You might have done a double-take when you saw the list of winners and guests at Wednesday night's CMT Music Awards, which included trophies for Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber as well as performances that featured Ludacris and a cover of Eminem and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie."
But, yes, this was a country music event. It's just that some of the hardware handed out at the show hosted by Kid Rock tipped its 10-gallon hat to the ongoing popularity of the pop-infused sound.
The biggest example of that cross-over success, Swift, took home one of the top honors, Video of the Year, for her clip "Mine." She accepted the prize from a stage in Wisconsin, her latest tour stop.
"I just want to say thank you and hi to everybody back at the CMT Music Awards," she said. "I wish I could be there, but I'm hanging out with 15,000 of my closest friends in Milwaukee. I want to thank so many people — all the little kids who are in the video and their families for bringing them to Maine and being in the video. ... I don't know what I did to deserve you guys, but you've made so many amazing things happen to me in my life."
Male Video of the Year honors went to "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton for "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking," while the female video winner was his wife, Miranda Lambert, for her emotional tune "The House That Built Me."
One of the more unusual names on the winners list was Bieber, who snagged Collaborative Video of the Year for his hookup with Rascal Flatts on the tune "That Should Be Me."
"First of all, I just want to say how honored I am to be here ... with Rascal Flatts," Bieber said while accepting his first country award. "How amazing are Rascal Flatts, everybody? I want to thank my mom. I want to thank my family. And I want to thank Rascal Flatts for even jumping on the song with me."
Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus thanked Bieber right back for bringing the group the "great song," adding, "It was an honor to be in this video with you. What a talented guy. We appreciate it so much."
Lady Antebellum, another group that has surfed the more country side of the crossover wave, scored Group Video of the Year for "Hello World." And the Band Perry, an act that many mainstream listeners were first introduced to thanks to "American Idol" runner-up Lauren Alaina, took the USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year prize for "If I Die Young," as well as the 2011 Nationwide Insurance On Your Side Award.
Of course, it wasn't all awards and honors, there was also a hilarious opening bit in which Swift and Shania Twain killed it in a three-minute "Thelma & Louise" parody. In the clip, the two jump in their convertible and run into a perv played by comedian Ron White, practice shooting their guns and run into "Glee" star Chord Overstreet, who plays the shirtless Brad Pitt character. In addition to a gratuitous Donald Trump cameo, the video also featured Kenny Rogers singing his hit "The Gambler" by the roadside and host Rock hopping into the car with the ladies after getting kicked off his tour bus for partying too hard.
There were other highlights, including someone tossing a pair of ladies' underwear at Rock and Sheryl Crow later admitting she flashed hers while getting up from a stool after performing with the rapper-turned-heartland-rocker.
"I'm just gonna address the elephant in the room, because people all over America are tweeting that I was wearing a really short skirt when I sang with Kid Rock — and that when I got up off the stool, I showed my underwear," Crow joked. "Well, at least you were wearing underwear," co-presenter Sara Evans said. There was further drama when Twain came out to introduce the male video winner and took a major tumble on a too-slick floor while walking to the stage. She got up quickly and regained her composure, later laughing, "I don't need a stunt double." In addition to Rock opening the show with a bit of his hard-hitting "Bawitdaba" (which was cut off in favor of a more country-safe tune named "Till My Dying Day" that he wrote for Wynonna Judd), Ludacris hooked up with Jason Aldean for "Dirt Road Anthem," the Band Perry played "Love the Way You Lie," and Lady Antebellum did a bit of Prince's "Kiss." "Idol" winner Scotty McCreery was on hand with Alaina to introduce a performance by Sugarland as well. Other winners included Sugarland (Duo Video of the Year for "Stuck Like Glue"), Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett (CMT Performance of the Year for "Margaritaville") and Shelton (Best Web Video of the Year, "Kiss My Country Ass.")