Reactions & Recap of the 50th CMA Awards

CMA Awards 50

Last night the historic 50th edition of the CMA Awards came and went. Unfortunately for them, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series took place at the same time and stole a lot of the thunder and attention away from them. I myself was watching this live over the awards, as one of my teams was in it and unfortunately came up short in a valiant, proud effort. Congrats to the Cubs, but please I’d rather not talk about it anymore so don’t say anything about this in the comments (they will be deleted).

But I did DVR’d the awards, as I still wanted to watch it and give my reactions. There was some big announcements leading up in the hours to show in regards to performers that really had me excited to see. So you’re going to get my live thoughts as I watch it on delay, an hour-by-hour breakdown. So let’s dive into the 2016 CMA Awards….

Hour One

  • We start off with a montage of past moments at the show, which is a great touch and much better than a hokey opening sketch.
  • Vince Gill and Merle’s son Ben Haggard open the show with a tribute to the Hag, by playing “Mama Tried.” It’s a really nice little tribute and you have to think Sturgill’s comments prompted them to open the show so he wouldn’t be proven right.
  • This segues into Brad Paisley and Roy Clark (!) playing “I’ve Got a Tiger By The Tail.” Carrie Underwood then sings Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.” This is followed by Paisley and Charley Pride singing “Kiss An Angel Good Morning.” Alabama performs “Mountain Music.” Charlie Daniels plays his signature song “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Reba performs her classic “Fancy.” Dwight Yoakam plays one of my all-time favorites “Guitars, Cadillacs.” Clint Black plays “Killin’ Time.” Ricky Skaggs plays “Country Boy.” Alan Jackson plays “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.”
  • And then everyone I just mentioned joins together as they sing Randy Travis’ “Forever and Amen.” At the very end Paisley and Underwood introduce Travis, who sings the final word, “Amen.” Holy shit! So much damn emotion that you can’t help but tear up. And we’re only ten minutes in. Bravo to the CMAs for what I believe to be one of the greatest openings I’ve ever seen to an awards show.
  • Brad and Carrie sing a little ditty about how sick they are of the election and how it’s taking forever. I agree.
  • Then we find out Billy Ray Cyrus is the designate country music survivor. Okay…
  • We get some more political jokes from Paisley. It’s hokey, but that’s Paisley.
  • More assorted cheesiness. Some of it hits. Some of it makes me cringe.
  • It just keeps going.
  • Now Brad and Carrie are playing with dolls. What is happening?
  • Nationwide jingle off between Brad & Carrie and Peyton Manning. This just keeps going.
  • A bunch of distinguished winners at the 2016 Summer Olympics are our first presenters. They’re presenting the Single of the Year winner. Finally an award.
  • The 2016 CMA Single of the Year award winner is Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man.” Called that one. It was a big hit, even if it did rip off Ed Sheeran.
  • Kelsea Ballerini performs “Peter Pan.” She continues to be an average vocalist at best to me. At least she performed her best single, for what it’s worth I guess.
  • Former CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Olivia Newton John and a couple of actresses from The Goldbergs present Song of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA Song of the Year award winner is Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” penned by the excellent Lori McKenna!
  • McKenna is accepting the award and she’s understandably choked up as she delivers a classy acceptance speech. A really awesome moment for a deserving singer-songwriter. Love how McGraw stood back and let her have this deserving moment.
  • Brooks & Dunn along with Jason Aldean perform the duo’s hit song “Brand New Man.” Brooks & Dunn sound pretty good like always. Aldean sounds flat as always. I’m guessing he chose to participate in this song since it isn’t too songwriter-y. But overall a good performance from the other two.
  • After a commercial we get Dierks Bentley and Elle King performing the unfortunate hit “Different For Girls.” Fast-forwarding through this…
  • Carrie acknowledges some past winners of the Female Vocalist of the Year award.
  • Joined by the Preservation Jazz Hall Band and The McCrary Sisters, Maren Morris delivers a fantastic performance of “My Church.” Everyone a part of this performance delivered in spades. Well done. Hopefully in the future we get more songs like this from Morris instead of the majority of her debut album.
  • Right away it stands out that this show is putting an increased focus on female artists, which is just great. It shows the CMA is listening and trying to give women a fairer shake than what they’ve been getting from these shows in the past. Now let’s continue to make this a thing to the point it’s not something that needs pointed out.
  • Jennifer Garner is presenting New Artist of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA New Artist of the Year is Maren Morris. Another one I called. Maybe I’m getting better at this predicting thing.
  • Morris delivers a really emotional speech, crying throughout it. Her humbleness really shines through, as you can see how much this meant to her. Can’t help but feel good when seeing a moment like this.
  • Brad introduces the first artist to ever win Entertainer of the Year twice, Barbara Mandrell. She helps him introduce Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
  • The couple performs a cool medley: first Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson,” Garth does Roger Miller’s “Chug-a-lug,” Yearwood does Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and then together perform Conway Twitty’s & Loretta Lynn’s “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.” This is followed by Yearwood doing Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” and Garth doing Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” They finish by performing George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s “Golden Ring.” They could have easily just did one of their songs, but instead paid tribute to a bunch of great artists who we should never forget.
  • We’re only one hour in and younger country fans or those who haven’t studied up on the history of the genre are getting a nice history lesson. Hopefully those people will go out and listen to these older artists.

Hour Two

  • Whisperin’ Bill Anderson makes an appearance, which brings a smile to my face.
  • Carrie Underwood performs “Dirty Laundry,” a song that continues to do nothing for me. It’s going to be a shame if “Choctaw County Affair” never gets released as a single.
  • Faith Hill is presenting Album of the Year. Despite an awkward at times introduction, she gives a well deserved shout out to the first winner of the awards, Wanted: The Outlaws.
  • The 2016 CMA Album of the Year award winner is Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood! Glad I was wrong on this one!
  • It all comes full circle for Church, who surprise released the album during last year’s show. It’s a fantastic album that is fully deserving of winning. Glad the CMAs got this right.
  • Little Big Town performs their new single “Better Man,” which was just revealed to be written by Taylor Swift. After this reveal, I went back to look at the lyrics and it doesn’t surprise me at all she wrote it. It has all the earmarks of a Swift song. Little Big Town delivers a solid performance here and with it being Swift written song, I think it’ll be a big hit.
  • Carrie checks on Billy Ray Cyrus, who wants out of his room and Carrie says to let out. I disagree. Leave him in there so he can’t make another “Achy Breaky Heart” or a crappy TV show like the one he has on CMT right now.
  • Miranda Lambert delivers a phenomenal performance of her current single “Vice.” I don’t know if Lambert has ever been in this kind of zone before where she just nails every single note. Can’t wait to hear the album.
  • Alright, alright. Matthew McConaughey shows up, much to the delight of the ladies in the crowd. He presents Tim McGraw, who’s performing “Humble and Kind.” He delivers one hell of performance and definitely chokes a few people up, including McKenna. Glad to see McGraw get a big spot like this, as he’s certainly earned it.
  • Brad & The Oak Ridge Boys perform an abridged performance of “Elvira,” which got the crowd excited.
  • Next is Alan Jackson and George Strait. Words can’t describe their performance. It’s simply magical. Jackson begins with “Remember When.” We then get a small package of country stars who have passed and expressed their gratitude for country music. Then Strait comes and together the legendary duo performs a medley of Strait songs. Performance of the night hands down!
  • ESPN personalities Kirk Herbstreit and Samantha Ponder are presenting the Vocal Duo of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award winner is….the Brothers Osborne?! HOLY SHIT. Nobody saw this coming, not even them by the looks on their faces.
  • They’re completely speechless and admit they expected Florida Georgia Line to win like the rest of us. They can’t believe it and are so thrilled. What an upset! I love it.
  • Keith Urban performs “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” his slightly more interesting sounding take on Sam Hunt’s creepy “Take Your Time.” No thanks.
  • Some actor along with Cam and Cole Swindell present Vocal Group of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA Vocal Group of the Year award winner is Little Big Town. Not surprised at all.
  • They’re also surprised about the Brothers Osborne winning. Give a shout out to the legends in attendance. Short and sweet speech

Hour Three

  • We kick off hour three with a performance by two late announcements to the show that I mentioned above: Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks. Now a lot of people were talking about the former being on this show, but the bigger news to me is the return of the Dixie Chicks. I never ever saw them returning to the CMA Awards. I was completely shocked when it was announced they were returning after over a decade. And it’s so great to see country music welcome them back.
  • Together Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks perform “Daddy Lessons” off of Beyoncé’s excellent Lemonade album. It’s an awesome performance and I don’t know why you would complain about this. But it’s not country you say. No, the studio recording of this song I wouldn’t call country. But they did make this live performance more country and as a music fan I really enjoyed it. I know some country fans will bitch and moan, but it’s usually the same ones who always find something to complain about.
  • The main thing I hope this does is bring the Dixie Chicks back into the genre again. This talented group belongs in country music.
  • The annoying Peyton Manning presents Kenny Chesney with the Pinnacle Award. *insert wanking motion*
  • This isn’t a personality contest by the way. Chesney’s a good guy, but his music is not worthy of awards.
  • Thomas Rhett performs “Die A Happy Man.” Moving along…
  • Finally we get Chris Stapleton performing! And he’s with Dwight! And Morgane is here too! They’re performing Willie Nelson and Ray Charles’ “Seven Spanish Angels.” This is gonna be amazing!
  • jerry-douglas-is-the-best
  • Yep my mind has been blown. We need a studio recording of this now so we can listen to it over and over again. Stapleton once again steals the show with his performance. I’m not surprised at all.
  • And after that amazing performance we get Luke Bryan performing “Move.” Hahahahahahahahahahaha! Really? Whoever organized this show is a troll.
  • In back to back performance we get a microcosm of country music right now: on one side we having the ever growing traditional movement and the other who refuses to abandon bro country/pop pretending to be country dreck. But I have a news flash for the latter: you’re losing the battle right now.
  • Now Lee Greenwood singing his lone annoying hit. Boooooooooo!
  • Florida Georgia along with Tim McGraw perform their current single “May We All.” I don’t hate this song and it’s their second best single they’ve ever released. The performance is fine. Tim McGraw has a lot of fun and really lets loose, quite the opposite of Florida Georgia Line, who are trying their hardest to be serious. They’re clearly trying to shake off their previous reputation and with them walking away empty handed from a country awards show for the first time in a while, there’s definitely some concern in their camp.
  • The always classy Vince Gill present Female Vocalist of the Year. Unfortunately there’s some issues and poor Gill is kind of stuck on stage fighting through it. It was awkward.
  • The 2016 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award winner is Carrie Underwood! There you go Carrie fans! The Miranda streak is finally broken and rightfully so, as this was Carrie’s year. Miranda fans don’t feel bad, as it’s lock she wins next year. Congrats to Carrie though, who teared up accepting it.
  • Up next is Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens performing “Kill A Word.” I still can’t believe we’re getting Giddens on a major country awards show.
  • A great performance from the two and Giddens really shined in the spotlight. Church is the man for giving her this opportunity, as she’s more than earned it and I hope everyone checks her music out.
  • Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner Lily Tomlin is here to honor the legendary Dolly Parton, who is receiving the Willie Nelson Life Achievement Award. A fitting honor for one of the greatest artists of all time.
  • Jennifer Nettles and Pentatonix perform “Jolene” in her honor. Reba follows with a performance of “9 to 5.” Then Kacey Musgraves performs “Here You Come Again.” It concludes with Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Reba and Kacey performing “I Will Always Love You.” All of this is amazing and I can’t imagine all of these performers getting to perform in front of Dolly as she looks on smiling the whole time.
  • Dolly delivers a classy, elegant speech with some witty Willie pot humor interjected. She says she had a big speech prepared, but they won’t let her do it all. Boo! Let this legend speak as long as she wants!
  • We’re running over, as actress Sharon Stone presents Male Vocalist of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award winner is Chris Stapleton! Holy shit! Second year in a row for Stapleton.
  • Stapleton says he wishes he could give his time to Dolly. Delivers a good speech talking about how great it was to be a fan and see so many great artists from the past honored. It’s a year later and I still don’t think he believes all of this that has happened to him.
  • Brad Paisley performs “Today” and it’s a really good performance.
  • Taylor Swift is here to present the Entertainer of the Year.
  • The 2016 CMA Entertainer of the Year awards winner is Garth Brooks! Wow! I did not see this coming. Then again when Carrie won Female Vocalist and Stapleton won Male Vocalist, I knew they wouldn’t win this one too. So it was going to be between Garth and Luke Bryan. And I’ll take Garth over Luke any day.

Final Thoughts

Wow! What a show! The big winner of the night is traditional country music, older artists and female artists. They all were featured heavily on this show and were the main focus. This was a big show for country music and they finally delivered in areas I’ve been saying they’ve been lagging in. The three most under-represented groups in the genre recently finally get their moment and they delivered big. The real losers of the show were country radio and their golden boys. This show was basically a direct contrast to what country radio has presented over the last year. Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Old Dominion, Cole Swindell, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton all walked away with zero awards. They were barely featured on the show. This makes country radio look like assholes and I couldn’t be happier. They’re the only ones who don’t want to go along with this traditional movement. The moment that truly showed me that this movement and change is real was when Florida Georgia Line didn’t win Vocal Duo of the Year. To me this is a true signaling of the changing of the tides in country music and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below!

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20 thoughts on “Reactions & Recap of the 50th CMA Awards

  1. I completely agree Josh. I’d say this show makes ACM look like assholes, since they awarded fucking jason aldean as entertainer of the year. CMA is leading this traditional movement I guess, and they started last year when they turned Chris Stapleton into the best selling male artist. Congrats to them.

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  2. I loved it. One of the best CMA’s since the 90’s. Poor Kelsea Ballerini — who I want to like — was given her biggest showcase for her talent and with her best single, but she simply doesn’t have the talent. It had to be obvious to all. She doesn’t have the vocal capacity to be playing in the big leagues. By contrast, Marren Morris is a real talent, and she is clearly the new female artist who Nashville should be propping up, not Kelsea. It is indeed a shame that the rest of her debut album was so disappointing, at least from a country music perspective.

    It was quite jarring to hear Luke Bryan immediately after Stapleton and Yoakam! I am sure the audience was thinking, “What the hell?” “Why torture us after the best performance of the night?” If Luke had any sense of self-awareness (he doesn’t), then he would know that he was made to look like a fool.

    I loved Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens, and yes we need her to get huge! George Straight and Alan Jackson delivered a fine performance. And Miranda Lambert gave the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard from her. Brooks and Dunn sounded as strong as ever.

    And, once again, Sam Hunt was shut-out completely, not even nominated or given a performance slot. Let’s hope the ACM’s follow accordingly.

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  3. The thing that I noticed was the fact that during Carrie Underwood performance she had Runaway June on backing vocals and Lindsay Ell on guitar. The song is still not all that impressive but I have Carrie Underwood respect that she keeps trying to showcase the female talent pool.

    I think Kelsea Ballerini has talent, but she doesn’t stand out, her vocals leave a lot to be desired. For as pop as Maren Morris and Lauren Alaina are, they have the vocals to back it up and have that star potential and natural charisma. Kelsea Ballerini screams placeholder artist.

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  4. Saw a couple of highlight-clips. Not the whole show. Not bad CMA, not bad.
    Dolly! Great segment. The older acts…entertaining. Real pro’s. Miranda Lambert reaching the next level.
    Kelsea Ballerini is not ready for the big stage. Luke Bryan & FGL may have a couple of more hits. But Nashville is moving on.

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  5. CMAs were perfect this year, was sobbing after they had Randy Travis on and for the most part was a good show. Definitely picked up on the fact that the token bros were given barely any time and everything was really focused as you say on the traditional movement and women.

    I still vote you bring back Hodgepodge!

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  6. I thought the show was better than normal and it is great to see a change in direction for the CMA’s. The only thing that worries me is if the executives and the mainstream radio crowd will point to the low ratings for the show. Common sense shows you nothing stood a chance to the World Series last night, however I hope it isn’t used as an excuse that people do not care anymore about traditional country music.

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  7. Overall thought it was great. Most of the people who should’ve won, won. Loved Church for album of the year. Wish Carrie had won EOTY, and Church MV (nothing against Chris, just think you should have to put out new music to win awards on a philosophical level).

    Not really sure Keith being most nominated (overall) with Ripcord, or Dierks being nominated a bunch for Black is really any different than Blake having been nominated for IIH, but he’s won 5 MV so he’s done. I’m just happy none of them won for anything big.

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  8. Oh and thanks to the idiots who run the Country Music Awards, now anyone is going to talk about is them deleting the Beyonce tweets.

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    • Yeah that’s rather unfortunate. I’m pretty disappointed in the CMA for that after such a great show. If people want to post misogynistic stuff, let them. By deleting them the CMA gave into them.

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  9. Y’all may be interested that ABC has several performances from the show on their official CMA Awards website, including Stapleton/Yoakam’s “Seven Spanish Angels” performance:

    http://abc.go.com/shows/cma-awards/video/most-recent/VDKA3493153

    This is especially nice because the CMA is rather diligent in removing any good quality videos from YouTube. So this is pretty much the only place to see high quality clips of the show.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Haven’t seen the Chicks/Beyonce performance, so I can’t comment on that specifically…

    …but my deal with the song itself, the original Beyonce recording anyway, is that it wasn’t really so much country as something reminiscent of Dixieland jazz. But so many are like, “oooh, Beyonce recorded a country song, country radio needs to play it!”

    No. No it doesn’t. I mean, it’s not bad, mind you, but as I put it elsewhere, there’s a shit-ton of stuff that deserves a much higher spot than “Daddy Lessons” on the list of stuff to played on country radio.

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  11. I thought Beyonce’s rendition was appropriate in a sense because I could hear some roots music coming out of it. It wasn’t straight up Country but I heard plenty of R&B, blues, soul and a smattering of country what with the the Chicks playing banjo and fiddle. It was very show-y, almost too much so. But I enjoyed it.

    Genre lines need to be respected but I do think that it’s a cool thing that just about everyone likes all kinds of music and that it came out in last nights’ show. Still, I would rather have had Dolly perform some and had her speak more. Didn’t see the various artists sing her songs so I hope I can see it on line somewhere. Jolene, Here You Come Again and I Will Always Love You are such great tunes. I’d like to think that if Linda Ronstadt was in better health, she would have sang Love You. Her version was the first I ever heard and it remains my fave.

    BTW, Miranda was perfect last night. She knows who she is and I think the new album will show her returning to more baser roots. I love her.

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    • I agree that “Daddy’s Lessons” was definitely NOT country, in the strictest sense of the term (let alone the way Nashville itself has defined it), though having Emily and Martie add their banjo/fiddle talents lent some down-home flavoring to the song. I think a lot of the vitriol directed towards it was way over-the-top, and it bought out the worst in some (though NOT ALL) people.

      As for the tribute to Dolly–I definitely agree that Linda, if she still had her voice and wanted to do it, would have been there to do “I Will Always Love You” (for those who want to know, Linda recorded it on her 1975 album PRISONER IN DISGUISE).

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  12. Watched it a day late- one of the best awards shows I’ve ever watched, had me welling up several times. Loved seeing Morris, Stapleton, Bros. Osborne, and Garth take home trophies and some truly fantastic performances throughout, especially Miranda Lambert’s. What a night.

    Gotta say- I’ll never understand your criticism of Kenny Chesney. Maybe it’s because I grew up on early-mid 2000s country (Which made me so, so happy to see the Dixie Chicks show up), but I’ve always loved his sound and songs. Oh well, to each their own.

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  13. I thought it was a great show. I loved the Dolly tribute, George and Alan’s duet, the opening of the show, and the return of the Dixie Chicks, whom I idolized when I was a little girl. There were very few moments that weren’t good, namely Keith Urban (Blue Ain’t Your Color is honestly, one of the most boring songs I’ve heard in a long time, along with the Kenny Chesney/P!nk duet and Jana Kramer’s snooze worthy new song), Different for Girls, and Puke….I mean Luke Bryan’s horrifically shitty Move performance. I wonder what all of the classy older artists were thinking when they saw Luke humping the air and shaking his ass like a fool. Lol 🙂 but all in all, great show and I was glad to see so many deserving artists get the recognition they deserved.

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    • I actually like “Circles” by Jana Kramer. It’s not very country, but I love the passion in Jana Kramer vocals. If their is one thing the girl excels at, is a ballad. Seriously songs like “I Got The Boy” and “Why Ya Wanna” remain some of my favorite female songs because Jana Kramer sells heartbreak. What makes “Circles” to me stand out is the back story behind it and what the song means to Jana Kramer (ever since her and her husband separated) as she has said it is a tribute to her daughter.

      I do believe the production could have been better, which holds the song back a little bit for me and I still can’t believe Jana Kramer released “Said No One Ever”. But I do like the song as a whole

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      • I do like “I Got the Boy” and “Why Ya Wanna”. They are both great songs. I also enjoy “Whiskey” quite a bit. “Circles”, in my opinion, could’ve been more. It’s not horribly bad, but it could’ve been so much better. It’s just kinda bland to me. And I hated “Said No One Ever”. Holy hopping sheep shit, that was bad. So very bad. Of Jana stays in the lane of material like “Why Ya Wanna” and “I Got the Boy”, she could really be something. But that’s just my opinion. 🙂

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        • Jana Kramer is an artist who I think needs to find the right uptempo material. None of the uptempo material besides “Just Like In The Movies” are all that good. “Bullet” was annoying “Don’t Touch My Radio” was female bro country.

          From a pure music perspective Jana Kramer should do ballads like “I Got The Boy”, “Dance In The Rain” and especially “Last Song”.

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