CMT Awards—Inspired or Flawed Judgement?

(Complete list of winners here.) (Photos: IzzyNashville.com)

The ninth annual CMT Music Awards seemed to be more about the party than the music. The two and a half hour show did however offer viewers a few outstanding musical moments.

Zac Brown Band did a heartfelt rendition of “Free” that reinforced the band’s artistic orientation. LeAnn Rimes previewed “Swingin” from her upcoming CD. (John Anderson was briefly shown as a member of the band, although no mention was made of the fact that he was the song’s original hitmaker.) Rimes combined vocal swagger with choreography (including triple cartwheels) in what became one of the evening’s WOW! moments. Also unique was the pairing of Keith Urban with John Mayer. The two six string masters sent musical lightning bolts back and forth across the stage. (Watch for them to appear together later this month on CMT Crossroads.) Lady Antebellum’s show closer “Stars Tonight” re focused attention on the power of country music, or as Kid Rock said in a rare eloquent moment, “If the music’s real, you’ll feel it.”

Kid Rock leaned heavily on smokin’ and drinkin’ to carry the hosting load. Maybe it worked, maybe it simply cheapened and distracted from the performers and their music. Did we really need to go backstage to Kid’s party room to see him, John Rich, Kellie Pickler and a host of here-for-the-party nonames throwing back Crown Royal shots? Did I miss the significance of the message?

Kenan Thompson rolled out his Reba impersonation (as seen on SNL) and was name checked by the real redhead. The two Rebas carried on in good form and generated one of the show’s funnier moments. Laura Bell Bundy and Blake Shelton showed genuine chemistry together as they wove song titles into innuendo to eek out a few laughs. Bumpers from Steel Magnolia, Trailer Choir and Easton Corbin were disappointingly short, but highlights nonetheless. Additional A-list performances from Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Toby Keith kept the show moving.

Was the ninth annual CMT Awards on target for an audience that wants a more edgy party atmosphere? Or did CMT show flawed judgment by elevating glitz and glamor above the music? As Kenan Thompson sings, “What’s Up With That?”

Early (unofficial) Ratings Update: Show was #1 most watched CMT Awards premiere in channel’s history, up almost 20% from last year. CMT was #1 most-watched network across all cable during its time period (8-10:30P EST) with Persons 18-49, Women 18-49 impressions.

[update] TV by the Numbers reports that the Awards show had 3.04 million viewers.

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For added perspective read the viewer comments posted on CMT.com

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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. dross@musicrow.com

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