With thousands of country music fans in town for the CMA Music Festival, it's only right that the week needed a kick-off party – and as always, the fan-voted CMT Music Awards fit the bill offering a high-energy telecast that got the week started on the right foot, especially for Carrie Underwood – who won the overall Video of the Year prize for her powerful "See You Again" clip, accepting the award from Lionel Richie.
The show was hosted by "Frozen" star Kristen Bell – who assumed the role of emcee on a solo level this year. The opening monologue poked fun at her going it alone, with cameos from Tom Arnold and Sean Hayes.
After an intro from ZZ Top, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan held court with their chart-topping "This Is How We Roll." The performance which featured a guest cameo from Jason Derulo, who gave fans a taste of his mega-hit "Dirty" to a loud response.
Perhaps the top performance of the evening belonged to Eric Church who performed the gritty "That's Damn Rock And Roll" alongside surprise guest Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. For all of the rock and roll anthems that have become a part of the country format over the past few years, this is one that delivered – and then some.
There were other collaborations. John Legend and Jennifer Nettles provide the ballad moment of the night with a dreamy version of "All Of Me," in a version arranged by Hunter Hayes. The performance came just moments after Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan claimed the CMT Performance of the Year for "Oh No / All Night Long" from the 2013 CMT Artist of the Year telecast. Bryan also won in the other collaborative category, for "This Is How We Roll." Florida Georgia Line walked away with the Duo Video honor with "Round Here."
The first award of the evening was presented by Jason Aldean and supermodel Brooklyn Decker, who introduced the nominations for Group Video of the Year. The winner was Republic Nashville's The Band Perry, who scored with the clip for their hit "Done." The label would win again on the next presentation – which turned out to be one of the more emotional moments of the night. Blake Shelton presented the Breakthrough Artist of the Year prize to "The Voice" alum Cassadee Pope, who was visibly moved. Pope took the award for her video for "Wasting All These Tears."
Shelton got his chance to go to the winners' podium as his name was announced for the Male Video of the Year for "Doin' What She Likes." Before he went to accept, he surprised the crowd – and Luke Bryan – by giving the Capitol Nashville heartthrob a kiss. "I'll have to buy him dinner," joked Shelton. His other half didn't go away empty-handed, as Miranda Lambert won for Female Video of the Year for her current "Automatic."
It wasn't all about the newer voices, as Alan Jackson was presented with the CMT Impact Award for his twenty-five years of video making. In starting the tribute to Jackson, Carrie Underwood remarked that the first concert she ever attended was a Jackson show. Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves then took to the stage to perform his 1994 number one "Livin' On Love."
The show also featured several mentions of the CMT Series "Party Down South," with the cast showing up to promote tomorrow night's premiere. Throughout the night, several newcomers were also given a chance to show their talent on the Nationwide stage, such as David Nail, Danielle Bradbery, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, and Brett Eldredge.
Keith Urban gave fans half of his latest hit, "Cop Car," in a taped performance from Nashville songwriters' hangout The Bluebird Cafe before the song segued into Bridgestone Arena. Blake Shelton took to Broadway to perform last year's chart-topper "Boys' Round Here," complete with a performance-ending fireworks display in the streets of Music City. Dierks Bentley turned up the heat with his new single, "Drunk On A Plane," complete with a group of sexy dancing stewardesses. Fresh from his debut atop the Billboard Country Albums chart, Brantley Gilbert was joined by the fans, who sang along note for note on his chart-topping "Bottoms Up." Lady Antebellum brought the crowd to their feet with a raucous take on their brand new single "Bartender." Speaking of new material, Little Big Town premiered their new single "Day Drinking" on the show. The CMT Music Awards have been a good luck charm for the group. Two years ago, they premiered "Pontoon" on the show. Judging by the overwhelming response from the audience, they could very well be on their way to another huge hit.
The final performance of the evening was a saucy "Something Bad" from Lambert and Underwood – giving the duo a chance to reprise their recent Billboard Music Awards performance. The performance should help spur sales of Lambert's Platinum – just released yesterday.
CMT Music Awards Winners List:
Video of the Year
Carrie Underwood, "See You Again"
Group Video of the Year
The Band Perry, "Done"
Breakthrough Video of the Year
Cassadee Pope, "Wasting All These Tears"
Male Video of the Year
Blake Shelton, "Doin' What She Likes"
Female Video of the Year
Miranda Lambert, "Automatic"
Duo Video of the Year
Florida Georgia Line, "Round Here"
Collaborative Video of the Year
Florida Georgia Line featuring Luke Bryan, "This Is How We Roll"
CMT Performance of the Year
Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, "Oh No/All Night Long"