Updated, 11 p.m. ET:It was a little bit country, but a whole lot rock ‘n’ roll when Jason Aldean joined special guest Lenny Kravitz to kick off the 2013 CMT Music Awards from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday. Though they chose to sing Kravitz’s very non-country hit, “American Woman,” the crowd was hopping as Aldean joined in, throwing in an occasional “Come on, y’all!” for good measure.
It was the first of several times that rock 'n' roll, and even rap, managed to seep its way into the show. Hosted by Aldean and actress Kristen Bell, the show was full of great performances, but lacked any surprises in terms of who took home the buckle trophies.
Immediately following his performance with Kravitz, Aldean “dropped” off the stage and into a skit featuring his co-host Kristen Bell as a shrink. In the clip, Bell, along with Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood and actor Vince Vaughn (all of whom have experience in hosting awards shows) attempted to advise first-time host Aldean on how the job. Even Dr. Drew Pinsky, Lorraine Bracco of "The Sopranos" and Kelsey Grammar joined in on the gag.
While it was Aldean's first time hosting an awards show, it was Bell that should have heeded the stars' advice. Attempting to keep her title of “America’s Sweetheart,” Bell was a bit too perky, and at times, downright unbearable. With her mock badgering of Aldean to sing with her, the poor country star was forced to drink out of a CMT-blazoned flask to get through their duet. (Why not share a little of that moonshine with us, Jason?)
Former “American Idol” champ Scottie McCreery and current "Dancing With the Stars" champ Kellie Pickler presented the first buckle of the night to Florida Georgia Line. The duo’s “Cruise” video took home the breakthrough video of the year award.
After a lackluster performance from newcomer Kacey Musgraves, Duane "Dog" and Beth Chapman (of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” fame) strolled onto the stage to present the award for CMT performance of the year. Although winner Miranda Lambert wasn’t sitting next to her husband, Blake Shelton, she did thank him in her speech. (Pipe down, tabloids, it looks like this couple is here to stay!)
Darius Rucker chose to start his performance of “Wagon Wheel” in the bleachers, awkwardly hugging his fellow country stars as he strode to the stage. Complete with fiddles, banjos and lots of hip-swinging, Rucker’s performance was all country, further proving he’s come a long way from his Hootie and the Blowfish days.
Taylor Swift was appropriately dressed in a sexy red corset dress to perform her album’s namesake song, “Red.” She's known for using her awards show performances to make a statement (who could forget her mocking ex-boyfriend Harry Styles’ British accent during her performance at this year's Grammy Awards?) However, Taylor was uncharacteristically subdued in her performance of the rock-infused song, almost to the point of being boring, although the red-lit stage looked cool.
Larry the Cable Guy, was the best presenter of the night, hawking his new CMT animated series “Bounty Hunters” and evoking a “Get ‘er done!” from the crowd (Even Nicole Kidman got into the act!) The comic abandoned the night’s sickeningly sweet vibe when he jokingly told Underwood –- and Rucker-- to stop calling him for romantic liaisons. Cameras failed to find Rucker for his reaction to that joke (or the one that followed about their being a video floating around of him and Larry). But the crowd got a good …”hoot” out of it.
Keith Urban performed next, and got the crowd rocking and singing along. (Except for his wife, Kidman, who was caught on camera mouthing the wrong words -- oops!)
Florida Georgia Line raked in their second buckle of the night in the duo video of the year category for “Cruise.” Lambert also clenched her second award of the night, this time for female video of the year for “Mama’s Broken Heart.” It’s the fourth year in a row that Lambert has managed to snag the award from Swift and Underwood.
Baby-bumping Hillary Scott and her band Lady Antebellum did double-duty at the show, first performing alongside Rucker, and later hitting the stage again to debut the band’s new hit, “Goodbye Town.” Urban also returned to perform a second song, bringing a little more rock ‘n’ roll to the night by dueting with Little Big Town to cover Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
Lambert just happened to be the presenter for the male video of the year award, which went to her absentee husband, Shelton. She accepted the award on behalf of him, telling him, “Honey I’m drinking for two tonight!”
One of the night’s highlights was Oklahoma darling Underwood doing a moving tribute to the people of her home state who had been impacted by last month’s deadly tornadoes. Performing her song “I Will See You Again” while a montage of photos showing the devastation in Oklahoma played behind her, Underwood delivered a heartfelt performance that garnered her a standing ovation from the crowd.
Finally, it was time to dole out the night’s biggest award for video of the year. Sheryl Crow, who’s set to release her first country album in September, joined Kenny Rogers for an impromptu performance of “Islands in the Stream” before presenting the buckle to Underwood for her “Blown Away” video. In her acceptance speech, Underwood told her husband, Mike Fisher, who was celebrating his birthday, that she brought home a buckle as a gift.
Florida George Line closed out the show, performing (take a guess?) “Cruise.” The duo was joined on stage by rapper Nelly, who received a lukewarm reception from the crowd. Apparently they can deal with a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll with their country, but aren’t yearning for more rap/country hybrid songs.