You can be sure there was a censor somewhere in Nashville on Wednesday night sweating bullets during the CMT Music Awards. But, as promised, host Kid Rock kept things (relatively) clean during the annual fan-voted awards show, where
It was a bittersweet celebration of sorts, as many of country's biggest names gathered at downtown's Bridgestone Arena less than a month after Nashville was devastated by floods that destroyed thousands of priceless instruments and put such city landmarks as the Grand Ole Opry under several feet of water.
Rock made sure to keep things light, though, opening up the show with a warning that anyone who was even thinking of pulling and "Kanye West-isms ... anyone thinking of grabbing the mic, myself or the Bo-Stevens will personally punch you in the mouth, all right?"
The 39-year-old rapper and country dabbler made the bleep-button-pushers earn their pay early on, with a salty opening run through a medley of his songs "Cowboy," "Bawitdaba" and "Good Ol' Boys" that included surprise guest and awards-show recluse Hank Williams Jr., as well as Trace Adkins, Zac Brown, Martina McBride and Kellie Pickler. Though he was spotted doing shots backstage during the broadcast, it was Rock who proved to be the rule-minder during the show, at one point telling an audience member, "I know there's no smoking! I got the memo. Calm down," while, of course, smoking one of his beloved cigars onstage.
And then there were some Buckle trophies to be handed out to Underwood for Video of the Year ("Cowboy Casanova"), Lambert for Female Video of the Year ("White Liar"), and Urban for Male Video of the Year (" 'Til Summer Comes Around").
Underwood, who also won CMT Performance of the Year for "Temporary Home," couldn't thank fans enough during her acceptance speech for the Video of the Year prize, gushing, "Awesome fans ... Awesome, awesome, amazing, awesome, awesome!"
It was Urban who likely brought some tears to a few beers when he dedicated his win to wife Nicole Kidman, telling the flame-haired actress, "Baby girl, I love you so much," and then nodding to the workers helping to clean up the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "I want to send my deepest love and prayers out to all the families around the gulf, who are going through an insane time right now. We've never seen anything like this — emotions I can't even find words for as I watch this thing happening on TV."
Lady Antebellum, whose Need You Now is the year's best-selling album to date, won for Group Video of the Year for the clip for the album's title track. They also landed on the receiving end of one of Rock's sharpest lines of the night. "Lady Antebellum is like the hillbilly Fleetwood Mac," he joked. "But I suspect they don't do drugs or sleep with each other."
Antebellum member Dave Haywood was typically humble in accepting their award, saying, "Tonight's all about the fans! Thank you, fans!"
Veteran pair Brooks & Dunn took Duo Video of the Year for "Indian Summer," up-and-comer Luke Bryan snagged Breakthrough Video of the Year for "Do I," and Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins got some more love for their rough and rugged hit "Hillbilly Bone," which earned a Buckle for Collaborative Video of the Year.
Though she didn't win any awards, Taylor Swift helped present one with Faith Hill. "Jersey Shore" stars Snooki and the Situation joined celebrity chef Paula Deen to hand out a Buckle. And the crowd got a surprise when "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kenan Thompson showed up in a green dress and red wig to reprise his bizzaro Reba McEntire impersonation. He was confronted on stage by the real McEntire, wearing a similar dress. When she wondered what he was doing there, he replied, "I'm Reba! ... R to the E to the B to the A. Reba!"
Underwood, Urban (joined by John Mayer), Lambert, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band all performed on the two-and-a-half-hour show.
Rock ended the ceremony with his signature music biz words of wisdom: "I'd like to leave on this note right here: As a music lover, if it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But if it's real, you'll feel it."
What was your favorite moment of the CMT Awards? Talk about it in the comments.