Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire hosted last night’s (Wednesday, November 13th) 53rd annual Country Music Awards, a history-making show celebrating country generally, and a half-century of female artistry specifically. The CMA’s broadcast live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 12th year in a row. Viewers at home took in the spectacle on ABC at 8:00 pm EST.
Underwood, Parton and McEntire got the party rolling by opening the show with a medley built around country classics. Joining the powerhouse trio was Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson, Jennifer Nettles and the Highwomen — a group consisting of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and this year’s top nominee, Maren Morris.
Going in, Morris led the field with six nominations, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, for 2019’s Girl. Three-time nominees this year are Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Combs, Eric Church, Dan + Shay, Blake Shelton, Chris Stapleton, and Underwood. Brooks took home Entertainer of the Year, and Morris took home Album of the Year.
The festivities kicked off Wednesday morning with a segment on Good Morning America, when Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” was named Music Video of the Year, and Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ record-breaking remix of “Old Town Road” was named Musical Event of the Year. That honor also handed Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznorhis first CMA Award alongside YoungKio for production.
Parton, Underwood and McEntire balanced the feel-good girl power with appreciation for the great men of country too.
The ever-luminous and happy Loretta Lynn smiling in the audience epitomized country.
McEntire’s faux strip show for “Fancy.” She didn’t let us down.
The seamless melding of pop, rock and country (Halsey + Lady, Pink + Stapleton, et al).
Willie. Nelson. Rainbows.
Dan + Shay left us “Speechless.”
Miranda Lambert told us not to sweat it because “It All Comes Out in the Wash.”
McEntire celebrated this month’s 50th anniversary of the Bobbie Gentry classic “Fancy” by owning the song that she turned into a Top Ten hit in 1991.
Stapleton, who teamed with Justin Timberlake in 2015, sang with Pink on her current single “Love Me Anyway,” which she wrote with “The House That Built Me” songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.
We went “Drinking Alone” with Underwood.
Combs explained “Beer Never Broke My Heart.”
Kelsea Ballerini dazzled as she sang “Homecoming Queen.”
First-time CMA performer Halsey and Lady Antebellum delivered a genre-blending mashup.
New Hall of Fame members Brooks & Dunn reprised their smash “Hard Workin’ Man” with Brothers Osborne.
Shelton reminded us all that we live in “God’s Country.”
Morris, who recently revealed she’s pregnant with a baby boy, brought it with “Girl.”
Parton teamed up with For King & Country, Zach Williams and the local Christ Church choir for a medley of “God Only Knows,” “There Was Jesus,” and “Faith.”
Sheryl Crow and Bentley sang a tribute to Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Kristofferson, who wasn’t present, was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Church sang “Some of It.”
Willie Nelson returned to the CMAs to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Rainbow Connection” with Musgraves
Entertainer of the Year nominee Garth Brooks joined Shelton on their nominated hit “Dive Bar”
Also performing were Keith Urban, Old Dominion, and Thomas Rhett.
Album of the Year: GIRL, Maren Morris
Musical Event of the Year: "Old Town Road (Remix)," Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
New Artist of the Year: Ashley McBryde
Entertainer of the Year: Garth Brooks
Single of the Year: "God's Country," Blake Shelton
Song of the Year: “Beautiful Crazy,” Luke Combs, Wyatt B. Durrette III, Robert Williford (Luke Combs)
Female Vocalist of the Year: Kacey Musgraves
Male Vocalist of the Year: Luke Combs
Vocal Group of the Year: Old Dominion
Musician of the Year: Jenee Fleenor (Fiddle)
Music Video of the Year: "Rainbow," Kacey Musgraves
Vocal Duo of the Year: Dan + Shay
In clip one, Ashley McBryde accepts award for New Artist of the Year.
["I once had the pleasure of playing a tribute show for Mr. John Prine. The next day he shook my hand and said, you're real good. You're no Reba. But you're real good. I cherish the little moments that are like that, truth and guidance from voices we respect and admire. I'm thankful for that, and for this. And for the opportunity to step up. Thank you."] SOUNDCUE (:30 OC: . . .step up. Thank you.)
In clip two, Blake Shelton accepting the award for Single of the Year.
["I was was going to jump on Deana Carter like she did on Ricky Skaggs. But I don't want to kill you. These two guys are the reason that record sounds like it does. And I want to thank the songwriters, Warner brothers records, country radio, whoever votes on these. I have no idea how this works. I don't know how this will go tonight, but I want to dedicate this to busby and Earl Thomas, who we lost this year. Thank you so much. We did it."] SOUNDCUE (:45 OC: . . .much. We did it.)
In clip three, Carrie Underwood gets the party started and welcomes Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
["Happy Independence day. What a way to kick off country music's biggest night. The 53rd annual cma awards. And a very special welcome to two of my sheroes. Both legends. Last names not necessary, dolly and Reba. Thank you for having us. You know, what do you call three women hosting the cmas? Your lucky night."] SOUNDCUE (:38 OC: . . .Your lucky night.)
In clip four, Dan and Shay accepting the award for Vocal Duo of the Year.
["This is a little overwhelming, man. There are so many of our heroes in the room. Brooks and Dunn, are you kidding this is absolutely incredible. So many friends and family are watching right now. My grandma is in the hospital right now. Shout out to you. Thank you for teaching me about Jesus, loving people, and being a good person."] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC: . . .being a good person.)
In clip five, Dolly Parton introduces Halsey and Lady Antebellum.
["Well, I've been in this business for a long time. I may not be a spring chicken, although my husband thinks I'm a hot chick. He's at home. But I do feel like a mother hen to these young people about to sing for us. Let's hear it for one of the hottest stars in music, and one of the greatest groups in country history… Halsey and Lady Antebellum."] SOUNDCUE (:32 OC: . . .Halsey and Lady Antebellum.)
In clip six, Garth Brooks accepting award for Entertainer of the Year.
["Always try to call it like I see it. If they gave the award for this show tonight, I would have to give it to Reba Mcentire's performance. She's amazing. Kelsea Ballerini, if you want to know what an entertainer is, take a guitar and a single voice in an arena. Fantastic. Luke combs, this has your name on it in the future, hoss. I can tell you that right now. Randy, Bob, Ben, Joey, can't thank you guys enough for this. Nancy, thank you for the work. All the girls here in Nashville as well. Love you very, very much. To the entertainers, let's dedicate this to the band and crews that get our… I love you Trisha Yearwood."] SOUNDCUE (1:00 OC: . . .love you Trisha Yearwood.)
In clip seven, Jennifer Nettles and Kristen Chenoweth introduce Song of the Year.
["I'm so happy to be here with you, Jennifer. I'm so happy. I'm so glad you wore deodorant. And I'm so glad you got your roots done. I did. So good."] SOUNDCUE (:12 OC: . . .done. I did. So good.)
In clip eight, Kacey Musgraves accepts the award for Female Vocalist of the Year.
["Words can't express just how meaningful and unbelievable the past couple of years have been. Ultimately, I just want to say the female creative spirit, female energy, it's really needed right now. It's really important. And I feel like it's something that Earth needs and so whether it's me that's up here or any of the other women in this category, it's a beautiful thing. And I'm very appreciative. Thank you so much. I love country music. I have an amazing team, they work their… off. I'm just really thankful to be thank you."] SOUNDCUE (:42 OC: . . .to be thank you.)
In clip nine, Luke Combs accepts award for Song of the Year.
["First off, I want to thank these guys for writing an incredible song with me. And my beautiful fiancee for being the inspiration behind this song. I want to let these guys talk because they deserve it just as much as I do. Come on."] SOUNDCUE (:13 OC: . . .as I do. Come on.)
In clip ten, Luke Combs accepts the award for Male Vocalist of the Year.
["This is pretty unbelievable stuff. I remember sitting on my parents' porch when I was a little kid and watching Vince gill come up here and win this same award. And I want to thank my team. My fans. And everybody in this room who inspires me every day. My beautiful fiancee Nicole. Country music means everything to me, and this means everything to me and my family. Thank you guys so much. This is a moment I will never forget. Thank you."] SOUNDCUE (:41 OC: . . .never forget. Thank you.)
In clip eleven, Maren Morris accepts the award for Album of the Year.
["This is incredible. Thank you, country music. Thank you to my peers in this room that I respect so much for voting for me for this. Okay. Thank you to my manager Janet. My parents, who are here. My love of my life, Ryan. Thank you for always being in the seat next to me."] SOUNDCUE (:23 OC: . . .seat next to me.)
In clip twelve, Old Dominion accepts the award for Vocal Group of the Year.
["What an amazing thing we get to be a part of. I just, tonight, keep thinking about how back in the day, we used to operate under this really strange mantra of self-preservation. Any time anything good would happen to us, we would look at each other and say, this was never going to work anyway. But tonight, when I look out and think of all the people that we have had that have supported us and believed in us and pushed us and loved us, we should have been saying of course we're going to make it. Of course it's going to work."] SOUNDCUE (:46 OC: . . .it's going to work.)
In clip thirteen, Reba McEntire Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton talk gitrl power dressing room drama.
["And this year, we're putting the spotlight on our legends, the great ladies of today, and the up and comers changing the game. And we're doing it for all the little girls watching tonight, dreaming of ruling the world of country music, or maybe just ruling the world. Who knows. Standing here with dolly and Reba means the world to me. And I have loved every second of working with them. Except maybe the part about us all sharing a dressing room. I mean, it's a fog of hair spray, shoes, costume changes. There are racks of clothes and dresses everywhere. And for some reason, dolly's rack is so much bigger. Well, dolly's rack is so much bigger. I might have been as tall as you girls if I hadn't been so bunched up at the top. Just kind of addressing the elephants in the room. But I think we make a pretty good team. And Carrie and Reba, I just love them. They're big, they have a lot of fans, they're big on social media. And now I'm big on social security."] SOUNDCUE (1:18 OC: . . .big on social security.)
In clip fourteen, Reese Witherspoon introducing Entertainer of the Year.
["What an amazing evening this has been, celebrating women and artistry and excellence. And how about our stunningly talented trio of hosts, Carrie, Reba, and Dolly? So amazing."] SOUNDCUE (:18 OC: . . .Dolly? So amazing.)
In clip fifteen, Trisha Yearwood introduces Male Vocalist of the Year.
["Exactly half a century award, the cma award for male vocalist of the year went to the late, great Johnny cash. I wonder who will walk the line this year."] SOUNDCUE (:14 OC: . . .the line this year.)
Lil Nas X on winning Musical Event for "Old Town Road": ["Honestly, I wasn't sure if this was gonna be able to take place tonight but I'm so happy that this song is accepted because it is the bridging of two completely polar opposite genres put together. You know, I'm just happy it's gotten respect in both communities."] SOUNDCUE (:16 OC: . . . in both communities.)
Ashley McBryde on winning New Artist during a night that celebrates females in Country music: ["I was already excited about the show tonight. I was excited to watch the show tonight and I always react like someone who's sitting in the pit at a concert rather than someone who's sitting at an award show so to be celebrated tonight by my peers in a night that's all about celebrating the chicks in Country music is a really special thing."] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC: . . . really special thing.)
Blake Shelton on winning Single of the Year for "God's Country": ["The thing about "God's Country" is I've loved the melody of it, and I loved that pushed me as a vocalist to the edge, and just the title and the meaning of the song, and who it represents and how it can represent you no matter where you live or what you do. You can always feel like that song is… there's something about it. Even though I'm driving into an office, you can find something about that song that just kind of gets you pumped up."] SOUNDCUE (:27 OC: . . . you pumped up.)
Old Dominion's Matthew Ramsey on second CMA Vocal Group win: ["We just were kind of talking about the significance of this being . . . is reassuring that we will be here, that it feels less of like a fluke. It feels like we have solidified ourselves a little bit so we're very proud."] SOUNDCUE (:15 OC: . . . we're very proud.)
Kacey Musgraves on Female Vocalist win: ["I think it does mean something a little bit extra special considering there are so many women in here that paved the way for me to be able to speak my mind and do the things that I do. That being said, I think that every year in Country music female should be equally celebrated because I think the female narrative is really important and its been the backbone of Country music since the beginning."] SOUNDCUE (:21 OC: . . . since the beginning.)
Dan + Shay's Dan Smyers on third album being career game-changer: ["I feel like I haven't slept in years because of making that record, but it was worth it, man. It changed our world in such a big way. It started with "Tequila," and there were people who told us, you know, "Don't go with a ballad first. Country radio will never play a ballad." But country radio played the heck out of that ballad. And that always seems to work for us. And we're so thankful. And then "Speechless" followed that up and "All to Myself" after that. So it's been a crazy journey. And man, that's our bar now. And, you know, we've got to exceed it. And "10,000 Hours" is out there doing its thing. And we're so thankful for the big support on that one already."] SOUNDCUE (:27 OC: . . . that one already.)
Maren Morris on baby being good luck chart: ["Seconds before the curtain lifted and I was gonna do my performance tonight he started kicking and I've just started feeling him kicking this week and I got my ultrasound this week and he waved at me and I felt like he was sort of telling me good luck and so it worked out. He's my good luck charm."] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC: . . . good luck charm.)
Luke Combs on processing CMA wins: ["I don't know if I've even begun to process what it means or how I feel about it yet. I think shock is where I'm kind of at with it right now. Thankful is a word that comes to mind to have my parents here, my fiancee, my friends, my entire team and label, managers and friends. It's just an absolute dream come true, something that I thought would never, ever happen to a guy like me, especially not this fast, so I'm just real thankful."] SOUNDCUE (:25 OC: . . . just real thankful.)
Garth Brooks on winning 7th entertainer of the year award: ["It's sweet. Being the Entertainer of the Year is always a wonderful thought. Also, try to remember whose name has been on it for the last 365 days. It's Keith Urban. If Keith Urban's name is on an award it's one you want. It's one that's cool to have, and then my favorite thing about this one, seven's gonna be my favorite one because it is the seventh one but because it was on a historic night where Country music saluted women, and being married to one of the greatest female singers that ever walked this planet no matter what music genre it is, and then being the father of three daughters, I like the message tonight."] SOUNDCUE (:30 OC: . . . the message tonight.)