Between co-hosting the show with actress Pamela Anderson, performing two songs and accepting three trophies, Toby Keith was the busiest man in Nashville during Monday night’s (April 7) CMT Flameworthy 2003 Video Music Awards. Keith’s patriotic anthem, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” netted him wins in the male video of the year, cocky video of the year and overall video of the year categories.
As for the music presented at the fan-voted awards show at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, Hank Williams Jr. perhaps expressed it best late in the show when he noted, “Country music is going on and on … and ain’t nothin’ gonna stop country music, baby.”
With Keith leading the field, Tim McGraw received two Flameworthy awards, and other honors went to Faith Hill , Martina McBride , Joe Nichols , Rascal Flatts , Shania Twain and the video production team of Deaton Flanigen.
While the Flameworthy awards do not have a category for acting, per se, the best actor and actress of the evening had to be McGraw and Hill. McGraw hugged his wife offstage as Terri Clark and comic Mo Rocca read the names for the fashion plate of the year category. When McGraw’s “My Kind of Rain” was announced as the winner, Hill stared into the camera with mock indignation, saying “What!?” McGraw jokingly shoved her aside to walk onstage to accept the award.
Earlier, McGraw won his other Flameworthy award for hottest male video of the year. In accepting the trophy for “She’s My Kind of Rain,” McGraw joked, “Kenny [Chesney] and I were just talking. We think Keith Urban ’s pretty hot.” Noting Urban’s golden mane, McGraw added, “We’re just kinda pissed at him ‘cause he got our hair.”
Hill’s “When the Lights Go Down” was named hottest female video, Twain’s “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” won concept video of the year honors and Rascal Flatts picked up the group/duo video of the year prize for “These Days.” McBride’s “Concrete Angel” was voted female video of the year. It also resulted in a video director of the year win for Robert Deaton and George Flanigen IV, who first worked with McBride on her “Independence Day” video. Joe Nichols’ “Brokenheartsville” was named breakthrough video of the year as the best video from an artist’s major label debut album.
Johnny Cash was honored with a special Flameworthy award for his career achievements and musical contributions during the past five decades. Vince Gill hosted the segment that featured video comments from daughter Rosanne Cash , the Dixie Chicks , Kris Kristofferson , Wynonna , U2’s Bono, record producer Rick Rubin, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and video director Mark Romanek. Cash, who recently returned home after being hospitalized for pneumonia, was not present at the awards show.
“I accept this for him in all humility,” wife June Carter Cash told the crowd. “He’s one of the most humble guys I know. He’s one of the best husbands that’s ever been. And he’s just one of the best country music entertainers I’ve ever known.”
In terms of musical performances, the Flameworthy show exhibited country music’s depth and diversity. McGraw opened the show by glad-handing fans while roaring through “Real Good Man,” a track from his latest album Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors. Rascal Flatts took a stronger pop route with “Love You Out Loud” from their Melt CD. Alan Jackson, as usual, proved to be one of the most unassuming — yet most effective — performers of the evening with the hardcore country of “When Love Comes Around.”
Delivering the title track from his multi-platinum No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Chesney seized the moment to prove why he has become one of country’s strongest concert draws. In their performance of their hit “Picture,” two out-of-towners — Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow — reminded the world that country fans are more than receptive to outside influences. Likewise, Hill’s reading of “You’re Still Here” is a reminder that modern country music has the potential to cross demographic boundaries and radio formats.
With American troops fighting in Iraq, Worley made a surprise appearance to perform his patriotic chart-topper, “Have You Forgotten?” Keith displayed his patriotism and sense of country music history by closing the show with a spirited version of Merle Haggard ’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” following it up with his own “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”
Especially notable was Shania Twain’s performance of “Forever and For Always.” Often criticized for her use of slick studio production and rock instrumentation, Twain was backed by Alison Krauss & Union Station. Between Krauss’ harmony vocal and Jerry Douglas ’ tasteful Dobro fills, the acoustic setting provided Twain a chance to show off her vocal skills and her songwriting craft.
Keith and Anderson appeared comfortable in co-hosting the show. Anderson, who was attired in a series of low-cut, high-hemmed dresses, offered a self-effacing humor. She told Keith, “I’ve been working out forever … thousands of sit-ups … so I can get my waist smaller than Chesney’s.” Keith replied, “Look at it this way: You’ve got bigger pecs.”
Comic-actress Brett Butler also made some jokes about Anderson and Urban, but she got the biggest rise from the crowd when she alluded to the Dixie Chicks’ recent comment regarding President Bush. Explaining that the south is “a place of sin and redemption and, hopefully, forgiveness,” Butler added, “Maybe in a couple weeks we’ll just all try to forgive the Dixie Chicks, okay?” When boos began drifting onstage from the crowd, Butler joked, “You boo me up in that seat. By the time you get down here to kick my ass, I’ll be gone.” She added, “Everybody in here’s a good American, so just stop it.”
By the time Keith took his final award for video of the year, he had already made reference to those involved in our nation’s military efforts in Iraq. “I want to dedicate this great award to Mr. Rumsfeld, to Tommy Franks and all the people over there puttin’ it down for us tonight,” Keith said. “American soldiers are the best in the business. Once again, thanks to CMT and all the beautiful fans for voting for this thing for me. God bless the U.S.A., baby.”