Country music stars and industry members assembled at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last night (Nov. 8) for the 57th CMA Awards.
Lainey Wilson was the night’s biggest winner, receiving her first Entertainer of the Year award along with four more. Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton and Jelly Roll were other top winners from the night.
Jelly Roll opened the show a cappella with “Need A Favor,” complete with a gospel choir and a surprise guest appearance from Wynonna Judd.
Hosts Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning officially opened the show with some banter, recognizing some of the night’s top nominees. The hosts kept it lighthearted, focusing on self-deprecating humor and soft jokes.
Combs took home the first televised win of the night with “Fast Car” winning Single of the Year.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Tracy Chapman for writing one of the best songs of all time,” Combs said. “I recorded it because I love this song. It’s meant so much to me my entire life. It was my first favorite song that I ever had, from the time I was four years old.” Producers Jonathan Singleton and Chip Matthews joined Combs onstage for the moment.
Following quickly behind were Bill Anderson and Sara Evans to present Song of the Year. The honor also went to Combs’ cover of “Fast Car.” Chapman was not in attendance, but sent in an acceptance message.
“It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut,” she wrote.
Craig Morgan, who was recognized for recently reenlisting in the military, introduced host Bryan’s performance of a medley of hits, including “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” “One Margarita,” “That’s My Kind Of Night,” “Play It Again” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”
Ashley McBryde, lit from antique lighting fixtures hanging above her head, sang her “Light On In The Kitchen.”
Cody Johnson kept the musical bar high with his rising single “The Painter,” while a black and white photo of Johnson’s wife came to vibrant life as colors filled her picture. When the camera turned on her at the end of the song, she was teary-eyed beaming up at her husband.
The next award to be presented was Duo of the Year, and it went to Brothers Osborne for the sixth time. The duo shared that they were fans of all of the other duos in the category, and that it shocks them every time they win.
“We are absolutely living out our dream. Thanks for letting us do that,” TJ Osborne said. “I was a nerd growing up,” John Osborne added. “I was a nerd growing up. I had a few friends, but not a lot of friends. I spent my whole life learning how to play music and write songs. Y’all make me feel like a cool kid every year. That means more to me than you could ever imagine.”
Morgan Wallen was the next to perform. Eric Church was his surprise special guest. The two sang “Man Made A Bar” from Wallen’s blockbuster One Thing At A Time album, which will be Wallen’s new single.
Combs took the stage next to perform his exceptional new single, “Where The Wild Things Are.” Stapleton kept the energy high with a hair-raising performance of “White Horse.” Jordan Davis was the next to perform his hit “Next Thing You Know” while cell phone lighters lit up the arena.
The next CMA Award went to Old Dominion for Vocal Group of the Year. Like Brothers Osborne, it was the group’s sixth win in the category.
“This night has been an amazing reminder of the talent pool we have somehow waded into,” shared Old Dominion’s Matt Ramsey. “We got there by surrounding ourselves with the absolute best people.”
The night’s top nominee Wilson was next up to perform her new single, “Wildflowers and Wild Horses.”
Dan + Shay sang their butts off on “Save Me The Trouble.” Kelsea Ballerini followed with an awesome acoustic performance of her tender “Leave Me Again.” The War And Treaty treated everyone to “That’s How Love Is Made.”
The next trophy went to Jelly Roll for New Artist of the Year. He took audience members straight to the “Whitsitt Chapel” in his acceptance speech.
“There is something poetic about a 39-year-old man winning New Artist of the Year. I don’t know where you’re at in your life, or what you’re going through, but I want to tell you to keep going, baby,” he said.
In a tribute to the late Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney and Mac McAnally embodied his free spirit on “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson picked off where they left off, singing an “adios” to Buffett before transitioning into “Margaritaville.”
Old Dominion and Megan Moroney performed their new duet, “Can’t Break Up Now.”
The CMA Award for Album of the Year went to Wilson for Bell Bottom Country. She thanked her entire team. “My love for storytelling truly came from being from Baskin—a town of 200 people where there’s really not a whole lot to do. You sit around the kitchen table and tell the same old stories you’ve been hearing for years. The kind of stories that get better every single time you hear them,” she said. “That’s what we wanted to do with this record.”
Stapleton returned to the stage to sing with Carly Pearce on “We Don’t Fight Anymore.”
Martina McBride presented Wilson with Female Vocalist of the Year. “Us girls have been having to blaze trails from the beginning,” Wilson said. Thank you for letting me be a part of that.”
Wallen and Hardy paid tribute to the late Joe Diffie with a fun performance of “John Deere Green.” Hip-hop sensation Post Malone joined the country brothers for “Pickup Man.”
Newly-inducted Country Music Hall of Famer Tanya Tucker performed her evergreen “Delta Dawn,” with support from Little Big Town.
Comedian Nate Bargatze presented Stapleton with the Male Vocalist of the Year honor. “Every one of these guys in this category deserves this award,” Stapleton said. “I’ve won a couple of these and I’m always shocked when I win one.” He dedicated the award to his late collaborators Mike Henderson and Eric Burrows.
When it came time to reveal the night’s top honor, Entertainer of the Year, the arena erupted when Wilson’s name was called. With the title, she became the first woman in over a decade to clinch the title. Clearly shocked and emotional, Wilson tearfully shared her appreciation and love for country music.
“We’ve worked our butts off this year and so many years in between,” Wilson said. “I’ve been in this town for 12 and a half years and it finally feels like country music is starting to love me back.”
Once all awards had been handed out, Jelly Roll returned to close the show alongside first-time performer and multi-genre powerhouse K. Michelle, singing The Judds‘ “Love Can Build A Bridge.”
The 57th CMA Awards is available to watch now on Hulu.
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