CMA Awards: Best and Worst of the Broadcast

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Image Credit: Todd Wawrychuk/ABC

The real winners were announced Wednesday night at the 47th Annual Country Music Association Awards. But here are a few more honors from the telecast you should feel free to weigh in on:

Best “Suck it, haters” Taylor Swift moment ever: So not only did George Strait, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, and Rascal Flatts — all people for whom Swift opened at the start of her career — come out onstage to present the 23-year-old with the Pinnacle Award, there was also a video including kind messages from Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake, Carly Simon, Julia Roberts, and Ethel Kennedy, among others. Watch it below. It’s might have been the best acceptance speech of Swift’s career, as she paid respect to each of the artists onstage with her. 

Best Host Joke: Co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood addressed the feuds inside and out of the genre immediately in their opening-monologue rendition of “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” as Kellie Pickler handed out “feud assignments” to audience members: Luke Bryan took the opportunity to hug it out with Zac Brown (who famously referred to Bryan’s show-opening chart-topper “That’s My Kind of Night” as “the worst song I’ve ever heard.”) Even bigger laughs: The line “Tommy Petty hates us all” (Petty has called modern country “bad rock with a fiddle”) and Darius Rucker receiving his designated feud card (Julianne Hough).

Best Miley Cyrus Joke(s): During the opening, when Paisley claimed he’d “twerked” his back, Underwood told him he was using the word wrong, and explained what it meant: “Have you ever been to a Luke Bryan concert?” “I thought those were mini-seizures,” Paisley said. Either way, he needed to see a doctor, so Underwood picked up a laptop and started signing him up for ObamaCare. Cue the George Strait-inspired duet, “ObamaCare By Morning.” While Swift looked confused by that reference, she knew exactly what Paisley meant when he addressed her from the stage: “I want to thank you from a grateful industry for never once humping a teddy bear or gyrating with Beetlejuice. I really appreciate it. I know that’s not easy.” Added Underwood, “And I gotta say, if someone in music today was gonna be caught naked licking a hammer, I think we all thought it’d be Blake Shelton.”

Worst Miley Cyrus Joke: See the photo on this item. Just went back to the well one too many times.

Most Enthusiastic Audience Participation: Taylor Swift. When Florida Georgia Line joined their hype man Luke Bryan onstage for “Cruise,” she stood, sang along, and danced like she didn’t care who was watching (watch it below) — and got almost as much screen time as FGL.  And when Nashville sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella sang a gorgeous rendition of Swift’s “You Belong With Me” to Swift to kick off her Pinnacle Award segment (again, watch it above), Swift mouthed the words and gave young Maisy multiple kisses on the head afterward.

Honorable mentions: Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, who raised his glass to Eric Church after Church’s performance of “The Outsiders,” and Luke Bryan, who popped up immediately when the folks from Duck Dynasty joined Paisley and Underwood onstage for their country-fried version of “Blurred Lines.” (See that at 7:35 in the video of their opening monologue above.)

Biggest Audience Participation Letdown: Sean “Diddy” Combs. “I’m comin’ out tonight: I love me some country music, baby,” he said when presenting Vocal Group of the Year with Kellie Pickler. And yet, when the camera landed on him during Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award winner Kenny Rogers’ “Islands in the Stream” duet with Jennifer Nettles, he wasn’t singing along? Boo. (In his defense, he did stand and sway behind Jason Aldean.)

Best Surprise: A shocked George Strait won Entertainer of the Year (“What?” he said) — which, incidentally, was also the most talked about moment from the show on Facebook, according to official stats.

Worst Surprise: Underwood not get a standing ovation after she belted out a medley of four No. 1 hits — and then going home empty-handed.

Best Cleavage: Kellie Pickler’s gown, showcased during the opening when she trotted through the audience to deliver the feud assignments to fellow artists. “Come on there, Baywatch, get goin’,” Paisley cracked. (Jennifer Nettles’ low-cut vest worn during the Kenny Rogers salute wins second.)

Best Heavage: Tim McGraw performing “Southern Girl” with his suit jacket off and a few buttons undone on his burgundy shirt.

Best Camera Face(s): Taylor Swift throughout her star-studded rendition of “Red.”

Worst Camera Face: The (hopefully misinterpreted?) glare from Kacey Musgraves when four-time Female Vocalist of the Year Miranda Lambert gave her a shout-out during her acceptance speech. See it 3:00 in the clip below.

Best Reminder Not to Judge a Song By Its Title: Both Song of the Year “I Drive Your Truck” (inspired by a father who still drives his late soldier son’s truck)  and “Drink a Beer” (which Luke Bryan dedicated to his late brother and sister) are poignant.

Worst Reminder that Networks Have Censors: ABC bleeped the line “Roll up a joint, or don’t” from Kacey Musgraves’ performance of “Follow your Arrow.”

Best Pyrotechnics, Restrained Division: Jason Aldean’s “Night Train”

Best Pyrotechnics, Fountains at the Bellagio or Fireworks Division: The Band Perry’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”

Best Pyrotechnics, Blow It to Hell Division: Eric Church’s “The Outsiders”

Best Use of Cell Phones as Stars in a Dark Arena: Little Big Town’s “Sober”

Best Example of ‘My Lights Are Taller Than Yours, Little Big Town’: Blake Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You”

Best Walk or Run Through the Crowd: Brad Paisley

Worst Walk or Run Through the Crowd: Hunter Hayes and Jason Mraz

Best Accessory: Swift’s Pinnacle Award, which she was able to slide her hand through and wear like a chunky bracelet when she wanted to use both hands to clap or dance to “Islands in the Stream.”

Worst Accessory: Underwood’s ankle fringe when she performed her medley. Why would you pull focus away from those killer thighs?

Best (or Worst?) Cowboy Boots: Miranda Lambert’s silver ones during her Keith Urban duet.

Best Reason to Tweet, “DEACON!!!”:

Best performance to show your friend who “doesn’t like country music”: Dave Grohl with Zac Brown Band

Best Song to Make that Friend Listen to Anyway: “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which George Strait and Alan Jackson performed together in tribute to the late, great George Jones. (Best hug: Vince Gill embracing Jones’ widow afterward.)

Best EW reader burning question: Why was Seth Meyers there? We’re guessing because his wife is such a big country fan that Brad Paisley flew to Martha’s Vineyard to perform “Then” for the couple’s first dance at their September wedding.

Your turn. What honors would you like to bestow?

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