At Thursday night's CMT Awards, the three biggest winners weren't there to accept the award.
Taylor Swift, who won video of the year for "Mine," thanked her fans via live video uplink from Wisconsin where she's on tour.
"I wish I could be there, but I'm hanging out with 15,000 of my closest friends in Milwaukee," Swift said as frenzied fans screamed in the background.
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Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me" continued its extraordinary run and Sheryl Crow's underwear stole the show at the fan-voted 2011 CMT Music Awards.
Shelton and Lambert also weren't able to make it and they missed some interesting moments, starting with Sheryl Crow's underwear. She wore a short, white skirt and sat on a stool to sing "Collide" alongside host Kid Rock. She briefly flashed the camera as she stood up.
It happened in a blink of the eye, but in the age of DVRs, the moment went viral on Twitter, something Crow acknowledged about an hour later when she and Sara Evans presented an award.
"Well, at least you were wearing underwear," Sara Evans told Crow.
"I was wearing underwear because I'm good, clean, wholesome family fun," Crow joked.
That wasn't the night's only surprising moment at an awards show known for its unlikely mashups and celebrity cross-pollination.
Swift joined Shania Twain for their pre-recorded faux movie trailer recreating "Thelma & Louise" that included guest appearances by Donald Trump and Kenny Rogers. Justin Bieber induced tears from teenagers as he walked the red carpet with Rascal Flatts. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and "Dancing With the Stars" champion Hines Ward wore cowboy boots and shook his hips on stage.
Lady A turned in one of the night's most interesting performances. The trio opened with its record-setting single "Just a Kiss" before singer Charles Kelley jumped on the drums as the band morphed into Prince's "Kiss."
Wynonna Judd put Kid Rock in his place and taught him a little something about country on a duet of his "Hell, Yes, I'm Country." And near the end of the show, fans audibly gasped as Twain slipped and fell on her way to the stage to make an introduction.
Jason Aldean, who was shut out after earning a leading four nominations, topped off the night with a surprise version of his hip hop-infused hit "Dirt Road Anthem" with rapper Ludacris. It was a perfect end to a show that thrived on unlikely pairings.
Kid Rock, hosting for the second year, thought the song was a great illustration of where country is going.
"I've said this before: Country and hip hop aren't that far apart in spirit if you break it down," he said after the show. "They're both blues music."
Shelton, who appeared via video uplink from the set of his reality contest show "The Voice," won male video of the year for "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" and best Web video for "Kiss My Country Ass." Sugarland kicked off the night with the first win, taking duo video of the year for "Stuck Like Glue."
Lady Antebellum won group video of the year for "Hello World." The Band Perry won breakthrough video for "If I Die Young." Jimmy Buffett and Zac Brown won best CMT performance of the year for "Margaritaville." And pop heartthrob Bieber added a CMT belt buckle to the pile of trophies he's won in the last year, taking home best collaboration with Rascal Flatts for "That Should Be Me."
Long a fan of Rascal Flatts, Bieber drew some of the night's biggest cheers from the crowd in a corridor of the arena, where the red carpet was moved to avoid oppressive temperatures near 100. One of the night's largest entourages included Rascal Flatts singer Gary LeVox's daughters, 10-year-old Brittany and 8-year-old Brooklyn, who were clearly smitten with the teen sensation.
"If I wanted to go home, I had no choice but to bring them," LeVox said.