Some of my TV critic colleagues chided tonight’s CMT Music Awards show before it even aired, suggesting there are too many country-music awards shows. Cynics! Me, I can’t get enough of ’em. They’re an easy way to keep up with what’s selling in the country industry, they toss up odd couplings (gosh, I didn’t know the least appealing-looking group in country music, Rascal Flatts, had done a duet with pop music’s designated cutie, Justin Bieber — glad I do now!), and in general these shows provide a safe haven for 1970s/’80s-style singer-songwriter-soft-rock in the current century.
There were unexpected moments. Shania Twain took a spill, slipping to the floor while taking the stage to announce the “Male Video of the Year” winner. (Blake Shelton won.) Poor Shania — as though her rattled confidence hasn’t been chronicled all too vividly on her OWN channel variety show.
Overall, the corny quotient was endearing. The show’s opening, a Thelma & Louise parody with Taylor Swift and Twain taking over the starring roles, was delightfully silly. Groups such as Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Thompson Square, and (among my current favorites, deprived of much camera-time this night) The JaneDear Girls are making cleverly crafted hits, cheerfully disposable country-pop. It’s big-tent music, able to accomodate the affably awkward rapping of Colt Ford, a duet that paired Ludacris with Jason Aldean, plus a Lady Antebellum cover of Prince’s “Kiss.”
One missed opportunity: Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina introduced Sugarland’s performance, but it was clear from the tumultuous greeting the Idols received that people also wanted to see McReery and Alaina perform, too. But Sugarland did not disappoint for spectacle and music, as Jennifer Nettles spray-painted a white flag with the word “LOVE,” and turning the “O” into a peace sign.
Sara Evans and Sheryl Crow introduced Lady Antebellum. Earlier, she’d performed her duet with Kid Rock, “Collide,” earlier, dressed in a mini-skirt. With Evans, she paused to preface their intro by saying, “People are tweeting that when I stood up from the stool, my underwear was showing.” Evans said, “At least you were wearing underwear.” Crow asserted, “I am good clean family entertainment,” thereby guaranteeing some frantic freeze-framing of the underwear flash among viewers at home.
In general, the CMT show was a lot of fun, at once firmly organized in the tradition of the Nashville music industry, yet able to accommodate spontaneous moments.
Here’s a list of the major CMT winners:
Video of the Year: Taylor Swift, “Mine”
Duo Video: Sugarland, “Stuck Like Glue”
Group Video: Lady Antebellum, “Hello World”
Collaborative Video: Rascal Flatts and Justin Bieber, “That Should Be Me”
Performance of the Year: Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffett
Breakthrough Video: The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”
Female Video of the Year: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
Male Video of the Year: Blake Shelton, “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” (a nifty husband-and-wife double win)