- June 14, 2011

One Big, Happy, Young, Beautiful Country

June 8, 2011 – by Uncle Jesse


Since CMT is an MTV spin-off network that plays “country music,” I shouldn’t be surprised at how much this award show blurs the line between rock and country. 

Personally, I kinda like Kid Rock, and I understand the connection you can draw between trailer park poverty in Detroit as well as Nashville, but he seemed as uncomfortable being up there playing a country award show “host” as I was watching him play a country award show “host.”  Ironically enough, he may have done better had they let him play a country award show “M.C.”

But, like all music award shows, what mattered most were the performances, and there were some doozies:

Toby Keith was first out of the gate with a new song, “Made in America.”  Did he just toss his guitar into the audience after the intro?  (Lawsuit waiting t’happen that guitar wangs someone in the head, y’ask me.)  The camera shouldn’t’ve settled on Shania Twain during this song.  Poor Canadian seemed unsure whether to count herself American.  Canada is North America after all.  Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman seemed like they might bust out laughing.

Big & Rich came on about an hour in, and did their best to quench my parched outlaw thirst.  Their new song, “Fake I.D.” carried at least a hint of the kinda outlaw twang I generally like.  Gretchen Wilson joined in and they sounded great together.

Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow slow-dancing after their duet was the nice kind of moment you don’t usually see on award shows.

Zac Brown Band continues to be the country-band-who-aren’t-really-a-country band.  “Knee Deep” is another pleasant, lilting number vaguely reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet by way of James Taylor.  The cardboard waves onstage both 1) implied Zac Brown’s awareness of the song’s flavor and 2) had me wondering if I was supposed to feel like I was at a high school talent show.  Is country ready to go Broadway?

Scotty McCreery and Alaina whatsername (televised karaoke doesn’t thrill me, sorry) got a few more minutes of fame.  They introduced Sugarland, who brought 2 girls from Joplin, Missouri onstage to wave a giant white flag at the audience during “Stand Up.”  I was a little confused about the iconography: why was “Love” painted on the white flag (and later, flags)?  The letter “O” in “Love” had a peace sign painted inside of it.  Were we meant to surrender to love and peace?  Or were love and peace raising a white flag to Mother Nature’s sheer power and indifference?  Anyhow, like many of Sugarland’s anthemic songs, “Stand Up” was just plain stirring – moving, even – so I guess I shouldn’t complain about the props.

Lady Antebellum continue to surprise country audiences with songs from “outside the fence,” as it were.  Yes, I just made that up.  Pretty proud of myself, actually.  Last time they played an award show, the late reggae superstar Bob Marley was in the mix.  The time before that, an old Philly soul number (“If You Don’t Know Me by Now”) gave way to Lady A’s own “American Honey.”  This time ‘round, their newest hit, “Just a Kiss” was played in a medley with – shock and awe – “Kiss” by Prince and the Revolution.  Too bad it wasn’t yesterday, as that was Prince’s birthday.  Still, it was pretty cool.  Dave Haywood seemed like he was channeling a James Brown riff or something in the guitar mix.  I gotta think these guys would be a hard act for anyone to follow.

When Kid Rock called Shania Twain to the stage, it looked like she almost broke her ankle taking a sharp right in oh-so-high heels, poor thing.  Woman down!  That floor must’ve been slick!

Now, at this point I was a little surprised Jason Aldean hadn’t won anything.  Doesn’t he have like, a bazillion twitterpatin’ fans by now?  As a consolation prize, he did get the coveted “finale performance” slot of the night.  Unfortunately, someone (possibly Jason himself) decided it would be a good idea to have him team up with Ludacris on “Dirt Road Anthem.”  I ain’t got a problem with Ludacris per se.  I’ve enjoyed him in movies anyhow.  Don’t really know his “music.”  I’m of the opinion that Jason Aldean BARELY got away with this song in the first place.  I felt the “yeah, yeah’s” and the “what’s up, what’s up’s” were taking it too far *ahem* that is to say, they was straight up whack, yo.  Afterward, Ludacris said, “History has been made, baby!”  ???  No, seriously, I mean “???”  What was that supposed to mean?  If this is what country and rock and rap sound like together, maybe Kid Rock oughta rethink his career trajectory of late.  Just saying.

Thankfully, Aldean got a two-fer, and “My Kinda Party” played us out on a note which at least implied country.

The awards handed out during the CMT’s aren’t gold Oscar® statuettes, or megaphones, or globes, or spacemen – the CMT Music Awards are fashioned after belt buckles, but it doesn’t look like you can wear them.  Much like the whole affair they represent, those buckles are strictly for show.

Other country music award shows will at least occasionally bring (almost said wheel) out Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton or heck, even George Strait for the traditionalists.  The 2011 CMT Music Awards made no such concessions.  For 2 ½ hours it was like we were all one big, happy, young, beautiful country.  I sure coulda used a shot of Willie’s wizened, white-haired “Whiskey River” in the cocktail.

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