The 2012 CMT Awards totally smoked the other country awards shows in two departments, audience enthusiasm and quality of music.
It wasn’t the best written, most dignified or tech perfect—and certainly not the best looking—of the awards telecasts, but the excellence of the music on the CMTs was undeniable.
Staged at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday (6/6), the show not only threw its spotlight on the 17,000 fans inside, but on thousands more outside on its plaza. Both groups were screaming like banshees and having the party of their lives.
And what a bounty of tunes they were served. There were 19 performances on this year’s telecast, more than ever before. Not only was there more music, it was presented in audio brilliance. Trust me, this is not always the case when music and television meet.
Here are my favorite musical moments of the show. Kicking things off was an exciting mash-up of Lady Antebellum and the pop band Hot Chelle Rae with their tunes “We Owned the Night” and “Tonight, Tonight.” It was my fave because both acts harmonized beautifully, and I love both songs.
Out on the plaza, Hank Williams Jr. and Brad Paisley were stone country on “Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams.” My third favorite was also a party song and also an outside performance, Eric Church’s “Drink in My Hand.” Back in the arena, Little Big Town sang superbly on the slinky “Pontoon,” a performance that also had one of the best stage sets of the eve.
My fifth most favorite moment belonged to the night’s top winner, Carrie Underwood. “Good Girl” is an extremely challenging song to sing, and she pulled it off magnificently. Next up, Kenny Chesney’s sensuous, hypnotic introduction of “Come Over,” which is going to be a massive hit for him. And who could quibble with the triple-threat vocals of Pistol Annies on “Takin’ Pills?”
The musical missteps were few. The Zac Brown Band wasn’t as vocally tight as usual on “The Wind,” but its instrumental flash was in place. The Farm sounded a little wobbly, too, although its time slot was too brief to really tell. Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry sounded out of breath throughout most of “Postcard From Paris,” and the song is still a half-baked muddle. The-emperor-has-no-clothes moment was Scotty McCreery. He may sell millions, but he simply isn’t a very strong singer.
For novelty/newsworthy value, we had Willie Nelson warbling “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die),” accompanied by The ZBB, Jamey Johnson, Darius Rucker and Toby Keith and getting a standing ovation. Speaking of Toby, his “Beers Ago” was the best country-rocker of the night.
Others who gave the CMT Awards its claim as Best TV Music Presenter included Luke Bryan, Casey James, Rascal Flatts with Journey, Kip Moore, Jana Kramer and Lauren Alaina. Speaking of Lauren, her interjected moments catching up with tweets from fans fell flat. It wasn’t her fault—fan tweets are universally boring.
The “comedic” moments were also lame, particularly the opening “controversy” over whether Toby or Kristen Bell should host the show. It was much buzzed about because it featured video appearances by both President Obama and a wooden cigar-store Indian.
Best entrance: Toby and Kristen riding a Red Solo Cup through the crowd. Best thank-you speech: Thompson Square. The CMT award is a big belt buckle: “It wasn’t so long ago that we were selling buckles and boots right down the street, so it feels pretty good to be getting one of these,” said Shawna. Runner-up: Brad Paisley, who won Collaborative Video with Carrie. “I just want to thank this beautiful woman for being in the video with me,” said Brad. “Otherwise, it’s just a dork walking in the desert.”
Worst tech gaff: Kristen Bell talking in the dark outside until someone turned on her key light. Oddball stunt: Tom Arnold pulling camouflage underpants out of Luke Bryan’s jeans to be tossed into the crowd.
Thanks to Katie Cook and Evan Farmer, here are some things we learned on the red carpet—which was purple, by the way. Hayden Panettiere is moving to Music City. She’s co-starring in the new ABC series Nashville. Despite all of them now being married, Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood all still ride on the same tour bus, with all three spouses. That’s how they keep coming up with those cool Lady Antebellum songs together. They’re playing a show with Bruce Springsteen at London’s Hyde Park this summer.
The show marked the first time that Pistol Annies have ever been nominated for any award. Toby Keith is the only artist who has performed on all 11 CMT award telecasts. Little Big Town is celebrating 15 years of being together. Jason Aldean is recording a Big Secret duet for his new CD, but he won’t tell us who it is with.
The Rascal Flatts Changed tour is with LBT, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge, and is believed to be country’s first all-band tour. As for the mash-up with Journey, “They welcomed us with ‘Open Arms,’” quipped Joe Don Rooney.
On the fashion front, Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square was a vision in a Greco-Roman beige pleated gown with wide breast straps and an otherwise nude torso. Sara Evans was in a silver bag. Kimberly Schlapman of LBT rocked in pink and black. Kellie Pickler chose a pale lavender, fringed cocktail dress with silver bar accents.
The black vest with white piping over a black lace blouse was a WTF choice by Kimberly Perry. On the other hand, Carrie Underwood was glittering in a form-fitting silver sheath. “I’m a human disco ball,” she chirped, “I love it.” Hubby Mike Fisher celebrates his birthday this week (6/5) and plans a concert tour of Europe with Carrie now that hockey season is over.
Of the men, Jake Owen turned the most heads. He wore a bright white linen suit over a V-necked black t-shirt. Very stylish.
Working the room were Colton Dixon, Skylar Laine, Big & Rich, Dax Sheppard, Ronnie Dunn, Steve Austin, Alan Jackson, Jordin Sparks, Dario Franchitti, The Clampetts, Ashley Greene, Tony Hawk, Denise Richards and Glen Campbell, plus every publicist you’ve ever met.