With three wins, Brad Paisley emerged on top at the 2009 CMT Music Awards, although it's likely that Taylor Swift's three performances are what country music fans will be talking about in the days to come. She also won two awards -- including video of the year for "Love Story" -- during Tuesday night's (June 16) show at Nashville's Sommet Center.
Aside from a pre-taped opening segment that led into "Thug Story," her humorous, tongue-in-cheek rap video with T-Pain, Swift also provided an inspired performance of "You Belong With Me" and then closed the show with Def Leppard in a collaboration on the British rock band's late '80s hit, "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
In addition to Paisley and Swift, other award winners included Dierks Bentley, the Zac Brown Band, Kid Rock, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, Keith Urban and director Trey Fanjoy. The show was hosted by actor-comedian Bill Engvall.
Paisley's wins included a male video nod for "Waitin' on a Woman," which featured an appearance by actor Andy Griffith. Paisley and Urban also shared the collaborative video prize for "Start a Band." Paisley shared another honor -- the CMT performance of the year award -- with Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Paisley for their performance of "Country Boy" during the TV special, CMT Giants: Alan Jackson.
Jackson was joined onstage by Paisley and Bentley to accept the award.
"Twenty years ago this week, I signed my record deal here in Nashville," Jackson said. "I've made, I think, about 45 country music videos in that time, and CMT and all the fans have been there with me ever since."
Paisley and Urban joked around while picking up their trophies for "Start a Band." Paisley thanked the fans "for taking a song all about playing the guitar and making it something that radio made a No. 1 hit."
"And learn guitar, kids," Urban added. "Get the real thing."
"Rock Band never got anybody a date," Paisley chimed in. "Never."
Of all his wins Thursday night, it was clear that Paisley was especially proud of his work with director Jim Shea on "Waitin' on a Woman," a video that featured veteran actor and comedian Andy Griffith.
"Jim and I agree that was the perfect man to pass wisdom," Paisley said. "He has passed wisdom his whole life to all of us. ... He has changed my life in so many ways, and to be on film with him, you can imagine what that would be like."
Paisley's concerts are famous for their high-tech special effects, but he made a comical reference to his lack of technical savvy while accepting one of his awards.
"My Web site manager has texted -- because I've only Twittered three times ever -- and said, 'You should thank the fans on Twitter,'" Paisley noted. "So I had it ready, just in case. I'm hitting 'send.' So get off my back."
Paisley performed his current hit, "Then," during the show.
Swift's "Love Story" was also named female video of the year. In her acceptance speech, she mentioned her work with Def Leppard on a CMT Crossroads taping.
"I want to thank CMT for letting me live so many of my dreams this year," she said. "I got to sing with my heroes. Def Leppard, I love you guys so much.
"I want to say a little shout-out to some of my other heroes. I want to thank Shania Twain for always making such theatrical videos. And I want to thank Garth Brooks for always putting his fans first. I take my cue from you. Also, I want to thank my little brother, Austin, for being my date tonight. And I want to thank the fans for giving me video of the year when my whole family is here watching."
She had similar thoughts while accepting the female video award.
"Thank you to the fans that come out to my shows and spend such hard work making these amazing scrapbooks and writing me letters," she said. "Reading your letters and reading your MySpace comments, anytime I have a bad day, you make those days good."
While perhaps not as drastic as Swift's "Thug Story" video with T-Pain, Sugarland provided a major surprise by performing the B-52's "Love Shack" and then having the Georgia-based party band join them onstage to finish the song. Sugarland's "All I Want to Do" won a CMT award buckle for duo video of the year.
Rascal Flatts, who won the group video honor for "Every Day," performed "Summer Nights," a track from their latest album, Unstoppable.
In accepting the Wide Open Country video buckle for "All Summer Long," Kid Rock observed, "I think this was based on creativity ... because what's more creative than a strip pole on a pontoon boat?"
The Zac Brown Band took home the USA Weekend breakthrough artist of the year award for their first national hit, "Chicken Fried." Trey Fanjoy, who directed Swift's "Love Story" video, was named video director of the year.
Urban performed his current hit, "Sweet Thing," and later joined Jason Aldean to assist on "She's Country." The awards show was also highlighted by performances by Bentley ("Sideways"), Trace Adkins ("You're Gonna Miss This"), Toby Keith ("God Love Her"), Lady Antebellum ("Lookin' for a Good Time"), Kellie Pickler ("Best Days of Your Life") and Darius Rucker ("Alright").
Leading into the commercial breaks for the live telecast, snippets of songs were performed by several newcomers, including Jason Michael Carroll, the Carter Twins, the Eli Young Band, Eric Church, Gloriana and Joey & Rory.