The 47th Annual CMA Awards is country music’s biggest night and this year’s show was bigger than ever with all-star collaborations, a heartfelt tribute to a country music legend lost earlier this year and big wins by newcomers and legends alike. In no particular order, here are our Top 10 Moments from this year’s CMA Awards:
George Strait Wins Entertainer of the Year
As George Strait prepares to embark on the final leg of tour dates in early 2014 on his The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, he took home the night’s top honor, being named Entertainer of the Year. It’s a trophy he’s been nominated for 18 times and won in 1989 and 1990. George was visibly surprised to hear his name called and took a moment to collect himself before walking to the stage while his fellow country stars celebrated around him.
“I never in a million years… Thank you so much,” George said as he accepted his award. “This blows me away. I cannot believe it. I’m just thrilled to even be nominated again.”
George Jones Tribute
Country music suffered the loss of a legend earlier this year when George Jones passed away at the age of 81. In an emotional tribute, living legends Alan Jackson and George Strait took the stage to perform George Jones’ signature hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” largely revered as the best country song ever written. As the song wrapped, Vince Gill was seen hugging George’s widow Nancy as she cried in her seat.
Taylor Swift’s Pinnacle Award
At only 23, Taylor Swift received the Pinnacle Award, an honor bestowed on an artist who has reached levels of national and international success unique to country music. She was serenaded with her song “You Belong With Me” by Nashville’s Lennon and Maisy before the award was presented to her by Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban, all artists she had opened for on tour as a teenager.
Taylor personally thanked each artist, sharing memories and earning a chuckle from the audience as she recalled getting to open for Rascal Flatts because “Eric Church got fired for playing too long.” She also thanked the CMA for choosing her as the award’s recipient. “You are not only rewarding my hard work and exhaustion,” she said, “but my family and my label and anyone who works with me and the fans who fill stadiums.”
Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood, Hosts Extraordinaire
In their sixth year of co-hosting the CMA Awards, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were as hilarious as ever, covering topics in their opening monologue ranging from celebrity feuds to Obama Care, complete with their now signature parody songs. Of course, they covered twerking as well, which Carrie described to Brad as “Well… Have you ever been to a Luke Bryan concert?” Brad quickly replied, “I thought those were mini seizures.”
Kenny Rogers Tribute
Kenny Rogers was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award during the show, given to honor an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in country music. A musical tribute featuring Jennifer Nettles, Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker performing some of Kenny’s biggest hits accompanied the award presentation, ending with Kenny joining Jennifer for a memorable rendition of “Islands In The Stream.”
It’s been a big couple of weeks for Kenny, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 27. “It’s been a hell of a month,” he said. “The Hall of Fame last week, this this week… I can’t wait to see what next week brings.”
Florida Georgia Line, Duo of the Year
It was a big night for Florida Georgia Line. They helped Luke Bryan open the show with their smash hit “Cruise” before performing “’Round Here” later on in the evening while picking up their first-ever CMA Awards for Single of the Year for “Cruise” and Vocal Duo of the Year. “Thank you to our fans for making our dreams come true,” they said while accepting their Vocal Duo trophy.
Kacey Musgraves, New Artist of the Year
Kacey Musgraves took the stage in a bright yellow dress early in the evening to perform her latest single, “Follow Your Arrow,” appropriately standing atop a neon arrow of her own. She went on to be named New Artist of the Year, her first CMA Awards win. “Thank y’all so much,” she said. “Seriously? This first year for me has been just indescribable.”
Taylor Swift not only was honored with the Pinnacle Award, she also gave one of the night’s top performances. She performed a stripped down version of her current hit “Red,” which included special guests Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Sam Bush, bassist Edgar Meyer, and percussionist Eric Darken. The all-star collaboration earned a standing ovation.
Luke Bryan also gave an emotional performance, debuting his new single “Drink A Beer” in memory of his brother and sister whom he lost in 1996 and 2007, respectively. Chris Stapleton, a co-writer on the song, joined him for the performance, which ended with a family photo of Luke and his siblings.
Eric Church performed his new single, “The Outsiders,” while Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert took the stage together for their duet, “We Were Us.”
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, Vocalists of the Year
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert once again took home his and her awards, picking up Male and Female Vocalist for the fourth year running. “Well, hell,” Miranda said. “Thank you. I really didn’t think this one was gonna happen this year. I sit here every time and I’m just so thankful to be here.”
Blake echoed his wife’s sentiments when his name was called shortly after hers. “Not to completely echo Miranda, but I swear I didn’t think this was going to happen this year,” he said. “But it did. So let me thank some people.”
The CMA Awards is known for bringing stars together onstage and this year’s show didn’t disappoint. Hunter Hayes was joined by Jason Mraz for a performance of Hunter’s latest single “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” and Zac Brown Band took the stage to debut a new single, “Day For The Dead,” featuring Foo Fighters front man David Grohl on drums. And while he didn’t perform, rapper P.Diddy made a surprise appearance, presenting Vocal Group of the Year alongside country girl Kellie Pickler.
Miss the CMA Awards or want to re-live the biggest moments and best performances all over again? You’re in luck! Great American Country will re-air the telecast Saturday, November 16 at 9/8c.