The least tradition-minded of the country-music awards shows, The CMT Music Awards thrives on creating cross-genre collaborations and production numbers designed to get people talking. Wednesday's show from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena was no exception. Here are five highlights from the show.
Livin' on Love, Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves. After declaring the country charts "a sausage fest," host Kristen Bell promised the awards show would be a "ladies' night." And it was, with Carrie Underwood's See You Again winning video of the year. Much earlier in the show, though, Musgraves and Womack honored Jackson, the inaugural winner of the CMT Impact Award, blending beautifully on a duet version of his 1994 Livin' on Love. "That song never sounded better," Jackson said. "Y'all are great singers."
Cop Car, Keith Urban. CMT used five stages during its show, but the best one had to be Urban's intimate performance at what appeared to be Nashville's legendary Bluebird Café, which is located in a tiny strip mall several miles south of where the awards show was staged. Turned out it was the Bluebird set ABC's Nashville uses, and the walls pulled away to reveal Urban actually performing inside the Bridgestone Arena. Brilliant fake-out.
That's Damn Rock and Roll, Eric Church and Lzzy Hale. The awards show opened with Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Jason Derulo and ZZ Top banding together for a medley of This Is How We Roll and Talk Dirty, but that production got overshadowed by mid-show collaborations like this. When people rock like Eric Church and Halestorm's Lzzy Hale did, having rock 'n' roll on a country music awards show isn't much of a problem. Modern country is where the guitar solos have gone, and Church and the Halestorm frontwoman turned this tune from Church's The Outsiders album into a barnburner reminiscent of AC/DC and the Rolling Stones.
All of Me, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles and Hunter Hayes. After sounding strained during a performance of new single Tattoo, Hayes focused on acoustic guitar for this number, leaving Legend and Nettles to turn All of Me into a simply gorgeous singer's showcase. The two traded lines on the verses, with Nettles singing harmony on the chorus, backed by a cellist and three other musicians.
Day Drinking, Little Big Town. The CMT Music Awards producers pride themselves on colorful performances, so when Little Big Town came out for the television debut of its new single dressed entirely in white, something clearly was up. By the end of the number — which is sure to become the tailgating anthem of the 2014 — the singers were drenched in paint poured from the arena rafters and spattered from a row of drums behind them