Carrie and Brad's banter
Back co-hosting the CMA Awards for the 11th year in a row, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley went straight into their usual CMA banter. Paisley got a few jabs in first at Underwood, who was hosting while pregnant for the second time. “You have really let yourself go,” he noted sarcastically. Later on, they took brief inspiration from another awards show, the Emmys, which saw a marriage proposal at its 2018 ceremony: “During tonight’s show, one of our winners is getting divorced,” said Paisley. Underwood also called out the lack of female representation at this year’s CMAs. When Paisley announced, “The year has been a big year for men in country,” the “Cry Pretty” singer’s cynically responded: “Finally!”
The Borderline tribute
The show kicked off on a solemn note, as Garth Brooks asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the recent shooting in Southern California. The segment was “lovingly dedicated to the individuals we lost far too soon at the Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.,” said Brooks. The camera then cut to the main stage, where Luke Bryan led a star-studded performance of his hit “What Makes You Country,” with help from Lindsay Ell, Ashley McBryde, Chris Janson (on harmonica), Luke Combs, Jon Pardi, and Cole Swindell.
Brad and Carrie's A Star Is Born parody
Underwood and Paisley’s opener included a parody of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s hit song “The Shallow” from A Star Is Born. “Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga made a movie, and it’s sure to win a lot of big awards, but country music’s biggest night is here in Nashville, uh-oh Carrie look: a star is bored,” sang the co-hosts poking fun at the length of the three-hour awards show. “Well, Keith just nodded off on Nicole’s shoulder, nobody wake Chris Stapleton, he just started snoring in the front row…it’s going number one, listen to that tone, he even snores with soul.”
Thomas Rhett goes back to school
Thomas Rhett brought a marching band along with him to perform his chart-topper “Life Changes,” capping off a big year for the 28-year-old singer thanks to his No. 1 hits “Craving You,” “Unforgettable,” and Marry Me.” “Waking up in my college dorm,” sang Rhett on stage, as he literally woke up on the set of a college dorm room, while wearing a red varsity jacket before wandering through the aisles to perform in the middle of the audience.
Underwood performed her emotional single, “Love Wins,” about the power of coming together in the face of death. “A stray bullet and a momma cries/Her baby won’t be coming home tonight,” belted Underwood, along with a backing choir. “Put a world that seems broken together again/Yeah I, I believe in the end love wins”
A tip of the hat to Ricky Skaggs
The newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, bluegrass legend and hitmaker Ricky Skaggs got a full-fledged tribute. First, he played with his band Kentucky Thunder on “Black Eyed Suzie,” then moved over to a second stage to perform “Highway 40 Blues” with Keith Urban and John Osborne of Brothers Osborne. Finally, he joined Paisley, Marty Stuart, and Sierra Hull, for a solo-heavy edition of his hit “Country Boy.”
Score one for Kacey Musgraves
Musgraves pulled off a major upset at the CMAs, winning Album of the Year for her spectacular Golden Hour. “Dang. Wow. This is really, really, crazy timing because I just realized this morning, 10 years ago today I moved to Nashville,” she said during her acceptance speech. “We poured everything we had into this [album], and I’m so proud of it.”
Brad gets Carrie to reveal the gender of her baby
When the duo hosted in 2014, Paisley accidentally revealed that Underwood was having a baby boy — a moment Paisley was intent on repeating tonight. “Hey, remember last time when I accidentally revealed the gender of your baby?” he asked Underwood, trying to coax his co-host into spilling the beans herself. “Seriously Carrie, give me a little baby hint? Johnny or June? Keith or Nicole. Garth or Trisha. Tim or Faith. George or Tammy. Waylon or Willie?” After noting “that [one] doesn’t even make sense,” she finally gave in and said she was having a “Willie” (a.k.a. a boy). Of course, Paisley had to take the bit one step further: “Tonight we’re going to reveal something even more exciting: Who the father is,” the singer joked, much to the delight of Underwood and her husband, former NHL player Mike Fisher, who was in the audience.
Keith Urban takes home Entertainer of the Year
In the biggest upset of the night, Keith Urban won the show’s coveted Entertainer of the Year Award over fellow nominees Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, and favorite Chris Stapleton. “Baby girl, I love you so much,” said an emotional Urban to wife Nicole Kidman during his acceptance speech, adding, “I am shocked beyond shock… I wish my dad was alive to see this, but I think he’s watching over me tonight. I am just very blessed I get to do what I do. God bless country music, God bless you all.”