If the 2022 CMT Music Awards had an MVP, Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown would be neck-and-neck for the win. Ballerini found out days before the awards show that she had COVID-19 and wouldn’t be able to fulfill her duties as planned. While she and her team figured out ways for her to participate in the show from home, Brown stepped in last-minute to help actor Anthony Mackie with in-house hosting duties.
CMT sent over a backdrop and a portion of the pink carpet, and Ballerini set up studio lighting in her house. She performed from her backyard and pulled off multiple costume changes over the course of the night.
Ballerini’s kick-save was one of many memorable productions from the 2022 CMT Music Awards, which originally aired Monday night on CBS. However, you can catch Ballerini’s at home, do-it-yourself awards show execution in addition to other elaborate performances from stars including Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, Walker Hayes, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and more along with 30 additional minutes of new performances and extra content on CMT Music Awards Extended Cut 8 p.m. (ET) Friday.
The extended version of the show includes never before seen performances by Cole Swindell, Lainey Wilson, Jason Aldean and Cody Johnson. As for highlights from the original broadcast, here are a few of our favorites:
1. Carrie Underwood – “Ghost Story”
Carrie Underwood soared to new heights at this year's CMT Music Awards.
Hours before the awards telecast, Underwood teased how her fans should be braced for a first from the country music queen: "I’ll be taking my performance to new heights and will be doing something I’ve NEVER DONE BEFORE," Underwood wrote on her Instagram.
And the "Denim & Rhinestones" singer did not disappoint. During the CMT Music Awards, Underwood performed not from Nashville, but from the stage of the Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas where she is currently starring in her live show, REFLECTION: THE LAS VEGAS RESIDENCY.
Underwood treated viewers to a performance of her new single, "Ghost Story," rocking her own fuchsia fashion, on a stage bathed in purple. As she belted her hit track, Underwood was flanked by aerialists, suspended in silk ribbons from the ceiling. Underwood then grabbed onto her own ribbon and took to the sky, and suspended herself high above the stage, eventually swinging upside down as she closed out her hauntingly beautiful number.
"Ghost Story" is the lead single from Underwood's upcoming studio album, DENIM & RHINESTONES, which drops June 10.
2. Cody Johnson – “‘Til You Can’t”
Cody Johnson went into the 2022 CMT Music Awards already a winner, picking up the Digital-First Video of the Year on the red carpet before the show. But Johnson felt like he'd already won because he knew he would get to perform his recent No. 1 hit "Til You Can't" on the show.
"My goal with this is to take what I do with my authentic brand of country music that I've spent my life developing and take it to people that may not have had the opportunity to hear it," Johnson said. "The CMT Awards is an opportunity to be on national television and say, 'Hey, this cowboy hat is not fake. This belt buckle is not fake. This voice and this presentation, it's not fake. I think hard work and perseverance are something we lack in society. That's something that "'Til You Can't" personifies."
Johnson brought "Til You Can't" to life on Lower Broadway during Monday night's awards show. Fans braved the rain to hear the cowboy deliver his anthem about living life to the fullest. "Til You Can't" is from Johnson's double album "Human." As he sang about making every moment count, country music fans did exactly that. The red and purple stage lights reflected off their faces as Johnson's Texas drawl passionately carried him through the song as they sang along. Jack's Bar-B-Q and The Second Fiddle glowed neon behind him, just like a Texas dance hall with which he is undoubtedly familiar.
"This is 15 years of hard work," Johnson said. "To even get the opportunity to play it, it's great. That means what we're doing is working in country music. My brand of country music is somehow being accepted into that pendulum swing."
3. Jimmie Allen with Monica and Little Big Town – “Pray”
Jimmie Allen, Monica and Little Big Town took the CMT Music Awards audience to church Monday night when they brought their collaboration, "Pray," from Allen's 2020 "Bettie James" to life on stage.
Fog billowed across the stage as Allen perched at the piano and opened the song, his voice wrapping around the emotional, unifying lyrics like warm honey.
He sings: 7:30 out of Nashville| Airplane bottles on my tray|The heavens get to shaking| It's a stranger's hand I'm taking| We pray, hmm, yeah
Monica and Little Big Town emerged to join him as scenes of people from different religions praying, peaceful protests and candle vigils filter across the screen.
They sing: I've been losing my religion| I've been in and out of faith| What it is and what it isn't | Well, it's not for me to say| We stand in different churches| And we call it different names| But in the end, we pray, hey-hey
"As soon as I heard this song, I felt like it was too big for just me," Allen said. "I felt like I wanted some help with it, and I wanted to pull in other artists that had something special about them."
Allen said the CMT Music Awards performance is the first time the artists have sung the song together in the same room. He wanted their on-stage moment to focus on love, hope, peace, and people struggling.
"We all pray for different things," he said. "We pray for financial help. We pray for fixed relationships. We pray for help after natural disasters. And we pray for peace. It all should be unifying. I don't think any one group of people should ever have all the focus when it comes to struggles. We all struggle. It's important to take care of yourself, but we're not the only people going through things."
4. The Judds – “Love Can Build a Bridge”
With the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as the backdrop, '80s country icons The Judds made a powerful return to the awards show stage on Monday night when they reunited to perform "Love Can Build a Bridge" with the support of a full gospel choir.
Wynonna's voice rang out as strong and sure as ever as she delivered the song's meaningful lyrics about love mending the world's broken pieces.
"This is really happening," Wynonna said, looking at her mother Naomi during the song.
The duo's voices blended with the same smoke and fire that have captivated country music fans for the last four decades. The gospel choir joined in, and with the starry night sky as the backdrop, it felt like a piece of country music history. The Judds' CMT Music Awards appearance marks their first awards show performance in more than 20 years.
Kacey Musgraves introduced The Judds, who will soon be inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame. She called them "undeniably iconic" and explained their unique sound and prolific songwriting bolstered their historic career. The mother-daughter duo earned 14 No. 1 songs and five platinum albums throughout their journey through country music. They also revealed their final tour on Monday. The 10-show run launches Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
While Cole Swindell was building his enviable career, he never got the chance to play the bars on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. When he and Lainey Wilson delivered the primetime debut of their hit “Never Say Never” in the middle of Nashville’s famed Lower Broadway during the 2022 CMT Music Awards, he felt like he got the chance to play them all at once.
“I'm playing down here with the fans," Swindell said excitedly. "I'm looking at rooftops, all that stuff. It's pretty cool to be right in the middle of everything."
Swindell and Wilson are nominated in the night’s top category Video of the Year as well as Collaborative Video of the Year.
“Never Say Never,” the follow-up to Swindell’s 10th No. 1 song “Single Saturday Night,” is from his new album “Stereotype” which was released April 8.
“Getting recognized for something you believe in never gets old, and this song and the reaction from day one has been amazing,” Swindell said. “Nominations and performances are never guaranteed, no matter who you are. I can’t wait to play it live with Lainey. This is what you always hope for, but it doesn’t always happen. I’m just proud to have the team I do that fights for these opportunities.”
Wilson agreed, calling this a “big moment.”
“I’ve always just dreamed about having a big performance and being a part of the show,” she said. “And, here we are.”
Wilson marvels at the speed the song continues to succeed – and the universal adoration “Never Say Never” enjoys. It took “Things a Man Oughta Know” 40 weeks to get to No. 1, but “Never Say Never” reached the Top 5 in just 20 weeks.
“I’m used to like climbing the walls trying to get some momentum,” she said. “And this thing has just grown a set of wings. People are loving it across the board. There has not been one negative comment about the song, which is rare. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank (Cole) because this has been a blessing to my journey.”