The 54th Annual CMA Awards went down in Nashville last night, with Eric Church walking away with the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy, his first-ever win in that category. In his speech Eric noted that this year for him has been about the “loss of this year,” including the loss of life, playing shows and more. “The win is we’re all here tonight, together as country music, in person, live,” Eric shared, adding, “it’s gonna be music that brings us out of this. That is the one thing that is gonna save the entire world,” noting, “Politicians are about division, music is about unity.”
But while Eric won the big award of the night, it was Maren Morris who walked away with the most trophies, nabbing three, including Single and Song of the Year for “The Bones,” and Female Vocalist of the Year. Maren used her Female Vocalist speech to highlight black female country artists including Mickey Guyton, Rhiannon Giddens, Yola and more, sharing, “you’ve made this genre so so beautiful, I hope you know that we see you.”
The night’s other big winners included: Luke Combs, who won two awards, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for “What You See Is What You Get,” Old Dominion, who won their third Group of the Year trophy, Dan + Shay, who nabbed their second Duo of the Year award and Morgan Wallen, who won New Artist of the Year.
- This year’s show kicked off with a multi-song tribute to the late Charlie Daniels. A lone Dierks Bentley started things off with “Long Haired Country Boy,” which was followed by Brothers Osborne and Dierks’ performance of “Trudy,” with Ashley McBryde joining them for “Texas.” Jason Aldean wrapped the tribute with Charlie’s classic “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”
- Unlike most award shows these days, this one did have an audience, although it was basically all of this year’s nominees spread out at tables, like they were at a lounge show. Hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker made a few jokes about having to stay apart, Zoom meetings, social distancing and even Reba’s love life, although with out a big audience the laughs were sparse.
- The night also saw Charley Pride honored with the 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Jimmie Allen honored Charley, calling him “a truly groundbreaking artist.” Charley then came out and performed “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” with Jimmie and the rest of the audience helping out.
Of course the CMA Awards are all about the performances and there sure were a bunch of great ones last night. Highlights included:
- Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber performed the live debut of “10,000 Hours” from the stage of an empty Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
- Luke Combs and his band certainly seemed happy to be together performing a rousing rendition of “Cold As You.”
- Jon Pardi paid tribute to the late Joe Diffie with a performance of “Pickup Man,” which got the celebs in the audience dancing and singing along. Joe died in March from complications due to COVID-19.
- Carly Pearce performed her hit “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” joined by Charles Kelley, who filled in for Lee Brice, who had to pull out of the show after testing positive for the coronavirus.
- Reba and Darius paid tribute to the late Mac Davis with his classic tune “In The Ghetto,” which was made famous by Elvis Presley.
- Chris Stapleton and wife Morgane let their voices do the talking during their tender performance of “Starting Over.”
- Ingrid Andress shared an emotional performance of “More Hearts Than Mind” that left her in tears by the end.
- Little Big Town honored the late Kenny Rogers with a lovely performance of “Sweet Music Man”
- Old Dominion helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Urban Cowboy” with Johnny Lee’s “Looking for Love,” with Lee and Mickey Gilley singing along in the audience.
- Maren Morris showed off her pipes singing her award winning hit “The Bones.”
- Keith Urban, who was in Australia, performed “God Whispered Your Name,” noting that the song has taken on new meaning this year, but sharing that it’s mostly about “not having to go it alone.”
He then dedicated it to healthcare and frontline workers, and their families.
- Among the other performances: a very pregnant Gabby Barrett was joined by Charlie Puth for the remix of her hit “I Hope;” Morgan Wallen sang “More Than My Hometown,” Eric Church, sunglasses and all, performed his latest single “Hell of A View;” Ashley McBryde performed “One Night Standards;” Miranda Lambert performed “Settling Down;” Jimmie Allen offered up his “Best Shot;” Thomas Rhett reteamed his all-star lineup of Reba, Hillary Scott and Chris Tomlin for “Be a Light;” Brothers Osborne performed “All Night;” Darius brought the laid back vibes with “Beers and Sunshine;” and Kelsea Ballerini had some fun on stage with “Hole in the Bottle.”