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….
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
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!