The 52nd Country Music Awards just happened – and it was a night of show-stopping performances, heartwarming surprises and emotional moments.
The movers and shakers of the country music community gathered at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday (November 14) night to celebrated this year’s amazing achievements in a big way.
The awards show opened on a somber note, with Garth Brooks calling for a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives in the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, on November 7.
“I’m Garth Brooks, and on behalf of our country music community, I want to say that tonight’s show is lovingly dedicated to the 12 individuals who we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight at the Borderline in Thousand Oaks, California,” the singer said. “Tonight, let’s celebrate their lives.”
“Let the music unite us with love in their enduring memory. So please, join me now in a moment of silence,” he said as the names of the 12 people who died were flashed on the screen.
Luke Bryan kicked off the night’s performances with “What Makes You Country,” saying, “Let’s do what we do and let’s be proud of what makes us country tonight.”
“We have some very special guests coming out, some of country’s newest rising stars, up and coming artists,” he previously teased. “I thought it would be a great start to the award show, to get some of these new, fresh faces out here with me. It’s going to be a fun surprise.”
And what a cool surprise it was, as Luke Combs, Cole Swindell, Lindsay Ell, Chris Janson, Ashley McBryde and Jon Pardi joined him on stage. Luke also upped the ante by playing an electric guitar on stage, something he admits he has “never done under this pressure.”
The ceremony was co-hosted by a pregnant Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley for the 11th year in a row. (Yes, 11 years, guys!) They had the audience in stitches with their hilarious jokes, and even dropped a huge surprise for everyone – Carrie’s baby’s gender reveal.
Remember a few years back when Brad accidentally revealed the gender of Carrie’s first baby? (#BradBlewIt) Well, this time, he wasn’t gonna, but he sure egged on Carrie to do it herself.
“Seriously, Carrie, gimme a little baby hint,” Brad urged her.
“Johnny or June? Keith or Nicole? Garth or Trisha? Tim or Faith?” he asked, naming some classic male and female country duos.
“No! I am hormonal, I will hurt you,” Carrie jokingly warned.
“Waylon or Willie?” Brad continued, referring to two male country icons Waylon Jennings or Willie Nelson.
“That doesn’t even make sense!” Carrie shot back.
But Carrie finally caved and told him (and everyone) “Oh my gosh! Willie! It’s a willie!” After which, Brad gleefully coined a new hashtag – #CarrieBlewIt.
After Carrie’s terrifying fall almost a year ago, which resulted in over 40 stitches to her face, she has now healed beautifully and is even joking about it. The hosts addressed the incident in a bit, with Brad gifting Carrie a bubble wrap dress.
“Last year, I don’t know if you all heard, but two days after last year’s show, she took a really bad fall,” Brad told the audience.
“So tonight, that’s not gonna happen again — not on my watch!”he announced, telling Carrie, “Put this on,” as he handed her the dress.
“Yeah, I’m not gonna wear this,” the “Cry Pretty” singer told him as he popped several of the bubbles on her new outfit.
But she did, and, if anyone can rock a bubble wrap dress, it’s Carrie.
Aside from hosting duties, Carrie and Brad also put on rousing performances – Carrie delivered a powerful performance of her new single “Love Wins” – complete with over 30 back-up singers; Brad took to the stage to perform his newly-released honky-tonk break-up song “Bucked Off.”
Garth Brooks also returned to the stage to drop new music! The country legend put on an emotional performance of his new single “Stronger Than Me.” And by the end of the performance, he and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, were both teary-eyed.
Keith Urban got the crowd pumped with his larger-than-life musical number for “Never Comin’ Down.” And his wife, Big Little Lies star Nicole Kidman, sang along and even bust out some dance moves in her seat.
Chris Stapleton Maren Morris, Mavis Staples and Marty Stuart also put on an all-star crossover show with their uplifting performance of Homer Banks and Lester Snell’s “Friendship” and the 1972 classic “I’ll Take You There.”
Bluegrass hero and newly minted Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Ricky Skaggs played an impressive medley with Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Marty Stuart, Sierra Hull and John Osborne of Brothers Osborne on classics like “Highway 40 Blues” and “Country Boy.”
Kelsey Ballerini also debuted the live performance of “Miss Me More” at the awards show. The song is about battling insecurities and she and her crew worked on representing it the best way possible.
“It’s the first performance of ‘Miss Me More,’ and it’s different.
We spent two full days with a choreographer. We have 16 dancers, and basically, every dancer represents the things that you have to fight away from yourself, so like, insecurity or fear or anger or whatever it is that you struggle with, and it’s the push and pull of those things throughout your life,” Kelsea shared with ET before the show.
“So, it’s kind of personifying that. I’m really excited.”
The night was also filled with big wins and high emotions. Kacey Musgraves made CMA history as one of a handful of women (Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack, Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless and Anne Murray) to take home the Album of the Year awards for Golden Hour.
The 30-year-old country crooner took to the stage to accept the award in a custom Versace suit and got emotional in her speech, recalling that it was 10 years ago to the day that she took the leap and moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams.
“This is really, really crazy timing, because I just realized this morning — it sounds like a lie — 10 years ago today I moved to Nashville,” she said in her speech. “I’m so proud of [Golden Hour]. It’s inspired by this beautiful universe, all of you, and most of all love.”
What’s more, she was the only female nominee in the category!
Host Carrie Underwood also went up the stage to accept her own award – Female Vocalist of the Year, an award she’s won for the fifth time.
“I have been blessed with so much in my life, while still, every day, trying to figure out what [I’ve done] to deserve it,” the 35-year-old songstress said, holding back tears. “Thank you God, thank you family, thank you country music, thank you country music family. It’s all about family around here.”
Keith Urban won Entertainer of the Year, and sweetly thanked his wife Nicole in his acceptance speech.
Old Dominion broke Little Big Towns six-year streak as Vocal Group Of The Year. And Chris Stapleton was the night’s big winner, taking home three awards – Song, Single, and Male Vocalist of the Year.
“I’m real proud of this award, and I try really hard to be a good singer, but I also, I want to thank my kids who put up with me being gone quite a bit and not getting to be as good as a dad as I would always like to be,” he said in his speech accepting the award for Male Vocalist of the Year. He also thanked Jesus, his family, and presenter Lionel Richie.
Find out who else took home trophies in the complete list of winners here.
Congratulations to everyone who won!