Last night’s “52nd Annual CMA Awards” opened with GARTH BROOKS doing a moment of silence for the Thousand Oaks victims. It was the second year in a row the show opened with a memorial. Let’s hope it’s the last.
Things picked up with LUKE BRYAN performing “What Makes You Country”. He was joined by some of country’s newer acts: Luke Combs, Lindsey Ell, Cole Swindell, Ashley McBryde, Chris Janson, and Jon Pardi.
It was a good lead-in for BRAD PAISLEY and a very pregnant CARRIE UNDERWOOD to start the monologue. As promised, they stayed away from politics, which may have taken the bite out of the humor, but that’s okay.
They did “break the news” that Carrie’s having a baby boy, and had fun with it by bringing out her first-born. But it wasn’t little Isaiah. It was Walmart kid MASON RAMSEY. Nice surprise, but I think we’re at our limit with Mason Ramsey jokes.
The first award was Luke Combs winning New Artist of the Year. He celebrated by kissing his hot girlfriend Nicole Hocking. Well done, sir . . . and what a year he’s had.
KELSEA BALLERINI got theatrical for her performance of “Miss Me More”. There were dancers balancing on chairs, jumping around, and doing gymnastics. It was visually interesting, and it worked.
I swear Carrie Underwood could be singing WHILE giving birth and she’d still knock it out of the park. Her performance of “Love Wins” brought the crowd to its feet. She also won Female Vocalist of the Year and no one’s going to argue that call.
OLD DOMINION picked up their first CMA award. They won Vocal Group of the Year. It’s fun to watch artists have their first big moment. You could tell it meant a lot to them.
Things got as country as country could get when RICKY SKAGGS and his incredible players performed the bluegrass classic “Black Eyed Susie”. Then Ricky switched stages to join KEITH URBAN for “Highway 40 Blues”. There was more.
Ricky went back to the first stage and did “Country Boy” with Brad Paisley and MARTY STUART. It was like being at the Opry. Can we do this every year?
MIDLAND made their CMA debut and did a cover of Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down” from “Smokey and the Bandit”. They also showed clips of Burt Reynolds from the movie. Props.
Do you love it when the CMAs get it right? They did with KACEY MUSGRAVES winning Album of the Year for “Golden Hour”. The whole place was happy for her. Talk about timing, she said it was 10 years to the day that she moved to Nashville.
A few other highlights included BROTHERS OSBORNE winning Duo of the Year and joking that if it was Florida there’d be a recount. PISTOL ANNIES did “Got My Name Changed Back” and were adorable, washboard and all.
A nice bit of soul came together with Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, and Mavis Staples doing Chris’s “Friendship” . . . and then The Staple Singers classic “I’ll Take You There”.
Are you surprised that Keith Urban won Entertainer of the Year? I’m not. The guy works his tail off and that’s what the award is about. And you could really tell he was honored. He was so emotional.
Here’s your complete list of winners . . .
Entertainer of the Year: Keith Urban
Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Female Vocalist of the Year: Carrie Underwood
Vocal Duo of the Year: Brothers Osborne
Vocal Group of the Year: Old Dominion
New Artist of the Year: Luke Combs
Album of the Year: “Golden Hour”, Kacey Musgraves
Song of the Year: “Broken Halos”, Chris Stapleton. It’s a songwriter’s award so he shares it with a guy named Mike Henderson.
Single of the Year: “Broken Halos”, Chris Stapleton
Musical Event of the Year: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, David Lee Murphy with Kenny Chesney
Music Video of the Year: “Marry Me”,Thomas Rhett
(You’ll find red carpet photos at Billboard.com . . . and how exactly did Maren Morris get into that dress without ripping it at the hip? There’s a great collection of performance clips and photos on the CMA Awards Instagram page.)
(If you’re the cynical type, Saving Country Music calls it as they see it, which is usually negative . . . and filled with rough language. They did a real-time blog so scroll down here if you want to start at the beginning of the show.)