The CMT Music Awards: A Running Diary

miranda lambert.jpgThis entire entry was just an excuse to post a Miranda Lambert picture

I know I'm reaching here. I didn't even realize the CMT Music Awards were even a thing until about two weeks ago, which admittedly probably had something to do with the fact that I only finally just got cable late last year. But they do exist, and they're a music awards show on TV, so that means it's time for another running diary.

7:58: In a weird red-carpet pre-show trainwreck moment, all three correspondents attempt to welcome us to the show in split-screen and end up totally talking all over each other. Gideon Yago and Sway would never fuck up like that.

8:00: Host Jeff Foxworthy starts out the show doing a totally lame and unfunny Dancing with the Stars skit with someone named Lisa Rinna, who I guess had something to do with the real Dancing with the Stars. After the skit, they dance to "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," which is immediately followed by Trace Adkins, surrounded by video chicks, singing "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" over again, with a DJ and no band other than the guitarist who runs out to play a wheedley hair-metal guitar solo, some true alternate-reality stuff. Should I just go ahead and write an entire entry on "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," or has that moment passed? It's weird; I'm assuming the track is supposed to be some sort of gonzo rap parody (you know, because it has the word "Badonkadonk" in it), but it has more in common musically with cheesed-out Europop than anything else; that synth riff is the sort of thing you hear Polish dudes blasting out of their cars in Greenpoint. Also, is it possible to have a career in country after having a hit with such a shameless novelty single? It doesn't seem like you can overcome such a huge credibility gap in any other genre, but country is uniquely hospitable to shameless novelty.

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8:07: Jeff Foxworthy has to tell you, after that opening number, his badonkadonk is tired. Also, he mentions that he's hosted all kinds of awards shows, but this is his favorite. Jeff Foxworthy has hosted all kinds of awards shows? Did I miss the Oscars that year? Telling jokes about country music always seems like a losing proposition because the genre is always parodying itself so well and so relentlessly (see: Cowboy Troy).

8:12: There's a Breakthrough Country Video award? All the nominated videos look like every other country video, so I guess it's for new artists. Carrie Underwood wins, anyway, and remembers to thank American Idol. But not God. I should mention that the awards look like giant belt buckles, which is funny, but they probably don't look as good on someone's mantle as the CMAs' giant class spikes.

8:12: The drummer from Rascall Flatts is wearing Matrix sunglasses, which may be the most notable thing about their performance. Or maybe it's that the singer plays air-guitar during the guitar solo.

8:28: "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" seems to be nominated for every award tonight, which is truly bizarre. Billy Currington wins Hottest Video or something for his "Wicked Game" bite.

8:31: I would personally pay at least $200 for Larry the Cable Guy to completely disappear from TV forever. Maybe if enough of us throw in, we can make this happen.

8:36: The biggest non-country celebrities that CMT could get for this thing appear to be Kelly Preston and Sela Ward. I know country is its own thing and it doesn't necessarily need outside validation, but stuff like this always makes it look like such a cultural backwater.

8:38: Toby Keith always looks so bored during award-show appearances. CMT for some reason adds a bouncing karaoke ball to the bottom of the TV screen during his performance of "Get Drunk and Be Somebody" and then yanks it after a few seconds, which is weird.

8:40: Foxworthy says that Brokeback Mountain happened because Hollywood misconstrued the title of "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)": "I don't think that's what Big & Rich had in mind." Um, a few cultural studies types and music critics would assert that that's exactly what Big & Rich had in mind. Also, Foxworthy tells a joke about George Bush's approval ratings, and the crowd boos. Huh.

8:45: Hey, it's Dwight Yoakam out for the obligatory sepia-toned historical tribute! Actually, he says some really nice stuff about Buck Owens, and I should probably not act all snarky about that.

8:52: Carrie Underwood has finally found a televised event that'll let her perform "Jesus, Take the Wheel," and she ends up doing the best performance of the night. I really love that song.

8:56: Michelle Branch is in a country group now. That makes sense, I guess. It's crazy how nuts country goes for any non-country celebrity, no matter how marginal, that shows the slightest bit of love for the genre (see: Van Zant, Kid Rock, CMT Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix).

9:08: Sophie Muller, the only one of the nominees I've ever heard of, wins the Best Director award in absentia. If she's the one who figured out that Tim McGraw would look absurdly awesome in a newsboy cap, she deserves it. My girlfriend Bridget makes the observation that every winner makes sure to thank the hair and makeup people on the videos, which is nice.

9:13: This Brooks & Dunn power ballad about the wise dead guy is pretty boring, but it doesn't involve that A-ooh-hoo noise, so that's something. The entire crowd holds up cell phones, which makes for a cool visual.

9:21: In presenting a lifetime achievement award to Hank Williams, Jr., Kid Rock calls him "country's original badass," which is debatable at best. The accompanying biographical video is actually really cool; I love that they're calling Williams a trailblazer just because he acted really goofy and had a beard.

9:39: As party songs go, "All Jacked Up" is just OK, which means Gretchen Wilson made a crazy nosedive after her all-killer-no-filler first album; the new one sounds almost like a DVD extra or something.

9:51: Foxworthy calls Sugarland "a band with no Equal," haw haw. Jennifer Nettles manages to do a better stagedive than Stuart Murdoch, even if it looks like she rehearsed it at least five times. Actually, the main problem with Sugarland, who I like, is that everything they do looks exhaustively rehearsed; it's vaguely spooky.

9:56: They've showed the same five-second clip of the "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" video about fifteen times, and it's been equal parts funny and weirdly hypnotic each time. My favorite one is the one where Adkins flashes his two four-fingered gold rings at the camera (one says "Honky" and one says "Tonk").

10:04: It's awkward watching Faith Hill act all down-home a few years after she made the transition to full-on Celine Dion MOR-pop alien. She's game enough, but it doesn't seem right when she's sucking in her cheeks and clapping her hands along with the song; she's like a high-school assistant principal trying to down at prom.

10:09: I don't much like any of the videos nominated for Most Inspiring Video, but I love that the award exists.

10:18: I think I've figured out why Kenny Chesney looks so weird; he's the only male country star who it's impossible to imagine with facial hair, which I guess makes him country's Jay-Z. Even the guy from Rascall Flatts could conceivably eventually grow sideburns or something. Also, Chesney is maybe the only country star who does inspirational power-ballad cheese better than he does goofy rocked-up party songs. He does a party song tonight, and it's pretty meh.

10:22: The video of the year award had basically the same nominees as Best Male Video, and I think all these awards are determined by fans' votes, but Chesney won Best Male Video, and now Keith Urban is winning Video of the Year. I don't get it; are people using different criteria for the different categories?

10:30: Keith Urban is being joined by "voices from the Gulf Coast," which apparently means he's playing "Better Life" while pictures of Katrina victims appear on a screen behind him. Oh wait, now there are a bunch of singers onstage. Most of these singers make up the only nonwhite people we've seen onstage all night other than one of one of Trace Adkins' dancers, which brings this to mind. They do the raising the roof dance; I wonder if that was a white guy's idea. Also, "Better Life" is a completely bizarre choice for the big show-ending remember-Katrina jam; it's totally jaunty and amiable and fluffy and happy. Whatever, I like the song, so I'll stop bitching.


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