Luke Combs and Kacey Musgraves were the nights big winners, each receiving two wins. Last year’s CMA New Artist of the Year winner Combs took home the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year as well as CMA Song of the Year for “Beautiful Crazy,” alongside songwriters Wyatt B. Durrette III and Robert Williford. Musgraves won two trophies—CMA Female Vocalist of the Year as well as CMA Music Video of the Year for “Rainbow,” alongside director Hannah Lux Davis.
Garth Brooks took home the coveted CMA Entertainer of the Year, extending his reign as the most-awarded CMA Entertainer of the Year with seven career wins. CMA New Artist of the Year was awarded to Ashley McBryde, winning for her first ever CMA Awards nomination.
Maren Morris took home her first CMA Album of the Year win for GIRL, alongside producers Greg Kurstin and longtime collaborator busbee, who passed away in September. In her speech, she shared that she’d be remiss “if I didn’t mention a huge facet of why this album sounds the way it does and we miss him so dearly. He texted me the morning we got the nomination for Album of the Year this year and we were so excited and that’s our friend busbee.”
CMA Single of the Year was awarded to Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” alongside producer Scott Hendricks and mix engineer Justin Niebank.
Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus won CMA Musical Event of the Year for their record-breaking hit “Old Town Road (Remix),” along with producers YoungKio, Michael Trent Reznor and Atticus Matthew Ross, all first-time CMA Awards nominees alongside Lil Nas X.
Old Dominion extended their reign as CMA Vocal Group of the Year, while Dan + Shay were awarded their first ever CMA Awards win for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year.
Fiddle player Jenee Fleenor made CMA Awards history, marking the first time a woman received a nomination as well as a win in the CMA Musician of the Year category.
In a year that saw unprecedented exposure to Country Music through Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, “Country Music,” the release of groundbreaking new music and the relentless efforts of Country artists touring the world, this year’s CMA Awards celebrated both the genre’s legends and fresh new faces. Willie Nelson teamed with fellow Texan Musgraves to perform “The Rainbow Connection,” a song Musgraves performed as a child. She even shared a video of an early performance days before the ceremony.
Among the evening’s many highlights was a special tribute to the legendary Kris Kristofferson, the recipient of the 2019 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Chris Janson, Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne and Joe Walsh teamed for a stellar performance of Kristofferson’s classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” Bentley and crew brought the classic lyrics to life yet again through their distinctive vocals and Janson wailed on harmonica.
The CMA Awards have long been known for unique pairings of pop, rock or rap artists with Country Music stalwarts, always resulting in visually explosive moments on stage. This year was no exception. Halsey and Lady Antebellum demonstrated that great songs know no boundaries as they delivered a mashup of Halsey’s “Graveyard” with Lady Antebellum’s “What If I Never Get Over You,” with Hillary Scott and Halsey trading lines at the end in a potent crescendo. P!NK and Chris Stapleton teamed for an electrifying performance of “Love Me Anyway,” which held the audience spellbound as their burlap and silk vocals intertwined resulting in one of the evening’s most affecting performances.
The CMA Awards’ three leading ladies thrilled the crowd with some of the evening’s most memorable moments. Parton joined forces with award-winning Christian music duo for KING & COUNTRY to render an evocative performance of their hit “God Only Knows” and then sang “There Was Jesus” with Christian hitmaker Zach Williams. Her segment ended on a blockbuster note as Nashville’s Christ Church Choir joined the Country legend for a rousing rendition of “Faith.” McEntire belted out fan favorite “Fancy” with all the explosive sass and style long associated with her iconic hit. Underwood took a break from hosting duties to wow the crowd with a sultry performance of her latest single “Drinking Alone,” from her hit album Cry Pretty.
Girl power was evident throughout the night with the ladies of Country Music delivering some of the most talked about performances of the evening. Seated in the midst of the sold-out audience, Kelsea Ballerini delivered a poignant performance of her rising hit “homecoming queen?” and then segued into Little Big Town’s CMA Award-winning hit “Girl Crush” as the mainstage became filled with a who’s who of Country Music’s most exciting young female artists, including Lindsey Ell, Maddie & Tae, McBryde, Carly Pearce and Runaway June. Little Big Town’s Fairchild, Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook took the stage to finish up their groundbreaking hit. After the performance, she introduced every young artist on stage by name and then said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the future of Country Music.”
Although it was a night that celebrated the talented women in Country Music, the genre’s top male vocalists took their turn center stage for some of the evening’s most magical moments. Thomas Rhett delivered a soulful performance of “Remember You Young” from his latest album Center Point Road. As the set glowed with a backdrop of flames, Blake Shelton roared through an incendiary performance of his chart-topping celebration of rural life “God’s Country.” Armed with just a guitar, Keith Urban turned in a riveting performance of “We Were” and in another understated but effective moment, Eric Church shared “Some of It.”
High octane honky tonk fun was also on the evening’s musical agenda. Newly minted Country Music Hall of Famers Brooks & Dunn were joined by Brothers Osborne for a rousing performance of the Brooks & Dunn classic “Hard Workin’ Man.” Combs served up a charismatic rendition of his upbeat hit “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” As the telecast hit the home stretch, Brooks and Shelton had the crowd singing along to their infectious duet “Dive Bar.”