Carrie Underwood Reigns at CMT Music Awards

Chesney, Ingram, Swift, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland Also Win

Carrie Underwood’s music video for “Before He Cheats” won in three categories Monday night (April 16) to finish as the frontrunner at the 2007 CMT Music Awards. Other winners at the fan-voted awards show included Kenny Chesney, Jack Ingram, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and Sugarland.

“Before He Cheats” netted honors for female video and overall video of the year and also provided a video director of the year nod for Roman White. Underwood was presented awards in all three categories.

“It was at the CMT Awards last year that I gave my very first acceptance speech ever,” the American Idol winner said in claiming the video of the year prize. “Let me tell you, it’s great to be up here again. Thank you, fans. I’ve had such an amazing, blessed two years. I started out on a fan-based show, and you guys have continued to support me throughout everything. … Everybody around me has been so amazing. We’re so blessed. I hope we continue to be blessed because this is awesome.”

Underwood’s success has no doubt inspired newcomer Swift, whose video for the song “Tim McGraw” was named breakthrough video of the year.

“I cannot believe this is happening right now,” the 17-year-old told the crowd. Thanking her record label and family by noting, “My mom’s my date tonight.” She added, “But this is for my MySpace people and everybody who voted. The fans, y’all, I’m going out on tour with Brad Paisley and this is coming with me to every single [autograph] signing line so you can get a picture of the award you won for me. Thank you so much.”

In accepting the male video award for “You Save Me,” Chesney gave special credit to video director Shaun Silva, who also directed Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most” (which won in the group video category) and Sugarland’s “Want To” (the winner in the duo video division).

“You guys have heard Shaun’s name all night,” Chesney said. “I thought it was time you saw what this guy looked like. I’d like to thank everybody down in Mexico City that was a part of this 10-day video shoot. I want to thank Vanessa [actress Vane Million] for being in the video.

“I want to thank … all the fans out there who have come to see us throughout the years. And, really, I want to thank [director] Shaun Silva, who continues to raise the bar to a place where a lot of people still try to reach. I’m proud of him.”

When Rascal Flatts members Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus collected their award, LeVox noted, “To the fans, we wish every show was fan-voted. You’re the reason why we make records. We thank you for all your love and support.

“We’re actually in the studio cutting a new record. We head back on the road in July, and we look forward to seeing each and every one of you.”

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, who accepted the award with musical partner Kristian Bush, also emphasized the significance of the fan-voted process.

“Thank you to the fans,” she said. “How exciting. We love that you vote for this. It makes it that much more special.” She, too, thanked Silva for his work on the video and added, “And I’m not just saying it, but it is my favorite. It has a lot of gut and a lot of heart.”

Ingram’s “Love You” won the Wide Open Country video of the year award for pushing the boundaries of country music. A veteran performer who worked for years as a regional act before gaining national success, Ingram was in awe of being nominated alongside Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Bama Breeze” and Sheryl Crow and Sting’s collaboration on “Always on Your Side.”

“Fantastic,” he said. “Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Johnny Cash is an honor. And to be nominated with Jimmy Buffett and Sheryl Crow, I’m honored.”

Hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, Monday’s awards show took place at The Curb Event Center on the campus of Nashville’s Belmont University. He began the evening with a parody of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, the successful quiz show he hosts on the Fox Network. Instead, the program was presented as Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade Country Music Star — complete with children in costumes to portray Chesney, Underwood, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Willie Nelson.

Blake Shelton served as the contestant on the Foxworthy parody, and he later returned onstage in an apron and carrying a pie as he filled in for celebrity chef Paula Dean, who was unable to present one of the awards after inclement weather forced the cancellation of her flight to Nashville.

Rascal Flatts opened the show with “Life Is a Highway,” a hit fans selected among three songs for them to perform during voting for the Flatt Out Fan Favorite. Hank Williams Jr. once again proved his powers as a songwriter and performer by accompanying himself on acoustic guitar for “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Keith Urban performed his current hit, “Stupid Boy,” in a special segment from Sydney, Australia. Bon Jovi used the television exposure to emphasize their country influences on “(You Want To) Make a Memory.”

Other performance highlights during the show included Dierks Bentley’s “Long Trip Alone,” Toby Keith’s “High Maintenance Woman,” Martina McBride’s “Anyway,” Chesney’s “Summertime,” Sugarland’s “Stay” and Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.”

In addition to Shelton, those presenting awards and introducing performers included Barbara Mandrell, Jason Aldean, Josh Turner, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Randy Owen of Alabama, Big & Rich, Melissa Peterman (Reba, CMT Comedy Stage), comedians Rodney Carrington and Ron White, WWE wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, actor Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) and Ross “The Intern” Mathews (The Tonight Show With Jay Leno).

View photos from the 2007 CMT Music Awards.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.