didn’t look like anything else on the ACMs, though it would have been right at home on the Grammys. (You have to imagine some of her new peers were watching thinking “I can’t do that.”) That was set into even starker contrast Sunday night because while Laura filled the stage with dancers and lights and sported a revealing cowgirl getup, female vocalist of the year Miranda Lambert and entertainer of the year Carrie Underwood both performed ballads in modest settings. A few tweeters were even lecturing Laura Bell that Miranda’s performance is how country is supposed to be done — like there’s only one way to perform country.

Of course, you don’t have to have “cred” to be a successful country artist. Shania Twain became one of the best-selling artists of all time though some country fans never accepted her. And Taylor Swift — despite leaving the ACMs empty handed — is still the star du jour, while taking a regular slagging from portions of the country crowd.

But Laura Bell can’t be happy having her performance reduced to Laura Bell Bundy channels Britney Spears.

While it probably took a song and production like Giddy on Up to get a country newcomer like Bundy a performing spot on the ACM’s, there are ways in which the song does her a disservice. It really is not representative of of the rest of her debut album, Achin’ and Shakin’, which is getting critical props for it’s old-school softer side. And the video and Sunday’s performance can come across as someone bringing her Broadway act to Nashville. Following her career the last 12 years, there have always been hints that a country career was something Laura Bell wanted to pursue, including her 2006 independent release, Longing for a Place Already Gone, which is rootsier country than anything you heard from anyone on the ACMs. But most of the people that tuned in the ACMs Sunday night are just getting to know her.

Now that Bundy has everyone’s attention, it’s time to start telling more of her story.

  • Interesting P.S.: Laura Bell Bundy posted this on her Facebook fan page this evening: “And, now I understand why some artists choose to lip sing when they dance like crazy! Woo! I’ve finally caught my breath, and I gotta do it again tomorrow at 8 am! again thank you to the fans, I am OVERWHELMED by your support! xo”
  • She is scheduled to be on Good Morning America at 8 a.m. April 20.
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