The 55th Annual CMA Awards went down at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last night, and it certainly was a party.
Luke Combs took home the night’s most coveted award Entertainer of the Year for the very first time, and judging by the cheers he got from the crowd it was the right choice. “I’m really kinda at a loss for words,” Luke shared, before acknowledging his fellow nominees. “I don’t deserve to win this but I’m sure as hell glad that I did.”
Chris Stapleton was the big winner of the night in terms of hardware, taking home four trophies including his third Album of the Year win for “Starting Over,” while the album’s title track also took Song of the Year and Single of the Year and Chris himself won Male Vocalist of the Year for the fifth time.
Another big winner was Brothers Osborne took home Vocal Duo of the Year for the fourth time and looked genuinely shocked. In accepting the award TJ Osborne thanked the country community for supporting him after coming out, saying “it really does feel like love wins tonight” (Cameras even caught him kissing his boyfriend Abi Ventura, after their big win.)
Carly Pearce also had a pretty emotional night taking home Female Vocalist of the Year for the very first time. She was so overcome she could barely talk, which prompted her collaborator Ashley McBryde to come up and help her as she regained her composure. “I’ve had just a crazy year and I want you to know that this means everything to me,” Carly said. “Country music saved me at a time that I needed it and this is all I’ve ever wanted in the entire world.”
- Other big winners of the night included: Old Dominion, who won Vocal Group of the Year for a fourth straight time, Jimmie Allen, who took home New Artist of the Year; and Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney, who won Video of the Year and Musical Event of the Year for “Half of My Hometown.” (click here for a winners list.)
- It should be noted that while Morgan Wallen wasn’t invited to the CMAs and didn’t win, he did garner some huge cheers when “Dangerous The Double Album” was announced in the Album of the Year category. You could even hear a few chants of Morgan from the crowd.
- Luke Bryan hosted this year’s telecast, and got in a few laughs at his own expense, joking about how few nominations he got this year, and that he hasn’t been nominated for Entertainer of the Year for a while. In fact, he spent most of the night being the butt of jokes, including a crack about how he’s not even the most popular country Luke anymore thanks to Luke Combs. .
Of course, while the awards are important, the real reason people tune in are the performances and there sure were plenty of showstoppers. Highlights included:
- Miranda Lambert, in a blue and red jumpsuit with red-fringed sleeves, kicked off the show with a five-song career-spanning medley that included “Kerosene,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Bluebird,” “Little Red Wagon” and “Gunpowder and Lead.”
- Eric Church was on fire…literally, for his performance of “Heart On Fire,” with pyro going off all around him.
- Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde showed off their vocal chops on their collab “Never Wanted To Be That Girl.”
- Gabby Barrett, introduced by her “American Idol” judges, performed a stripped-down version of “One of the Good Ones,” in a white outfit that made her look like an angel on stage.
- Chris Young and Kane Brown teamed up for their hit “Famous Friends,” with high school photos of some of today’s biggest stars, like Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and more, projected on the screen behind them, much to the delight of the stars in the audience.
- Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood teamed up to perform their number one hit “If I Didn’t Love You” for the first time anywhere.
- Keith Urban kicked off his performance of “Wild Hearts” walking the streets of Nashville and dedicating the song to all the dreamers trying to make it in music.
- Although not an official performance, presenter Deana Carter sang a bit of her classic “Strawberry Wine” a cappella, and had the entire audience singing along and giving her a standing ovation.
- Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards teamed for a powerful performance of “Love My Hair,” while proudly showing off some very big hairdos. The performance was introduced by Faith Fennidy, the young girl who was sent home from school because of her braids, which inspired Mickey to write the song.
- Chris Stapleton was backed by a string section for his soulful performance of “Cold,” but despite rumors he was not joined by Adele for his performance.
- Jennifer Hudson saluted Aretha Franklin’s country contributions with a performance of “Night Life,” a song Aretha recorded more than half a century ago. She was joined for the performance by Chris Stapleton on guitar and they ended the performance a soulful version of “You Are My Sunshine.”
- Brothers Osborne gave a powerful performance of “Younger Me,” with TJ sharing that he never thought he’d be able to be on stage at the CMAs because of his sexuality.
- Other performances included: Dierks Bentley was joined by Hardy and Breland for “Beers On Me,” Zac Brown Band got the audience up and clapping along to “Same Boat,” with smoke rising from the floor Blake Shelton performed his current single “Come Back As A Country Boy,” Old Dominion got everyone dancing with “I Was On A Boat That Day,” Luke Combs performed his new song “Doin’ This” for the first time, Thomas Rhett performed “Country Again,” Dan +Shay performed “I Should Probably Go To Bed,” Jimmie Allen performed “Freedom Was A Highway,” and host Luke Bryan performed “Up,” and wrapped the show with “Don’t Want This Night To End” as the credits rolled.