It was a celebration of country music during the 54th annual Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker hosted ceremony kicked off with an emotional tribute to country great Charlie Daniels, who unexpectedly died in July. Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, and Ashley McBryde delivered a show-stopping medley of Daniels' songs, including "Trudy," "Texas," "Long Haired Country Boy" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Jenee Fleenor was slated to join the performance but was forced to drop out after she received a positive COVID-19 test.
This year's CMA Awards presented a mix of in-person and prerecorded performances in front of a socially distanced audience filled with the biggest names in country music.
Not only did the CMA Awards feature performances from country heavyweights like Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, and Eric Church, but pop artists made appearances as well. Charlie Puth joined Gabby Barrett to perform "I Hope" and Justin Bieber performed with Dan + Shay to deliver vocals from their collaboration "10,000 Hours."
Hosts McEntire and Rucker also took the stage to honor the late Mac Davis, who died in September 2020 following heart surgery. Together, the duo debuted their take on Davis' timeless piece "In The Ghetto," which he famously penned for Elvis Presley. Country singer and songwriter Joe Diffie, who died this year of COVID-19 complications, was also honored with a performance of his song "Pickup Man" sung by Jon Pardi.
Other notable performances included an homage to the 1980's Western film "Urban Cowboy" from Old Dominion. The group helped perform "Looking For Love" from the movie's soundtrack, which Rucker credited with changing the world by suddenly having "everybody, everywhere wearing cowboy hats and learning to line dance."
When it came to awards, Maren Morris started off on fire, snagging the first two honors back-to-back for single of the year and song of the year for her record "The Bones," which she later performed. She also won female vocalist of the year, and during her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to "amazing Black women" in country music, including Linda Martell, Yola, Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Brittney Spencer and Rhiannon Giddens.
“There are so many amazing Black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre,” she said. “You have made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you. Thank you for making me so inspired as a singer in this genre."
Also winning multiple awards was Luke Comb, who took home CMA Awards for album of the year and male vocalist of the year.
Charley Pride was presented with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award by Jimmie Allen, who first serenaded the crown with a snippet of his song "Best Shot."
The last award of the night was the highly coveted entertainer of the year award, which went to Eric Church — much to his own surprise.
"I didn't think I was going to win this," he said before exiting the stage. "Thank you guys very much."