Last night’s 52nd annual Country Music Awards celebrated music, but it also aimed to lift America’s sagging spirits in the wake of the recent Thousand Oaks shooting and devastating, fatal California wildfires still raging. Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley hosted the event, held at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, for the 11th year in a row. The party got started with the pregnant Underwood doing triple duty as host and performer … and holding the biggest gender reveal party ever. (IT’S A BOY!)
Some quick highlights:
Song of the Year: “Broken Halos,” Chris Stapleton
New Artist of the Year: Luke Combs
Single of the Year: “Broken Halos,” Chris Stapleton
Vocal Group of the Year: Old Dominion
Album of the Year: Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
Vocal Duo of the Year: Brothers Osborne
Musical Event of the Year: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” Kenny Chesney and David Lee Murphy
Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Female Vocalist of the Year: Carrie Underwood
Entertainer of the Year: Keith Urban
Bryan kicked off the show with a rollicking “What Makes You Country.”
Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean performed their hit duet, “Drowns the Whiskey.” Twitter was not loving it, with many opining that they “sounded off key.”
Thomas Rhett performed an upbeat, interactive version of “Life Changes,” that had him parading through the audience, with a marching band in tow.
Dan + Shay played their smash hit “Tequila.” The piano started to burn, NBD.
Kelsea Ballerini delivered a spirited and feisty “Miss Me More,” backed by acrobatic dancers. Twitter ate it up, calling her performance “perfect.”
Old Dominion rocked a mellow but upbeat “Hotel Key.”
Underwood performed a riveting “Love Wins” backed by a dozens of singers and a stunning cosmic light show.
Brett Young sang “Mercy.”
Ricky Skaggs showed the young ‘uns how it’s done with “Black Eyed Suzie.” Keith Urban and Paisley joined him and just tried to keep up, playing “Highway 40 Blues,” and “Country Boy.”
Midland played “East Bound and Down,” a tribute to Burt Reynolds, and a song on the soundtrack of Smokey and the Bandit.
Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha performed “Meant To Be.” Twitter was not impressed, writing “they’re not country,” and moreover, just straight up “bad.”
Combs sang “She Got the Best of Me.”
Urban rocked “Never Comin Down” to a smoky and firework-spangled backdrop. He got the crowd on their feet and singing (including wife Kidman).
Garth Brooks performed “Stronger Than Me,” a world premiere dedicated to his wife. (It was the first time she heard it too).
Pistol Annie’s performed a rousing “Got My Name Changed Back.”
Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne played “Burning Man”… in a circle of fire.
Chris and Morgane Stapleton, Maren Morris, Marty Stuart and the iconic Mavis Staples took the crowd there and then straight up to heaven with “Friendship,” and then, “I’ll Take You There.”
Paisley held his ground during “Bucked Off.”
Kacey Musgraves smoldered in “Slow Burn.”
Eric Church looked anything but when he sang “Desperate Man.