Overcast skies over downtown Nashville dumped a significant amount of rain over the city Monday night. But the weather did little to drown the spirits of a country music industry excited to celebrate its surge to the forefront of popular music’s mainstream at the 2022 CMT Music Awards.
Onstage at the Municipal Auditorium, it was Jimmie Allen in a white and silver snakeskin leather jacket and matching jeans singing with 90s R&B icon Monica and Little Big Town. It was Mickie Guyton and Black Pumas both showcasing why they’re two of pop music’s next-era Grammy-winning superstars.
Or, if you didn’t pay close attention, Cole Swindell and Lainey Wilson’s live duet of “Never Say Never” or rough, yet cosmopolitan cowboy crooner Cody Johnson singing “Til You Can’t” against the neon-washed backdrop could’ve made the untrained eye mistake Music City’s Lower Broadway for Manhattan’s Times Square.
CMT Music Awards 2022:whowon? See the complete list
Typically, when a genre attempts to do everything well, it falls short of providing the eye-sparking moments that create superstars. Adequacy does not equal sustainability in the modern musical marketplace. However, alongside the names mentioned, numerous others also had highlight-worthy and heartwarming moments that stood out Monday night.
Carrie Underwood is country’s most-awarded star of the video era
Carrie Underwood is now a 25-time CMT Music Award winner. Her de ella two wins – for Collaborative Video of the Year and Video of the Year (her tenth victory for that award alone) with Jason Aldean for the ballad “If I Did n’t Love You” join her de ella 23 other wins in her two-decade-long country career. When asked by The Nashville Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, about a win that places her in the same pantheon as other video-era icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson, she paused, and became awash in the power of the success in her history-making moment.
“I’m stunned by the comparison, but I appreciate how much my fanbase has supported my videos throughout my career,” Underwood said.
Underwood’s success continues undaunted, though. Telling as well was her performance by Ella of her single “Ghost Story,” taped from her Ella Resorts World live show in Las Vegas. Cirque-du-Soleil-style aerial displays accompanied the emotive, lovelorn song. When asked about her forthcoming, just-announced album announced and what it means for her year to come, she confidently offered, “it looks like a year for ‘Denim and Rhinestones,’ to the Tennessean.
Cole Swindell, Lainey Wilson’s rain-soaked duet
A little – errr, a lot of – of rain couldn’t slow down outdoor performances from the CMT Music Awards’ satellite stage Monday night on Lower Broadway. Country music’s faithful lined the street, soaked in neon signs from The Stage, Legends Corner and Robert’s Western World as Music Row hitmakers sang through an untimely downtown downpour.
Late in the show, country titan Miranda Lambert delivered her latest hit “If I Were A Cowboy,” while the fast-rising Johnson – a two-time winner at the show, including outpacing Luke Combs, Eric Church, Luke Bryan and others for Male Video of the Year – performed a magnetic rendition of his single “Til I Can’t.”
But no performance cut through the rain like Cole Swindell and Lainey Wilson’s soaking duet, “Never Say Never.” Sopping wet by the time they took a bow, the two singers tested “rain or shine” entertainment limits by braving a drenched stage for arguably the night’s top must-watch performance.
Maddie & Tae’s expletive-laden, emotional speech
Aside from Johnson taking home the award for Male Video of the Year, the win by veteran country tandem Maddie & Tae for Group Video of the Year for “Woman You Got” was welcomed with excited shrieking, weeping, and a wholly unprepared, accidental expletive -laden speech from the duo’s Maddie Font.
Tae Kerr, at home with her newborn daughter, was present via a video screen at the festivities. Backstage after winning the award, Font cried at each stop along the post-show pink carpet. Before speaking, she paused and thanked her fans for her, her Christianity, and the power of prayer. If ever in need of understanding the value of an award win, look no further than Maddie & Tae. The group has been on the cusp of award-winning success for nearly a half-decade.
“We started off fast, leveled off, lost our label deal, and had some incredibly tough times if I must be honest,” Kerr said. “To have this happen feels incredible, and we’re renewed and refreshed for more.”
20 years later, The Judds reunite
Don’t you think it’s time… for a Judds reunion two decades in the making?
The Judds — a hitmaking mother-daughter duo featuring Naomi and Wynonna Judd — returned to an award show stage Monday night for the first time in 20 years to perform a unifying 1990 hit “Love Can Build A Bridge.”
Encircled by a white-robed choir, they delivered the time-tested chorus: “Love can build a bridge/ Don’t you think it’s time?”
The Judds performed in the shadow of the Country Music Hall of Fame, where they’ll be inducted as part of the 2021 class later this year, and they’ll return this fall to downtown Nashville, closing the newly-announced “Final” tour at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 28.
Kane Brown fills in for COVID-positive host Kelsea Ballerini
Because of Kelsea Ballerini’s COVID-19 positive test result, she co-hosted the 2022 CMT Music Awards from home. Intriguingly, second-time pinch-hit co-host Kane Brown filled in admirably at the last minute.
Alongside film superstar Mackie, Brown played every bit the cool modern country bro with an awareness of the history and future of the genre. Mackie, alongside him, offers a sense of motion picture electricity that hasn’t been seen in the genre since Elvis took a detour to Hollywood.
Pair them — and yes, specifically only them, as Mackie is not a wet behind the ears newcomer but a true amateur country — together, and they’re as comfortable presenting a show that feels like a yeehaw-style buddy cop film packed into a three-hour awards program. Add in a touch of country’s modern, empowered female spirit — be it from Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, or another of many emerging and charismatic country performers — and there’s a formula that appears for CMT’s Music Awards programs of the future.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism