The 49th annual Country Music Association Awards went off without a hitch and the three-hour show got a lot of things right. (Chris Stapleton winning big was just one of them.) From Eric Church dominating Bridgestone Arena to Justin Timberlake’s warm welcome to Music City, check out our favorite moments below.
Opening Medley: Hank Williams Jr. and Eric Church perform “Are You Ready For The Country” / Keith Urban and John Mellencamp perform “Pink Houses”
Bocephus and Church kicked things off with the first single off William’s forthcoming LP and it was a burn-the-barn-down rager that left no question where we were: Country Music’s Biggest Night. (Bonus: Did you see the Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnson supporting on his six-string behind them?) The two gave way to another top-notch multi-generational duo, Keith Urban and John Mellencamp. They gave Mellencamp’s defining hit “Pink Houses” a go before Urban took over to perform his tribute to the rock star, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” which remains one of the worst titled but best delivered tunes on the year.
Sam Hunt performs “Take Your Time”
Brad Paisley can call it Sam Hunt-ing, but we’re just calling it awesome. Hunt delivered his Song and Single of the Year-nominated, platinum track and the mutual delight of the singer and crowd was palpable. A year ago Hunt walked the carpet for the first time and nervously presented alongside supermodel Lily Aldridge—my how far we’ve come.
Chris Stapleton wins Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year
There’s hope for us yet, y’all. The world would be irrevocably unjust if he didn’t. Chris, you made more than just music your dad would have liked, it’s music we all love.
Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake and the duet heard ’round the world
As we wrote right after the set, Stapleton and Timberlake brought Bridgestone Arena to its feet when they sang Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away.” It was everything we hope from all-star award show collabs but so rarely get.
Eric Church debuts “Mr. Misunderstood”
Church fan club members got a sweet surprise earlier today when they received a brand new 10-song disc in the mail—and now we can all get in on the goodness. The singer debuted the title track off the new set and while it lacks from of the bluster of his 2014 standout, The Outsiders, it’s Heartland Rock that couldn’t feel more welcome. How welcome? Mr. Misunderstood jumped to No. 1 on the iTunes Top Albums chart (yep, above Adele) right after he left the stage.
Kacey Musgraves’ stage set-up
In this case, all that glitters is gold. Musgraves’ traveling set is always elaborate—tonight, it was everything. Musgraves gave a fine performance of her tune “Dime Store Cowgirl” but her band’s bedazzled suits, her sequined tights, and that insane rainbow stole the show.
Brooks and Dunn perform with Reba McEntire
Let the legends show you how they got here.