CMT has set expectations remarkably high in the past couple of years for its annual video awards show--last year, it created a viral sensation by pairing rapper T-Pain with America's sweetheart Taylor Swift for a spoof duet, and in 2008 settled for nothing less than a skit featuring then-presidential candidate Barack Obama (John McCain and Hillary Clinton showed up as well).
So, it may be forgiven that the country music network did not quite reach the same heights this year--at least in terms of pure spectacle. For solid, serious, and formidable musical talent, the show more than delivered.
Setting the tone for the evening right off the bat was host Kid Rock, who didn't attempt any glossy humor on takeoff. Instead he chose to slam the stage with a medley of hits, accompanied fittingly by country's hottest badasses Zac Brown, Jamey Johnson, Trace Adkins, and--miraculously--the little-seen-these-days Hank Williams Jr.
Kid Rock saluted Williams as "My rockin' rebel father Bocephus," to the roaring approval of the crowd. This first surprise of the night set the tone for the rest of the show, in which Rock played with a mildly bawdy but casual delivery that allowed the music and musicians to take the spotlight.
A great idea on his part, because the show's lineup would have been hard for even the most gifted comedian to keep a tight rein on. Mirroring April's Academy of Country Music Awards, country's newer wave of talent blazed fiercely, with fresh faces dominating both the winner's circle and the performance stage.
Carrie Underwood--who scooped the ACM Entertainer of the Year award less than two months ago--was the big story of the night, being the only artist to win more than one award, all of which are completely fan-voted and determined. She took home the top honor of Video of the Year (for "Cowboy Casanova") and CMT Performance of the Year ("Temporary Home").
Currently steaming-hot trio Lady Antebellum, who's made news for the past 12 months by scooping up award nomination upon nomination, kicked off the show by receiving Group Video of the Year for their crossover hit "Need You Now."
Miranda Lambert, a three-time winner at the ACMs, scored Female Video of the Year for "White Liar." Lambert, who is engaged to fellow musician Blake Shelton, jokingly noted that she hopes her upcoming wedding will go off better than the video--which features her leaving a two-timing groom at the altar.
Last year's show-sweeper Taylor Swift went home empty-handed (she was nominated for three awards), just as she did at the ACM Awards. However, she gamely wooed the camera, her trademark curls straightened to a striking, sleek new look.
In between stellar musical performances, CMT made sure to sprinkle in plenty of goofy episodes, featuring its trademark collection of shock-factor cameos. Unfortunately, though, there was little rhyme or reason to the selections, resulting in a somewhat disjointed flow of humor. The most successful skit was a face-off between Reba McEntire and Saturday Night Live's Kenan Thompson, impersonating her in a red wig and identical gown. Runner-up was an unlikely dialogue between recipe queen Paula Deen and Jersey Shore stars Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino. Football bad-boy Terrell Owens made a quick appearance, bouncing a bit of self-effacing delivery off Kellie Pickler.
However, the cast of upcoming comedy Grown Ups--Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, and Kevin James--presented a face-off arguing about who is the most country of them all, resulting in the best one-liner of the evening.
"I'm the one who bought Willie's ponytail," Sandler argued, holding up a gray braid.
For a complete list of winners, click here.
For a slideshow of the night's red-carpet fashion, click here.
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