We all knew the spotlight would be on the “women of country” at last night’s “53rd Annual CMA Awards”, and it was, until the end, when Garth Brooks won Entertainer of the Year. That last female to win that award was Taylor Swift in 2011. The favorite this year seemed to be Carrie Underwood. She launched an all-female tour, worked hard promoting her album, but didn’t win a thing. She was up for three awards.
The CMAs did come through with a solid show. It opened with an all-female medley that started with Carrie and her co-hosts, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire.
And then came Jennifer Nettles, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, The Highwomen, Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson, Crystal Gayle, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, and Martina McBride, who all took turns honoring decades of female country songs.
That could’ve been a tough moment to follow but Carrie, Dolly, and Reba rolled into the monologue without missing a beat. They didn’t do any long and involved comedy bits, like Carrie did with Brad Paisley, but they didn’t need them. They’re pros.
As for the performances: Miranda Lambert had a spark in her eye while singing “It All Comes Out in the Wash”. I think marriage agrees with her. Speaking of that: How many years before she and Blake Shelton shake hands and make nice?
We were treated to Pink and Chris Stapleton doing “Love Me Anyway”. It was one of those performances that remind you why awards shows can be so awesome. It got a standing ovation.
Old Dominion performed “One Man Band” and it was subdued but really good. Even better, later on in the show they won their second Vocal Group of the Year award.
Hey, Luke Combs did a wardrobe change. He was all dressed-up when he accepted Song of the Year for “Beautiful Crazy”, but when he returned later to sing “Beer Never Broke My Heart” he was in short sleeves and a cap. And then the suit came back when he won Male Vocalist of the Year. For some reason, I love that.
Kelsea Ballerini went solo with her guitar while performing “Homecoming Queen?”. And then she launched into “Girl Crush”, which kicked off another succession of female performers that included Lindsay Ell, Runaway June, Maddie & Tae, Ashley McBryde, Carly Pearce, and Little Big Town.
The Lady Antebellum and Halsey collaboration featured stripped-down versions of Lady A’s “What If I Never Get Over You”, and Halsey’s “Graveyard”. They sounded great together. How about an album?
The guitars came out and the volume turned up when Brothers Osborne joined Brooks & Dunn for “Hard Workin’ Man”.
A night dedicated to women in country music seemed right for a pregnant Maren Morris to perform her song “Girl”. She also won Album of the Year for “Girl”.
Blake Shelton did a nice thing while performing “God’s Country”. He showcased his fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, which was cool for two reasons. She won CMA Musician of the Year, and, believe it or not, she was the first woman to ever win that award.
Hands down, the sweetest moment of the night was when Kacey Musgraves and her hero Willie Nelson performed “The Muppet Movie” song “Rainbow Connection”. Unfortunately, Willie’s voice was wavering, but that’s okay.
(And if you’re in the mood for sarcasm and raw language, Saving Country Music’s real-time blog has you covered.)
Here’s your complete list of winners . . .
Entertainer of the Year: Garth Brooks
Male Vocalist of the Year: Luke Combs
Female Vocalist of the Year: Kacey Musgraves
Vocal Duo of the Year: Dan + Shay
Vocal Group of the Year: Old Dominion
New Artist of the Year: Ashley McBryde
Album of the Year: “Girl”, Maren Morris
Song of the Year: “Beautiful Crazy”, Luke Combs. It’s a songwriter’s award so he shares it with Wyatt B. Durrette III, and Robert Williford.
Single of the Year: “God’s Country”, Blake Shelton
Musical Event of the Year: “Old Town Road (Remix)”, Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
Music Video of the Year: “Rainbow”, Kacey Musgraves