Luke Bryan performs at the Grammy Nominations Concert Live! at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
Envision rising country star Luke Bryan on stage, dressed all in black as he paces back and forth, stopping more than occasionally to grind his hips in the direction of the camera and a national television audience of millions.
A male country star shaking his booty? Bryan’s performance of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” marked the first time a man in music’s most straitlaced genre really cut loose in the way Elvis Presley launched rock ’n’ roll with a sexy sneer and that little wiggle.
Since Bryan’s archetype-shattering appearances on the CMT Video Awards and the Country Music Association Awards in 2011, his career has been on a rise so steep that 18 months later, he’s headlining his own arena tour (coming to Tinley Park’s First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on June 15) and releasing two albums in a four-month span.
And in his biggest moment yet, he’s set to co-host this weekend’s Academy of Country Music Awards with Blake Shelton — his rival in the entertainer of the year category.
“TV’s not going to give you many second chances if you tank a performance or if your performance was so boring that everybody changed the channel,” Bryan says. “So I had enough sense to know you better give something that people are going to watch.”
Bob Romeo, the academy’s chief executive officer, says something in the way Bryan maintains a relationship with his audience makes people pay attention. “Garth Brooks could relate to the people,” Romeo says. “Luke clearly has got that gift.”
His two albums this year — “Spring Break ... Here to Party” and another due in August — defy the norm in the country world, where artists tend to stick to an every-two-years schedule. But like his hips, Bryan’s not afraid to shake things up on the business side either.
“I will challenge my country music heritage with anybody,” Bryan says. “It’s no disrespect. I love the way I’m going about it and doing it, and clearly the fans are happy with it.”
Chris Talbott, AP