Welcome to the 2015 CMT Music Awards, live from Nashville! The show is live streaming at CMT.com, so let’s all watch together! I’ll be live blogging here, and please weigh in with your perspective in comments.
So what are the CMT Music Awards? They are country’s answer to the MTV VMAs, a fan-voted show where the awards go to performing acts and the directors of the videos they star in. This year, the CMT Music Awards are being co hosted by Erin Andrews and Brittany Snow. To their credit, they’re not even pretending they were the natural candidates for the job:
— Brittany Snow (@Brittanysnow) May 29, 2015
But they are planning on having fun with it and don’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously, so this could work. They are already teasing a star-studded 1st 10 minutes, and that’s probably just the pre-taped opening gag. Farce The Music has an undoubtedly accurate list of 10 things you can expect in connection with tonight’s show.
And yes, the lettuce & tomato jokes will almost certainly be flying. If you don’t know what that’s all about, see this.
As far as performers, tonight’s show will mark country superstar & Season 4 American Idol champ Carrie Underwood‘s 1st televised performance since the birth of her son Isaiah Michael Fisher in February (she’ll perform her current single “Little Toy Guns”), and Reba’s return to the CMT stage for the 1st time in 10 years. Also performing are Darius Rucker, Eric Church (performing his current single “Wrecking Ball”), Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen (presumably performing his new Sublime/Everclear/Sugar Ray-ish single “Real Life”), Jason Aldean, Keith Urban (performing his new single “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”), Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum with Zedd (a medley of Lady A’s current single “Long Stretch Of Love” with Zedd’s “Beautiful Tonight”), Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt and Zac Brown Band. We’ll also see bumper performances on a [Sponsor Branded] sidestage from A Thousand Horses, Chris Janson, Frankie Ballard, Kelsea Ballerini, Maddie & Tae and RaeLynn.
Presenters include Season 14 American Idol Nick Fradiani, country star/Season 5 Idol finalist/Season 16 Dancing With The Stars champ Kellie Pickler, Season 3 Voice champ and reigning Breakthrough Video Of The Year winner Cassadee Pope, reigning DWTS champ Rumer Willis, and Nashville’s Charles Esten, as well as Aloe Blacc, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Ray Cyrus, Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, David Spade, Hunter Hayes, Jana Kramer, Jenna Dewan Tatum, JJ Watt, Little Big Town, Nikki Reed, Army veteran Noah Galloway, Norman Reedus, Ron White, Sara Evans, Thomas Rhett, and Tom Arnold.
Per a new member of Carrie’s band, Carrie’s performance will close the CMT Awards:
— Scott Sheriff (@ScottSheriff) June 10, 2015
As far as the awards themselves, Carrie Underwood leads the pack with 5 nominations (check out the full list of nominations here, and competes against herself in the Video Of The Year and Female Video Of The Year categories. RaeLynn has 2 nominations, in the Breakthrough Video Of The Year and Female Video categories, and has been on a major social media campaign (supported by her Voice coach Blake Shelton as well as Miranda Lambert for votes. The Swon Brothers are up for Duo Video Of The Year.
Fun fact: Carrie wrote the treatment for the “Somethin’ Bad” video, according to its director Trey Fanjoy
So come on in and join the live-snark, won’t you? It’ll be fun!
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Lady Antebellum kicks the show off with their current single “Long Stretch Of Love” before introducing Zedd and launching into “Beautiful Now.” Their pitch gets quite wobbly once they’re off the song they know and sing all the time. So much so that it’s a relief when Zedd turns the venue into an EDM jumpfest. Big tent country, ya’ll! Room for everything…except maybe actual country music? To his credit, Thomas Rhett looks a little confused. Although maybe he wouldn’t be if it were his idol Bruno Mars were up there? Lady A closes with a last little bit of “Long Stretch Of Love,” and they’re magically back in tune. Let this be a lesson to them (it won’t be).
After Brittany Snow erroneously lays claim to various female hosting milestones, Erin Andrews reveals the one milestone they can claim: This is the first time the show’s been hosted by a couple of tomatoes. Get it?
Riffing on Erin Andrews’s much publicized (this week, anyway) girl crush on Carrie Underwood, the show gives us a bunch of pictures in which Erin’s face is awkwardly photoshopped onto Mike Fisher’s in various settings, including their wedding. Carrie & Mike laugh along. They then bring on the Belmont Bellas for “Girl Crush,” rewritten to be about Carrie. Brittany tries to make the actual performance a showcase moment for her own Pitch Perfect pipes, but the Belmont Bellas are having none of it.
Moving on, Erin and Brittany present the night’s 1st award for Collaborative Video Of The Year. And like it could have gone to any other way, the winner is “Somethin’ Bad,” directed by Trey Fanjoy and starring Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Miranda appears to be sitting this year’s CMA Fest out, so Carrie accepts the award on her behalf, encouraging the crowd to applaud Miranda. Carrie thanks director Trey Fanjoy and the fans for their support, talking about it didn’t even feel like they were working while they were shooting the video.
Hunter Hayes introduces Darius Rucker who performs his previous single “Homegrown Honey” performing outside, on lower Broadway, where a big crowd digs the groovy but bro-y song. Well sung, but way beneath what Darius is capable of doing.
RaeLynn launches awkwardly into the chorus of her t20 hit, “God Made Girls.” It’s a tough entry, but she soldiers through some pitch issues and nerves. These bumper performances are exposure, but kind of unfair to the performers.
When we return from commercial, Nashville’s Chris Carmack and Charles Esten plug the return of Nashville for a 4th season, and Chris Carmack teases Esten about whether he’ll be back. Ha! They introduce Reba, who performs her single “Going Out Like That.” She really just owns the stage.
Voice/Idol collaboration alert! Season 3 Voice Cassadee Pope and Season 14 American Idol winner present the buckle for Breakthrough Video Of The Year to Sam Hunt for “Leave The Night On”, who is legitimately the most popular of the nominees in this category and wearing what I initially mistook for white medical scrubs with an altar boy collar. He and his severe (and unnecessary) combover thank CMT and the friends who helped him make the video, and also mentions that a couple years ago, he was in the CMT Awards crowd as a fan.
Erin Andrews introduces Victor Espinosa, the jockey who rode American Pharoah to the Triple Crown this year, who in turn introduces comedian Ron White, who cracks drunk jokes, plugs an upcoming fundraiser, and introduces Jason Aldean who performs “Tonight Looks Good On You” while bathed in a soft blue-green light. We see his wife Brittany Kerr loyally singing along while the women next to her fixes her own hair. CMT cuts to a barely interested Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge. You’re seeing them together because today they announced a CMT-sponsored tour for later this year.
Noah Galloway and Rumer Willis present the CMT buckle for Duo Video Of The Year to Florida Georgia Line for “Dirt.” They thank God, the video director Nigel Dick, “Dirt” co writers Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins, and the fans, also taking the opportunity to plug their upcoming new video.
Chris Janson makes the most of his 30 seconds to perform his single “Buy Me A Boat.” Fun story behind this one. A few spins on IHeart’s flagship syndicated morning show The Bobby Bones Show sent this song to #1 country back in March. Chris Janson, a veteran of deals with Sony Nashville and Bigger Picture with no hit singles that he had performed to his name, had no label deal at the time. Now, thanks to the response to the song, he got CMT to fund his video, and now he has a deal with Warner Nashville. “Buy Me A Boat,” which he cowrote with Chris DuBois, is getting IHeart fasttracking through the On The Verge program.
Upon our return from commercial, we get a pre-taped clip of last year’s Kristen Bell offering advice and wisdom to Erin Andrews. Among her tips: Eric Church compulsively wears glasses inside…because he has no eyes. Heh.
Aloe Blacc introduces country’s “real rocker” (Jason Aldean shade?) with a tease that he’ll be showing a different side of himself tonight. It’s time for Eric Church to perform his soulful, sexy slow jam Like A Wrecking Ball. He’s had some rough TV performances this year, but this is a good one from him. Goes to show what happens when performers stick to songs that are within the capabilities of their voices.
Outside, Cole Swindell introduces his bros Florida Georgia Line for a performance of their new single “Anything Goes.” Brian Kelley jams on his guitar like it’s plugged in, and both he and Tyler Hubbard perform like their mics are plugged in.
So are CMT producers trying to gift us an extra long snack/bathroom break by putting FGL & Luke Bryan back to back, or do they hate us? Because a leather holstered Luke is up performing his current single, “Kick The Dust Up.” Surprisingly, this tune, which comes from the same triumvirate that cowrote Luke’s “That’s My Kind Of Night” is not a protest song about the working prairie folk revolting against heartless Wall Street financiers, but a song about truck tailgate parties. I’m sure you’re as stunned as I was about that development.
Tweet of the night?
You know where Luke Bryan definitely isn't going tonight in his leather harness polo shirt and designer jeans? A cornfield. #CMTAwards
— Grady Smith (@gradywsmith) June 11, 2015
Little Big Town is up to present the CMT buckle for Female Video Of The Year to Carrie Underwood for “Something In The Water.” She talks about how much this song and video mean to her, thanks director Raj Kapoor, choreographer Travis Wall, the fans, and little Isaiah Michael Fisher and big Mike Fisher for inspiring her.
Sara Evans and Jana Kramer talk about tonight’s cohosts being two “hot tomatoes,” but says they’re not the only ones who can have fun. They introduce Jake Owen, who takes the stage from a bed that gets there via the audience. His performance features various beachy floats and beach wardrobe adorned dancers. It’s all very Katy Perry “California Girls” at the Super Bowl, minus Left Shark. Jake is full of confidence on stage, and I don’t know how to feel about that considering how ridiculous it is that this is his single to a format called country.
Kelsea Ballerini takes an impressive turn with her bumper performance of her t5 single “Love Me Like You Mean It” – her voice is on point, her stage presence is strong, and she looks terrific. Honestly not big on her music (which often feels like the female version of bro country), but she nailed this bit.
Kellie Pickler and Billie Ray Cyrus, both of whom having upcoming CMT shows. Kellie pretends she doesn’t know why she would be at the show except to plug her show. She looks a bit like Good Morning America‘s Lara Spencer these days, doesn’t she? They present the CMT buckle for Performance Of The Year (on CMT, naturally) to Jason Aldean and Bob Seger for “Turn The Page” on CMT Crossroads. Jason Aldean is there to accept, thanking Bob Seger, talking about how he used to play that song in clubs before he hit it big. He thanks the fans, his wife, his kids, and everybody who’s involved with his career (his label, his producer, etc.).
JJ Watt introduces Zac Brown Band for a terrific performance of their smash single “Homegrown.” I’m working on a theory that Zac Brown Band, whose members have been pretty vocal about ACM/CMA politics, have decided that they won’t perform on either of those shows, but will perform on country shows for the fans, like this one. We’ll test this theory at the CMAs in November! Anyway, Zac Brown Band nails this performance like they usually nail their live performances, and this is the 1st performance of the night that has had celebs like Charles Kelley, Nicole Kidman and Dierks Bentley jamming.
Frankie Ballard uses his 30 seconds to perform his #1 from last year, “Sunshine & Whiskey,” and does a pretty good job. For those who would naturally be suspicious of the guitar hanging from his body, he can actually really play, and he shows a bit of his skill for his outro.
Norman Reedus presents the CMT buckle for Group Video Of The Year to Lady Antebellum for “Bartender.” Hillary Scott thank Kate Upton and Tony Hale for guesting in the video and CMT, and the guys plug their tour.
David Spade arrives on stage in full mullet as Joe Dirt. See, here I was thinking they chose Spade to introduce Keith Urban because of hairstyle similarities. Anyway, Keith debuts his new single “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” in all its funky bass-imposed rhythmic glory, and I feel like I can hear him straining against the unnatural rhythm, chasing after the song’s natural groove. He sings well, but sounds so much more comfortable on the acoustic version:
Maddie & Tae are up for their short performance, which is devoted to their #1 hit “Girl In A Country Song,” sounding and looking comfortable. The most important single of 2014, in my opinion, and 2 seriously talented young women.
We get the promised all-star skit, where our co hosts use “Guber” to find a ride to the CMT Awards. Who should pull up to drive them but Ahnuld Schwarzenegger? We get a bit where Alan Jackson gets stuck in a car with Steven Tyler, who harangues poor Alan into allowing him (Steven) to sing a bit of his new single “Love Is Your Name.” Meanwhile, Tom Arnold joins Brittany and Erin in their car with Arnold and in a different car, James Cordon and Justin Bieber fanboy over Luke Bryan while jamming to “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” Ew. We also get cameos from Big & Rich & Cowboy Troy, Hunter Hayes performing a bit of his new single “21,” and Rick Springfield busking with his 10th consecutive performance of “Jesse’s Girl.”
Nikki Reed jokes about the forgotten minority of men deserving recognition (a joke that falls completely flat) en route to presenting the CMT buckle for Luke Bryan for “Play It Again” who gives sincere thanks to Michael Monaco, who travels with him and shot the video.
Jenna Dewan Tatum introduces the most successful new act of the present day Sam Hunt who takes the stage to perform “House Party.” He starts off well enough, but sounds really rough on a chorus that’s too big for his voice. He winds up relying on the backing track to cover.
Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett introduce Kenny Chesney, who performs “American Kids” out on the lower Broadway stage. Fireworks close out his performance.
When we return, our cohosts and JJ Watts introduce Carrie Underwood for her 1st televised performance of “Little Toy Guns.” She gets a silhouetted entrance, thumping pyro, and somehow doesn’t get lost in the performance. She’s fierce, manages to be heard over a big arrangement (that does challenge her at times), and delivers a powerful vocal of a difficult song with what I consider to be one of the strongest set of lyrics I’ve heard from her.
A Thousand Horses take us to commercial with a chorus of their #1 hit “Smoke.”
We come back from commercial to a clip of Alan Jackson and Steven Tyler singing Alan’s “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” together, then Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” This is actually a pretty funny pairing. I would have watched more of that.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold are up to present the CMT for Video Of The Year to Carrie Underwood for “Something In The Water.” Heh. Sony Nashville did try to stage a late attempt today to get fans to vote for “Somethin’ Bad” to give its 2 A-list females a joint win, but people went with the song they love. Carrie’s at a loss for words, and starts thanking her fans, then country music’s fans, and then she gladly yields the floor to director Raj Kapoor when he makes it on stage. He thanks their video team, Travis Wall and Shaping Sounds, and Carrie herself. Carrie thanks him for remembering all the names she blanked on. She thanks God, and “Baby!” which appears to refer to Mike. And that’s a wrap! Carrie wins 3 of her 5 nominations, having won all 3 categories in which she was nominated. This is also Carrie’s 6th win for Video Of The Year (she’s won 4 in a row). With all the hype around her return to performing and the fan vote component, it was setting up to be a big night for her, and sure enough, it was.
For all of you wondering whether the next country awards show is next week, surprise, it’s actually not until November. So we’ll see you again then! Thanks for joining in the fun tonight!