Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: CMT awards show: It's not about the trophies

Published: Friday, June 7 2013 5:40 p.m. MDT

Jimi Westbrook, left, and Karen Fairchild, right, of Little Big Town, and Keith Urban, center, perform at the 2013 CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Donn Jones/Invision/AP)

Donn Jones, Donn Jones /Invision/AP

There are several things I took away from the CMT awards show Wednesday night:

  1. Country music is both exactly the same and completely different.
  2. I miss Nashville.
  3. Award shows are kind of silly.
After popping some popcorn and filling a bowl with pretzel M&Ms, I headed upstairs with my laptop ready to write and review one of country music’s biggest nights on television.

I was a bit surprised to see rock legend Lenny Kravitz opening the show with his classic hit “American Woman,” along with host Jason Aldean. It was a great number, even if there was a slight mix-up with the lyrics. (The duo forgot who was singing which part at one point.)

Country music has always been open to other genres. Really, I think country is at the root of many different styles of music. It’s so versatile that way. It can lend itself to pop, rock, blues and hip hop vibes.

In years past, it’s been country artists trying to “cross over” into the pop world instead of the other way around.

Now, many a pop artist has either done duets with a country act or joined the country crew permanently.

Kelly Clarkson recently performed a duet with Blake Shelton, “Don’t You Wanna Stay." Former “Hootie and the Blowfish” lead singer Darius Rucker, who performed his latest No. 1 hit single “Wagon Wheel” during the show, is another example. He’s made the rather unusual switch from pop to country quite seamlessly and successfully.

It’s cool, even trendy I’d say, to be country now more than ever.

Yes, there are still men sporting the classic and ridiculously tight Wrangler jeans. And yes, women are still cracking their voices and placing more emphasis on their Southern-born (or freshly acquired) accents.

But it’s not only the music that’s changed in country. Reality stars seem to have taken over the industry.

The first performance of the night was from Cassadee Pope, winner of season three’s “The Voice.” The first presenters were “American Idol” contestants Scotty McCreery and Kelly Pickler, who is also the newly crowned “Dancing With the Stars” champ. (She looked stunning and made me seriously re-think my late-night sweet ’n’ salty binge. For a second.)

And then there were performances by “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and “Nashville Star” runner-up Miranda Lambert, who both took home awards.

Even artists who have taken the long road and been around for some time seem to have jumped on the reality show bandwagon: Blake Shelton, judge on NBC’s “The Voice,” and Keith Urban, judge on Fox’s “American Idol,” are two examples.

“I wonder if stars such as Reba McEntire and Tim McGraw who started at the very bottom, playing dingy bars and traveling all over the country, look at people like Underwood, Lambert and Pope and think, ‘You haven’t really earned your spot,’ ” my husband mused.

I’ve wondered the same thing. How does a truly self-made artist such as Keith Urban who played and sang and worked his tail off from the ground up and took almost 10 years to finally “make it” feel about being out-sold by a young twenty-something who stepped on a reality show and was instantly blown to super-stardom?

I guess with the rise of social media where everything is instant, why not stars? It’s not to say they haven’t worked hard to get where they’re at, too. But what used to take years and years of paying your dues maybe now only takes a matter of months. Or weeks, even.

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