The Country Music Association Awards focused on something a lot of fans have complained over the years has been lacking: traditional county music.
Country superstar Garth Brooks walked away with the night’s biggest award of entertainer of the year. The singer was among many contemporary and classic artists to perform mashups of country music’s most influential tunes.
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Paisley and Underwood, returning as hosts for the ninth time, told jokes about politics, Wikileaks, Brangelina’s breakup and more at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We’re so sick of politics, we don’t even care who wins,” they sang in harmony. At one point, Paisley called Underwood a “nasty woman,” mocking Donald Trump.
In another bit, Paisley and Underwood delved into their “gift basket of deplorables” and pulled out items such as “Willie Nelson’s Potted Meats” and “Girl Crush” soda.
Underwood then began announcing the singers who are up for the entertainer of the year award while Paisley interrupted her by saying things like “Wrong,” “Lies” and calling her “Crooked Carrie” adding the show is “rigged.”
Thomas Rhett won single of the year for “Die a Happy Man,” taking home the first award of the night.
“I gotta first thank the Lord … my lovely wife in the blue dress; she was the full inspiration of this song,” said Rhett, adding that he cried during the opening number with Garth Brooks, who was sitting near him.
A slew of others performed on the live show including Beyonce, who sang her twangy song “Daddy Lessons” alongside the Dixie Chicks.
Chris Stapleton won music video of the year and male vocalist. Carrie Underwood beat out multi-year Miranda Lambert for female vocalist of the year.
Newcomer Maren Morris, who moved the needle this year with her genre-bending album “Hero,” won new artist of the year, and hit several high notes before strumming her guitar to perform the hit, “My Church.”
“Y’all! I can’t win this award right after performing — I’m going to fall apart,” she said onstage. “Last year, I sat across the street at a bar and watched this show. I never thought as a songwriter I’d be standing here today.”
A number of celebrities were in the audience, including Peyton Manning, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Newton-John and the Final Five Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.
Lori McKenna won song of the year for writing Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” a tune she said was based off a prayer she wrote for her five children. McKenna co-wrote Little Big Town’s megahit “Girl Crush,” earning a Grammy Award this year and last year’s song of the year honor at the CMAs.
“I have a job in this town because of this guy’s wife, Faith Hill,” said McKenna, who was escorted to the stage by McGraw.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.