The 53rd Annual CMA Awards went down at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last night, with Garth Brooks taking home the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy for a record-extending seventh time. He previously won the award in 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2016 and 2017.
Garth actually used his acceptance speech to call out all the great performances of the night, including Reba McEntire and Kelsea Ballerini and letting Luke Combs know that he will one day win the coveted Entertainer of the Year award himself.
And speaking of Luke, he took home two awards last night, his first-ever Male Vocalist of the Year trophy, as well as Song of the Year for “Beautiful Crazy.” Another big winner was Maren Morris, who took home Album of the Year for “GIRL,” and dedicated the trophy to the album’s producer Busbee, who passed away in September. And Kacey Musgraves took home two awards, Female Vocalist of the Year, as well as Video of the Year for “Rainbow.”
- Other winners included: Blake Shelton’s“God’s Country” for Single of the Year, Ashley McBryde, for New Artist of the Year, Old Dominion for Vocal Group of the Year, Dan + Shay who nabbed Duo of the Year and Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, who won Musical Event of the Year for "Old Town Road."
As for the show it self, it opened with a star-studded, all female performance, featuring:
- Hosts Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton performing “Those Memories of You,” originally recorded by Dolly, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
- Then Jennifer Nettles and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman tackled Loretta Lynn’s classic “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” with Loretta sitting right in the audience.
- The Highwomen, a.k.a. Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby, teamed for Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” before Tanya Tucker (and Dolly) joined in for Tanya’s 1972 classic “Delta Dawn.”
- Gretchen Wilson then came out for “Redneck Woman,” followed by Crystal Gayle who crooned her classic “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,”Terri Clark who performed “Better Things to Do,” and Sara Evans who sang “Born to Fly.”
- It ended with everyone joining Martina McBride for her anthem “Independence Day.”
Then it was time for the hosts to officially start the show, with Carrie, Reba and Dolly reiterating that the night was a celebration of past and future female artists, with Reba noting they were doing it for “all the little girls watching tonight dreaming of ruling the world of country music or maybe just ruling the world.” The trio did joke about the difficulty of sharing a dressing room, with Carrie noting about the fog of hairspray and clothes and shoes everywhere, adding, “for some reason Dolly’s rack is so much bigger,” with Dolly quick to chime in “well, Dolly’s rackisso much bigger.” (She also joked about the “elephants in the room.”)
Of course while the winners are important, what people really tune in for are the performances, and there certainly were a ton of them. Highlights include:
- Dan + Shay performed a beautiful, stripped down version of “Speechless,” backed by a piano and a string section.
- Reba treated the audience to her classic “Fancy,” and even got in some costume changes mid-song going from a purple dress, to a hot red dress, to a red pants suit and bustier.
- Pink and Chris Stapleton had the audience stunned with their beautiful collaboration “Love Me Anyway.”
- Carrie got jazzy for a performance of her “Cry Pretty” track “Drinking Alone.”
- Kelsea Ballerini sat with just her guitar in the middle of a silent audience to perform “Homecoming Queen?”
- The “future of country music” was then represented when Kelsea was joined by Lindsey Ell,RunawayJune, Maddie & Tae, Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce, and eventually Little Big Town for LBT’s classic “Girl Crush.”
- Lady Antebellum was joined by Halsey for a mash-up of Lady A’s “What If I Never Get Over You,” and Halsey’s “Graveyard,” with Halsey actually playing guitar.
- Brooks & Dunn teamed with Brothers Osborne for a rousing rendition of “Hard Workin’ Man.”
- Maren Morris was surrounded by white and pink flowers for a soulful performance of “GIRL,” which had her cradling her baby bump.
- Dolly was joined by for KING & COUNTRY and Zach Williams to perform a gospel medley of “God Only Knows,” “There Was Jesus,” and Dolly’s new song “Faith.”
- Kris Kristofferson was honored with the CMA's 2019 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, and while he wasn’t on hand to accept the award, Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Chris Janson, Joe Walsh and John Osborne paid tribute to him with a performance of Kris’ classic “Me and Bobby McGee.”
- Kacey Musgraves teamed with Willie Nelson for a special performance of “The Muppet Movie” classic “Rainbow Connection,” backed by a beautiful string section.
- Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton brought the crowd to their very own dive bar for their first-ever TV performance of their collaboration “Dive Bar.”
- Other performances included:Miranda Lambert got sassy and was surrounded by bubbles for “It All Comes Out In The Wash,”Old Dominion performed “One Man Band,” LukeCombs performed his latest single “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” Blake Shelton took the stage for a fiery performance of “God Country,”Thomas Rhett performed “Remember You Young” backed by a string section, Keith Urban performed “We Were” with just him and a guitar, and Eric Church performed “Some Of It."