No country artist swept any of the major, multi-genre awards this year, as Lady Antebellum did in 2011. But in terms of overall exposure, country music was well-represented during the 55th GRAMMY Awards Sunday night.

The show opened, in fact, with Taylor Swift, who performed a snazzy version of her 2012 single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” dressed ringmaster-style in a white top hat and tails. It was a massive production, too, with a circus theme that included clowns, dancers, and acrobats as well as fire, smoke, and what we can only assume is a token ‘ex-boyfriend’ who was tied to a knife-throwing target.

Less than a half-hour later, another pair of contemporary country stars were sharing the spotlight. Miranda Lambert started with a pensive version of her sad hit “Over You.” She was joined by her current tourmate Dierks Bentley, who sang that song’s final verse before segueing straight into his own 2012 Number One single, “Home.”

Carrie Underwood gave another of the night’s splashiest performances, wearing a flowing white gown that turned into a film screen, with images of butterflies, flowers, and colorful patterns projected onto it. She sang portions of her two latest singles–a slow, stripped-down acoustic take on “Blown Away”(which won two GRAMMYs on Sunday) and a lush, orchestrated version of her latest single “Two Black Cadillacs.”

She was introduced, too, by her tourmate Hunter Hayes, who sang a portion of his hit “Wanted” alone at a grand piano. Hunter was up for New Artist of the Year but lost to fun.

Additional performers included the folk-rock groups Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers (both of whom have growing appeal among country audiences), and Kelly Clarkson, who sang a double-whammy tribute to both Carole King and the late county-pop icon Patti Page (she passed away just weeks before receiving a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award this year).

One of the most inspiring and passionate performances of the night, though, involved no special effects but instead just relied on the power of the music itself. In a tribute to the late Levon Helm–which was also dedicated to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut–an impressive, varied group including Mavis Staples, Elton John, T-Bone BurnettZac Brown, Mumford and Sons, and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes performed The Band’s classic song “The Weight.”

(L-R) Zac Brown, T Bone Burnett and Mavis Staples at the 55th GRAMMY Awards

(L-R) Zac Brown, T Bone Burnett and Mavis Staples at the 55th GRAMMY Awards Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Taylor and Carrie may have major crossover appeal these days, with Hunter not far behind; but there’s no mistaking either Miranda or Dierks as anything but country. So their inclusion right up front in the program–and with two songs at that–was proof that the Academy felt country music was a vital part of the current American musical landscape.

Do you agree that country was well-represented this year? Are there any additional performers you would have liked to see?

Read more about the 55th GRAMMY Awards and see all winners.

– Kurt Wolff,


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