It's Reba's world; Kelly Clarkson is just living in it

1490__reba_lWhen in doubt about who to honor as a show business "giant," start with the mononyms. She’s no longer "Reba McEntire," she’s just "Reba" — and, thus, the perfect candidate to be first to have her gargantuanness celebrated in CMT Giants, a new series of specials from the premier country cable network. Last night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Reba’s professional largeness and personal largess were the subject of tributes by Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Megan Mullally, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, and Wynonna (now a mononym, herself, and no longer a "Judd" — say, could she be the next honoree?). Lotsa huge, melodramatic ballads; no boys allowed, country boys or otherwise; accents up the wazoo… yes, it was VH1 Divas gone Okie. (Which may, in fact, be the only way to go.)

The show won’t air till Nov. 18, but here’s some of what you have to look forward to. For sheer, wonderful kitsch, you can’t beat the climactic "Does He Love You," a duet between a wronged wife and a mistress. McBride played the former role, and Clarkson — the little hussy — assumed the latter; they sang from opposite ends of the stage until the finale, when, in a stareoff, these two adversaries strode purposefully toward each other; for a few seconds it was like some big catfight moment from "Dallas" being remade as a movie musical. Martina also sang the part of the cheated-upon wife in a solo number, "Whoever’s in New England." (Maybe she was silently dedicating her entire part of the evening to Sara Evans, practically the only major female country star who wasn’t on hand?)

addCredit(“Reba McEntire: Ron Wolfson/”)

Reba has never been much of a traditionalist; for better or worse (or, to my mind, both), she introduced a more theatrical style of performing when she made the scene 30 years ago. So any tribute would be hard-pressed to come up with "down-home" moments, but there were a couple — Will & Grace’s Mullally warbling "You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun," from Annie Get Your Gun, the source of Reba’s 2001 triumph on Broadway; and Dolly doing "How Blue," the one number of the evening that sounded really, really country. The evening’s one seemingly spontaneous moment came when Dolly demanded Reba get on stage to add a harmony vocal — issuing commands to the honoree of "get off your butt" and, when they were done, "sit your ass down." (Come to think of it, Dolly will surely be the next "giant," or else we suspect some CMT exec’s rear end is going to be grass.)

"I’ll probably never sing these songs again after hearing these girls sing ‘em," said Reba at evening’s end, charmingly… and unconvincingly. Because, best performance of the night? No question, it was Reba’s own show-closing barnburner, "Fancy," the most inspirational song ever written about a mother urging her daughter into money-grubbing whoredom. It would be unseemly to compare the uptown ambitions of that song’s title character with the singer’s own careerism, but if there’s anything Reba herself radiates, it’s a weird yet workable combination of simple, disarmingly folksy charm and fiercely intelligent, businesslike determination. Anyway, at 51, girl still knows how to work it in heels and a red dress. She is, for lack of an even cheesier word, Reba-riffic.

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  • Jamie

    I LOVE REBA!!!!!!! She rocks! Hers was the first concert I ever went to. It was wonderful! Huge props and herself up there larger than life! I’m glad someone did a tribute to this great female country legend! I can’t wait until November 18th!

  • ger

    So much country popwatch in one week.

  • Sara

    I miss her show.

  • LindaLou

    I never gave Reba much thought, knew she was popular, but always thought she talked like she had a mouth full of marbles. But my Mom LOVES her show “Reba” (it’s on in Canada on Country Music Television) and I’ve watched it a few times and have to admit, the one thing about Reba is she is so gosh darn likeable and like she’s a real sweetie in real life, think that’s a huge part of her appeal (plus the lady can sing).

  • mgm

    she’s spooky-looking to me… many people find her beautiful… I think she looks like a lizzard… no lips, weird face… beautiful eyes, tho…

  • Miles

    Is this woman not done inflicting pain on the eardrum, and disgracing the craft of acting. I guess not.

  • laura

    for all those who say reba isn’t talented, they obviously don’t know talent. she has had one of the best careers of anyone in any industry. she has so many talents, singing is just one of them. and is she an awesome singer! i love her!

  • jason

    i saw reba in concert and she rocks!! i also love her show, she’s actually got great comedy timing!! all hail reba!! yee-haw

  • Ernesto

    Reba sucks could her voice be more annoying and this from a country fan, what a shame Dolly Parton who is a real American institution had to pay tribute to Reba and not the other way around but whatever if Reba can sing with her foot in her mouth anybody can.

  • Lance

    reba is as country as britney spears a good singer of course her fans are going to defend her but man this woman is awful my sister was a fan and when she finally got to meet her reba was so rude to her long story short my sister despises reba now.

  • Georgia

    Crap and more crap toby keith darryl worley reba mcentire shucks when will ew write about real musicians , sure she has sold a lot but how well did her latest two songs … oh yes not even top 30 on country radio yeah her career is going to the toilet good idea to celebrate her for the past before she just fades away with that horrible way of singing of hers yuck.

  • CK

    I love Reba’s show, and hope another channel picks it up full-time. As for the comments of “mgm” .. you must be a real LOOKER, huh?? YEAH … RIGHT!!!!!

  • James

    Reba sucks.

  • kim

    reba McEntire is the shiz when it comes to country music. She is like a singing goddess. She is a true god. I luv reba. Anyone who thinks, or says anything about her needs a foot where the sun doesn’t shine. Her show is the coolest show on tv. Reba wherever you are thank the good lord for you.

  • Anonymous

    Not only is Reba thee best country singer i have EVER heard she is a legend. Her voice and lyrics just catch you in a dream. She is one of my idols.

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