“What do you call three women hosting the CMAs? Your lucky night!”
That’s how Dolly Parton opened the 53rd CMA Awards, which aired live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Wednesday night on ABC. Parton joined fellow country legend Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood, who has hosted or co-hosted the show for 12 years now, in leading the night’s festivities. The trio were a bright bubble of energy throughout a night of both exciting moments and letdowns, plus more of what we’ve come to expect from a national country music awards show like this one.
Our masters of ceremonies opened the night with a delightful star-studded medley which Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles dedicated to Loretta Lynn, the first woman to ever win CMA Entertainer of the Year, who looked on from the audience. The group performed Lynn’s song “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Crystal Gale, The Highwomen, Gretchen Wilson and Tanya Tucker joined the fold one by one before Martina McBride completed the formation.
Another of the night’s most memorable performances was courtesy of Ms. McEntire herself. Reba performed her iconic hit “Fancy,” from her 1990 album Rumor Has It, and had three costume changes. Fancy and her “dancin’ dress” definitely did not let us down.
Other performers included Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton with P!nk and Lady Antebellum with Halsey. Kacey Musgraves also joined fellow Texas outlaw Willie Nelson for an endearing performance of “Rainbow Connection” with a luminescent rainbow sheet draped behind them. Audience members like Kristin Chenoweth and Hillary Scott admired with smiles (and even some tears, it seems) before Musgraves closed the number with the words “It’ll all be alright,” a line from her song “Rainbow.”
The eligibility period for the 2019 CMAs was July 2018-June 2019. Garth Brooks nabbed the trophy for Entertainer of the Year, to many fans’ disappointment. Lots of folks, including country star Miranda Lambert, were pulling for Underwood, who released her album Cry Pretty in September 2018 and has been touring it ever since. She has only been nominated for Entertainer of the Year twice despite her long and glowing career. In other news, Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X won Musical Event of the Year for a little song called “Old Town Road” (remember that?). Maren Morris won Album of the Year for her record GIRL. Revisit our review right here. Musgraves took home a trophy for Best Music Video (for “Rainbow”), and fiddler Jenee Fleenor made history as the first woman to win Musician of the Year.
The other best femme power flex was delivered by Nettles, who walked the red carpet in a white pants suit and pink cape that bore the words “Play our f*@#!n records, please & thank you,” reminding us all that the CMAs can throw statues to women artists left and right, but it’s all for shit when country radio won’t play their damn songs. Now go stream some Carrie Underwood.
Listen to a 1983 Reba McEntire performance via the Paste archives below: