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CMT Awards: From a local’s point of view

I won’t say I wasn’t star-struck, because that would be a lie.

But I was star-struck from a distance, across the span of an arena, separated by a hundred yards of teeming, screaming fans. And I was star-struck in a way that only happens when you know you might see one of these people any given day at Target, or the Atlanta Bread Company, but instead you are in a crowded arena broiling with music and pyrotechnics, or you catch a glimpse of a very familiar streak of red hair on the red carpet.

It’s the glitter of gowns, the freshly-swept felt of a black cowboy hat, the heels and the spilt splashes of jewel-hewed dresses, the lipsticky smile that at Walgreens waiting to pick up a prescription or plucking through discounted nail polish is recognizable but not bam in your face superstar status.

It’s the Country Music Television Video Awards. And even for someone born and raised in the Nashville area it’s still a pretty damn big deal.

And as a Nashville native the success of the show was made even sweeter by the fact that just about six weeks ago our beloved (and lucrative) Downtown was under water. Feet of water. Downtown businesses have only recently begun to open after the devastation, if they reopened at all. Our historic (and beloved) Grand Ole Opry was threatened and performances moved. People lost everything, including their lives.

But, as they like to say, life goes on: the show must go on. And on Wednesday, June 9, it went on at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville – with thousands of fans already in town for the CMA Music Festival ready to see some stars all dressed up and out on the town.

I wasn’t sure how Kid Rock was going to fare at a country music awards show, despite the popularity of his crossover hit “All Summer Long,” and you’d think he’d start the show off with that one, but no.

It was a hit. Members of the audience in their early to mid-30s (What are we called? Generation Y? I’ve never known.) launched immediately to their feet with singing, screaming, waving hands. Hard core country music fans seemed a bit bewildered, but the chick next to me and I were too busy rocking out to take much notice. Kid was joined by many of his famous friends, including Trace Adkins, Zac Brown, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Martina McBride, Kellie Pickler, and none other than Hank Williams, Jr. on the song, which mixed it up and kept the song interesting.

The party rolled on as Miranda Lambert sang her first number one hit, “White Liar”; crowd-favorite Tim McGraw performed his single, “Southern Voice”; and was followed by Brad Paisley’s performance of “American Saturday Night” – complete with huge bouncing balls, red this time, which have become a staple of a Paisley performance.

One of my little sister’s favorites, Jamey Johnson, took the stage for a first-time performance of his powerful new song “Macon,” and was joined by special guests Little Big Town, Kate and Kacey Coppola, and guitarist Jeremy Popoff from the band Lit.

In what was a surprising and almost disturbing interpretation of the old-school country hit “Swingin” by John Anderson, LeAnn Rimes gyrated her way through a fully choreographed dance number that included an appearance by Anderson.

I was disturbed because I grew up listening to that song, and for a girl who literally and frequently spent a lot of time “on the front porch in the swing” humming that song, watching Rimes writhe and howl into a suspended microphone while dancers jitterbugged around her (which was, admittedly, pretty cool) was a bit like watching Miley Cyrus perform a strip tease: you know it’s bound to happen, but it just doesn’t seem natural. Or, as my mother would say, “That just ain’t right.”

Toby Keith revved up the crowd with his 19th #1 hit, “American Ride,” from the album of the same name which I reviewed (find that one here ~ http://countrymusicpride.com/on-an-american-ride-with-toby-keith-review/) and that has become, like so many of his songs, an American anthem of sorts, inciting much fist-pumping and hollered “HELL YEAH”s.

Emerging favorite Zac Brown Band performed their current single, “Free.” Carrie Underwood performed her fast-rising Top 10 single “Undo It.” Good, good, great, Carrie you’re smokin’ hot but let’s get to what has made my hair stand on end since I first heard about it….

When Keith Urban was joined by his CMT Crossroads partner, John Mayer, for a first-time television performance of Urban’s song “Hit the Ground Running” someone behind me was considerate enough to grab me by the hair and keep me from falling off my balcony seat: talk about smokin’ hot. Experiences like that are what Nashville locals sometimes take for granted: we’re so accustomed to a virtual banquet of phenomenal live music laid out for us practically year round that when something of that magnitude (Keith Urban! John Mayer! Together! In the same room with me! Swoon) smokes up the stage, even we sit up and pay attention.

Another of my personal favorites, Lady Antebellum, closed out the night with the television exclusive of the unreleased single, “Stars Tonight,” off of their current album.

I first fell in love with Lady A just after the release of their first, self-titled album when I caught a concert on the Encore channel. My favorite song of theirs is one not released as a single (or at least I haven’t heard it played on any of the Nashville stations), “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” If you haven’t heard it, check it out: just be ready to completely chill out when you listen to it.

A fun addition to the show was a second, small stage off to the side where “new and emerging” talent such as Laura Bell Bundy, Easton Corbin, Justin Moore, Steel Magnolia, Trailer Choir and Chris Young played bits of their music. For us locals Chris Young is no “emerging” talent – he’s straight-up popular and, as we say, “from around here,” in nearby Murfreesboro.

Even though I’m a local and can (and do) see many of the country music superstars out and about around town, I won’t say I wasn’t star-struck, because that would be a lie. When certain stars took the stage my pulse leapt, my eyes widened, my screams ripped forth just like so many others in Bridgestone arena because that’s the thing: they’re stars. They command that stage, they have complete strangers from all over the world willing, hell panting, to see them do their thing. They have It – and they know how to use it.

They know how to work their fans – work them right into voting their videos to the top of the heap.

Here’s a run down of the night’s winners:

VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video of the year; awarded to the artist (male, female, group/duo or collaboration) and the video director. Final nominees announced during live telecast, with final voting held online at CMT.com during the show.

  • Carrie Underwood – “Cowboy Casanova”

MALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video by a male artist; awarded to the artist

  • Keith Urban – “’Til Summer Comes Around”

FEMALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video by a female artist; awarded to the artist

  • Miranda Lambert – “White Liar”

GROUP VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video by a group; awarded to the artists

  • Lady Antebellum – “Need You Now”

DUO VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video by a duo; awarded to the artists

  • Brooks & Dunn – “Indian Summer”

USA WEEKEND BREAKTHROUGH VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video from an artist’s major debut album; awarded to the artist (male, female, or group/duo)

  • Luke Bryan – “Do I”

COLLABORATIVE VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Best video that featured a special collaborative appearance by artists; awarded to the artists (individual, group or duo)

  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins – “Hillbilly Bone”

CMT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Musical performance on a television show, series or variety special on a broadcast or major cable network; awarded to the artist (individual, group or duo)

  • Carrie Underwood – “Temporary Home” from INVITATION ONLY: CARRIE UNDERWOOD

VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Best video director of the year; awarded to the director for his or her body of work from the past year

  • Shaun Silva

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