Although Carrie Underwood wasn't in attendance on Wednesday (Nov. 7) at the 2023 CMA Awards, she was the talk of the red carpet for Paula Abdul.
Abdul was on hand to help Darius Rucker announce Album of the Year— an award won by Lainey Wilson for Bell Bottom Country. In a video interview with Billboard, Abdul praised Underwood, one of the winners during Abdul's stint as one of the original American Idol judges.
"I'm so very, very proud of her," Abdul said of Underwood. "She's handled her whole career with such dignity [and] grace. And she's relentless. I call her the bullet train. She keeps going."
Abdul put over "Jesus, Take the Wheel" as a personal favorite by Underwood because "from the moment she won to going into that song, it will always be sentimental."
The veteran pop star also spoke glowingly about modern country music in general and the opportunity to have one of the best seats in the house at a major industry event.
"I always say country music pierces the heartstrings," Abdul said. "I love that melodies are so important and storytelling is so important and the hooks are so beautiful. I feel that oftentimes gets lost in pop music. It's just nice and refreshing that I don't have to judge anyone. I get to be front and center, watching the magnificent talent and collaborations and tributes."
Abul judged American Idol for its first eight seasons alongside Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. Kelly Clarkson won the inaugural contest in 2002. Underwood finished first in 2005. In 2021, Abdul filled in for Luke Bryan as a guest judge.
"I feel like a proud aunt, older sister, maybe even mom. I support the amazing talent that I got to see for all [eight] seasons," Abdul told Access on the red carpet.
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