Did you see the Country Music Television Awards last night, easily one of the five most important country music award shows of the summer? Well, shame on you if not, but then again, that’s what you have us for—not only did we watch, but we took detailed notes and performed complicated algebraical equations to scientifically deduce who of the many stars and up-and-comers involved with the evening’s proceedings had the best nights. People who took home awards, rocked the stage, starred in comedic bits that didn’t suck, and just generally came off as winners. Here’s our Power Rankings of the ten best.
1. JUSTIN BIEBER Why should this award show be any different from any other award show? Already somehow a BET Award nominee, Justin Bieber continued his dominance of all corners of the music industry by picking up a CMT Award for Collaborative Video of the Year for his Rascal Flatts duet “That Should Be Me.” Wearing the same Texas Rangers hat he wore to Game Four of the NBA Finals the night before, Bieber had a minor faux pas when he referred to the event as the “Country Music Awards” (close enough), but still drew the night’s loudest cheers—as well as gushing praise from Rascal Flatts, who proclaimed The Bieb “so talented” and declared that they all had “Bieber Fever.” It’s Justin’s world right now, we’re just taking creepy photographs of it.
2. THE BAND PERRY If there was an artist who officially had their Big Moment at last night’s awards, it was probably The Band Perry, who picked up trophies for both Breakthrough Video of the Year and the Nationwide On Your Side award (whatever that means) for chart-topping hit “If I Die Young.” And on a night where most of the young’n performers were relegated to the side stage—even Thompson Square, who had a country #1 of their own this year—TBP got headliner honors, putting on one of the night’s best performances with a medley of Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie” and their own “You Lie.” (We didn’t get the connection between the two songs until typing that sentence, though—sad.)
3. KID ROCK Lest you had forgotten, his name is still KIIIIIIIIIIID ROCK. Though we were teased with a performance of breakout hit “Bawitdaba” that never really came to fruition—damn you for interrupting, Wynona Judd, nobody asked your opinion—Rock did a fine job with hosting duties, coming off as highly personable without ever being overbearing. The Kid had several classic interactions with the audience (“Did you say take my shirt off? You take YOUR shirt off!” “It’s a joke, calm down, it’s a fun evening, we’re having fun,” “Was that a pair of panties?”), and also had a nice moment playing this year’s duet “Collide” with long-time collaborator Sheryl Crow—even if he failed to shield her from flashing off the undies a little. Hey, multi-tasking at these things is tough.
4. MIRANDA LAMBERT AND BLAKE SHELTON The official first couple of country music represented very well at the CMT Awards—even though, strictly speaking, neither was actually in attendance, Miranda on tour in Connecticut and Blake busy wrapping up The Voice. The two took home equivalent awards, Miranda nabbing Female Video of the Year for “The House That Built Me,” and Blake taking home Male Video of the Year for “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” proving that their relationship is that all too rare of pop culture phenomenons—the celebrity couple of true equals.
5. TAYLOR SWIFT She didn’t clean up like some expected, losing Female Video to Miranda, but Taylor still took home the night’s biggest award, with her “Mine” winning Video of the Year. (Does this mean that Miranda is better at being a Female than her or something? Weird.) Taylor gave one of her typical “YOU GUYS!!!! I AM SO SHOCKED AND HONORED TO BE WINNING THIS AWARD!!!” speeches via satellite from her tour date in Wisconsin, but apparently the feed operator had seen this movie one too many times before, and her acceptance got cut off before she was finished gushing. Fine, but don’t expect her to be so furtive next year.
6. SHANIA TWAIN No awards or performances from Shania, but she looked great presenting the Male Video of the Year award (aside from a minor slip on stage—no, not that kind of slip), and she did an excellent job co-starring with Taylor in the awards’ opening video skit, in which the two biggest country-pop crossover stars of the last 20 years hit the road a la Thelma & Louise, ogling a Brad Pitt look-a-like Chord Overstreet (“That does impress me…very much”) and terrorizing a less-than-gentlemanly Ron White. Gone too long, Shania now appears ready to settle into her destined role as country elder stateswoman, and role model to the next generation. Good to have her back.
7. RICKY SCHRODER The evening’s most unexpected star turn came from the ’80s child star of Silver Spoons and The Champ, now 41 and still with that old sparkle in his eye. The Schrod was there to promote To the Mat, his upcoming CMT original movie (the first ever!), co-starring Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy. According to the film’s official press release, To the Mat “tells the story of a laid-back ex-wrestler (Schroder) who’s trying to keep his family’s down-and-out southern wrestling school above water. When his mother hires an uptight Wall Street consultant from New York (Bell Bundy) to help get the books in order, these two opposites must find a way to get along and save the family business.” Well, consider our DV-Rs set.
8. LADY ANTEBELLUM You know you’re rolling as a band when your lesser hits are still stealing trophies away from up-and-coming groups who have never been on that stage before (and may never be again). Nobody is going to be confusing “Hello World” with “Need You Now” anytime soon, but the former was still enough to take Best Group Video over Little Big Town and The Band Perry. And Lady A had the performance highlight of the evening, when they thankfully lapsed from their performance of too-serious new single “Just a Kiss” into an unexpected-but-awesome version of Prince’s “Kiss,” demonstrating again that there’s not an award show in the world that couldn’t use a little Purple.
9. ZAC BROWN The country star’s titular band won CMT Performance Video of the Year for their collaboration performance with Jimmy Buffett on his classic “Margaritaville,” and had a resounding performance of new single “Knee Deep.” But the real reason Zac Brown was making headlines last night was for his Fat Joe-like decrease in portliness. “Have you guys seen Zac tonight, for real?” Kid Rock asked the audience before introducing the band’s performance. “Somebody get that boy a bucket of chicken!”
10. DAN WHELDON & LUDACRIS Not much of a connection between these two dudes, even at the awards last night, but both get major points for being pioneers in the fields of being British and African-American, respectively, at a Country Music Awards show. Wheldon, the unlikely winner of the latest Indy 500, bantered with Big Rich and Gary Busey, memorably pronouncing the latter’s name as “BOO-sey,” while Luda performed a stellar guest verse on Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” the country star showing off some decent hip-hop chops himself. When Coldplay and Waka Flocka Flame are performing at the CMT Awards five years from now, we’ll know who to thank for blowing those doors open.
Did we miss anyone obvious? Should Taylor Swift automatically be #1 on these things no matter what? Where do the other two guys from Paramore stack up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.