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BRAD WILL BE THE JUDGE
ABC's new interactive music competition, Rising Star, will have some country flavor thanks to Brad Paisley, who's joining the show as an "expert." He's already got a strategy. "I think being honest is a key thing, but finding a funny way to say things would be good," he says. "Humor fixes anything."
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THE HILLS ARE ALIVE ... WITH CARRIE!
On Dec. 5, 2013, Carrie Underwood stepped into the iconic role made famous by Julie Andrews during NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music, playing Maria Von Trapp opposite True Blood's Stephen Moyer as the Captain. The musical took over Twitter, where Underwood's performance was met with less-than-positive reviews, prompting the country crooner to Tweet in response, "Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus."
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The Voice has several big personalities on its roster of celebrity mentors, but none more uncensored than rowdy country crooner and this year's ACM Awards co-host Blake Shelton, whose camaraderie with Adam Levine and feud with Christina Aguilera have aided the show's popularity. "Somebody asked me, 'What about you and Adam's bromance. Is there anything to it?'" Shelton told PEOPLE last year. "And I sputtered off, 'Yeah, I'm going to make out with him.' The next thing you read is, 'Blake wants to kiss Adam.' … But it's fun."
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SOUTHERN SOAP OPERA
The glitz and glamour of country music makes it the perfect backdrop for ABC's latest melodrama, Nashville, which pits Connie Britton against Hayden Panettiere as sparring singers from different generations. "It is real, whole-hearted, gritty, raw, talented Nashville," Panettiere said of the show, which also features her real-life singing and earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
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TV's reigning singing competition got a little bit country when Keith Urban joined American Idol's panel of judges in 2013. "I love working with passionate people," said the star, who shares judging duties with Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. "I love artists. Everyone just sort of expressing themselves. It's a very alive and very invigorating work environment."
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Taylor Swift continued to bring country music to the masses with the October 2012 release of Red, which sold a record-setting 1.2 million copies in its first week and became the fastest-selling album in a decade. "My mind frame during this recording process … was the ups and downs of a few really tumultuous relationships," she said, proving that heartbreak really is the universal language.
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Having already conquered reality TV, Miranda Lambert, who competed on Nashville Star, made the leap to professional acting with a 2012 episode of Law & Order, in which she portrayed the rape victim of a sleazy TV producer. "I don't want to be an actress. I just wanted to be on that show mainly so I could be a groupie and get my book signed and everything," the singer, a super-fan of the series, told CMT News. "I have all of [the episodes] TiVo'ed. I watch the marathons. I love them."
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Three country superstars took their acts to Sin City, with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw bringing their Soul2Soul tour to The Venetian in 2013 and Shania Twain setting up a two-year residency at Caesars Palace. "I've never had a show this exciting before," Twain noted, while Hill echoed to CMT, "We just want to put on an amazing show."
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DANCING WITH THE (COUNTRY) STAR
Line dance, anyone? Kellie Pickler put down the mic and strapped on her dancing shoes for the 16th season of Dancing with the Stars in 2013, during which she and partner Derek Hough eventually went on to win the coveted mirror ball trophy. "I just tried to take it one week at a time, one dance at a time," she told PEOPLE, calling her victory "amazing."