In Music City, they say it's all about the song. Florida Georgia Line is learning the truth in that statement.
The duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley took the early lead with Miranda Lambert at the CMT Music Awards midway through Wednesday night's show on the strength of their hit, "Cruise." FGL won breakthrough video and duo video of the year and were slated later for the night's most-talked-about performance with rapper Nelly.
"This is a little overwhelming," Kelley said. "We've got the best fans in the world. You guys are freaking amazing."
The breezy, easy-grooving "Cruise" pushed the duo to country stardom last year. Their remix with Nelly moved into the top five on Billboard's Hot 100 pop songs list this week, making it the rare country crossover hit and an early candidate for song of the summer.
Lambert won female video of the year for "Mama's Broken Heart" and CMT performance video of the year for "Over You," recorded during the 2012 "CMT Artist of the Year" broadcast.
"I just got a kiss from Lenny Kravitz," Lambert said as she took the stage for her second trophy. "That was an award in itself."
Much of the early focus of the show was on country's biggest male star, Jason Aldean. Making his first appearance as an awards show co-host, he kicked off the show by playing "American Woman" with Kravitz, got hosting tips from an unlikely cast of characters that included Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Kelsey Grammer, Vince Vaughn, Lorraine Bracco and Luke Bryan.
He also won collaborative video of the year for "The Only Way I Know," with Bryan and Church, who were among the top nominees coming into the show with Lambert.
The CMT Awards are rarely focused on winners of the belt buckle trophy and Wednesday night was no different.
Taylor Swift had the night's most eye-catching performance, singing "Red" with a color guard of flag bearers while playing electric guitar and wearing a red-and-black shorts-and-overcoat ensemble that had a Sgt. Pepper feel to it.
Nicole Kidman with husband Keith Urban joined in as Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum led the crowd at Bridgestone Arena in a "Wagon Wheel" sing-a-long. Hunter Hayes took it outside and walked through a crowd of hundreds before taking the stage, and Bryan performed across the street at Lower Broadway venue The Stage.
And Little Big Town sang Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" as fog enveloped the stage and Urban joined them for an extended guitar jam in the middle of the song.
Lambert and FGL are still up for the night's top award, video of the year, after fans narrowed down the field of finalists. Aldean, Underwood, Bryan and Swift join them on the list and fans vote for the winner during the show.
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.