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RECAP: CMA Awards Go Live With Intimate Audience and Real-Time Performances

CMA Awards Recap

Country music's biggest stars took the stage to host the show, perform hit tracks, and accept the most coveted awards.

The CMA Awards gave viewers at home a glimpse of the good old-fashioned award show days. During the ceremony at the Music City Center in Nashville, there was little sign of masks and a live audience with real applause and laughter.

Darius Rucker and Reba McEntire hosted the evening, opening the show with heavy banter at a six-foot distance.

The country stars made many references to the ongoing pandemic. Reba stated:

"In 2020, it's great to be anywhere."

Rucker shared: "For all of you watching at home, this is more than just country music's biggest night," with Reba adding, "Tonight is a wonderful evening to sing together, stand together, and be together at the end of the year when too much in this world has been pulling us apart, sometimes more than six feet."

They also gave shoutouts to the biggest stars of the evening and revealed that they would be singing together this evening. There was lots of love in this socially-distant award show right out of the gate.

Going into the evening, Miranda Lambert led the nominations with seven in total, followed by Luke Combs with six nods. However, it was Maren Morris who won the evening.

Maren Morris Wins BIG AT CMA Awards

"The Bones" singer appeared on the stage four different times throughout the night to perform her popular track which scored Song of the Year and Single of the Year. The country superstar also won the coveted Female Artist of the Year award where she took a moment to commend and shed light on all the amazing Black country artists who have inspired her writing and are the backbone of the musical genre, sharing:

"There are so many amazing Black women who pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre... You've made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you."

Maren Morris has been an extremely big name this year in country music, accepting many other main awards at other country award shows, including the ACM and CMT Awards.

Luke Combs Scores Major Award

Luke Combs had a successful year in country music. This country star took home the Male Vocalist of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. He thanks his wife and family for their unconditional love and support, while also shouting out the other nominees for this award.

"But there is nobody in this category...I don't deserve this anymore than anybody else in this category. Especially this year has been so crazy and I know everybody in this category has worked their ass off."

The other nominees who Combs admires are Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, and Keith Urban.

Combs also scored Album of the Year for "What You See Is What You Get."

Justin Bieber Makes His CMA Debut

Pop icon Justin Bieber made his first appearance ever at the CMA Awards. He sang the hit track "10,000 Hours" with Dan + Shay. This collaboration signifies Bieber diversifying his music beyond pop music.

Dan + Shay went home with the award for Vocal Duo of the Year.

Old Dominion Takes On Johnny Lee Cover

Old Dominion honored the 40th anniversary of the Urban Cowboy film with a performance of Johnny Lee's "Looking for Love." The hot band's appearance did not stop there. They won the major Vocal Group of the Year Award to add to their collection of trophies.

Country Staple Miranda Lambert Graces Stage

What would a country award show be without the legendary Miranda Lambert? The star who took home Music Video of the Year for her "Bluebird" track also performed her new tune "Settling Down."

The Hosts Collab On Elvis Track

Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker returned to the stage not just to fulfill their hosting duties. The stars sang the popular old hit "In The Ghetto" by the one and only Elvis Presley penned by Mac Davis who passed away on September 29th.

And The Entertainer Of The Year Is...

Eric Church! The "Hell Of A View" singer shared his gratitude for the main award of the evening. In his acceptance speech, the star discussed how receiving this award during this year in particular means something different.

"This award, this year, at least for me, has been about the loss of this year. Loss of life, loss of playing shows, loss of freedom, loss of kids being in school. And you know what the win is? The win is we all were here tonight together as country music – in person, live... And I really believe this...it's gonna be music that brings us out of this."

This sentimental moment closed out the night in a positive way after a year clouded by uncertainty and loss.

To watch the entire award show, check out The 54th Annual CMA Awards streaming now on ABC and Hulu.

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Charlie McDonald