The 2016 CMT Music Awards featured a night full of pop crossovers, along with a few fleeting nods to traditional country music. The evening kicked off with Keith Urban and his tour mates Brett Eldredge and Maren Morris, who joined in on a cheery, sing-along rendition of Urban’s current single, “Wasted Time.” From there, things quickly went downhill with a duet from Cheap Trick and Billy Ray Cyrus, which just seemed like a blatant musical advertisement for Cyrus’ new CMT show, Still The King. The inside of the Bridgestone Arena went into a deafening silence when Latin rapper Pitbull then took the stage with pop singer Leona Lewis and Cassadee Pope, which supplied a rocky start to the show.
Thankfully, the return focused to the actual awards, which were chosen entirely by public votes. This year, Carrie Underwood walked away as the top trophy-holder, leaving with the awards for Female Video of the Year and Performance Video of the Year for “Smoke Break.” Thomas Rhett’s romantic video for “Die a Happy Man,” which features his wife, won for Male Video of the Year, while the award for Group/Duo Video of the Year went to Little Big Town for their mega cross-over hit, “Girl Crush.”
Speaking of cross-overs, the ceremony was filled with pop/country collaborations. Breakthrough artist Cam teamed up with pop girl-group Fifth Harmony for a mashup of her single “Mayday” and the group’s current hit, “Work from Home.” Dierks Bentley was also joined by pop vocalist Elle King for their duet “Different for Girls” from his new album, Black. Blake Shelton opted to go more traditional with his collaborative partners, choosing to hit the stage with the Oak Ridge Boys for his new song “Doin’ It to a Country Song” and the group’s classic hit, “Elvira.”
Performance-wise, the crowd favorites seemed to be Luke Bryan’s energetic rendition of “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” and the one and only Chris Stapleton’s incredible live version of “Parachute.” Stapleton was also awarded Breakthrough Video of the Year for “Fire Away,” which features a heart-wrenching and powerful storyline about depression.
Although the award show was filled with missteps and bad jokes, the fan-voted awards gave a very revealing look into what’s really popular with country music fans today. Some of the most entertaining performances were those from Underwood, who brought the house down with her powerful vocals, along with Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean’s appearances on the outdoor stage. The energy from the crowd, who are still bright-eyed and energized at the start of Nashville’s annual CMA Fest, was what really kept the award show above water.
At the end of the night, Tim McGraw was awarded with the coveted Video of the Year award for his single “Humble and Kind.” After a few quick thank-yous, the night ended with a groovy performance from Little Big Town and R&B producer and artist Pharrell. Although their new song was more disco than country, it still gave a somewhat satisfying ending to a night full of hits and misses.