Thirteen Observations From Last Night’s CMA Awards

So, the 51st annual CMA Awards had its moments of atrocity, but overall, there was more good than bad last night. Here are some highlights and opinions, in no particular order–the good, the bad, and the curious.

1. Sam Hunt walks away winless despite “Body Like a Back Road” breaking historic records on the charts. It pains me to type this, but logic says he should have won Single of the Year, as this is about commercial success–except the CMA stomped all over that logic by saying this moron isn’t country, and we aren’t giving him awards no matter what records he breaks with his dumb single. Also, FGL, Luke Bryan, and Thomas Rhett remain empty-handed which can only be counted as a blessing.

2. Miranda Lambert says “f you” to the entire establishment by coming out and performing “To Learn Her,” the most traditional song of her career and that we’ve seen at these award shows in recent memory. Stellar performance.

3. Carrie Underwood comes out singing “Softly and Tenderly” while images of lost country greats and Las Vegas footage play in the background. This was stellar as well, and because we’ve got this whole Carrie/Miranda thing going on, my only fear here is that Carrie’s moment will somehow make Miranda’s less noteworthy. Both should be equally recognized and appreciated.

4. Chris Stapleton’s wins, while definitely victorious for real country music, are starting to get predictable. Don’t get me wrong, he deserves them, but I don’t want to see the CMA fall into a thing where we award Stapleton as the token traditionalist like we award Miranda Lambert as the token female.

5. Brothers Osborne break into “Tulsa Time” in tribute to the great Don Williams which can only be described as badass.

6. Little Big Town actually do a stunning tribute to Glen Campbell with “Wichita Lineman.”

7. ON the flip side of this, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts completely suck ass at the tribute to Troy Gentry. Look, good on the CMA for paying tribute to all these guys, but the sound quality was shit. Troy deserved better.

8. Alan Jackson, in what can only be described as a curious move, comes out singing “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.” Great song, made me happy, but definitely a missed opportunity to promote his current single and prove that traditional country music is still alive and well, not just a thing of the past.

9. Pink shouldn’t have been booked on this show, but her performance was more understated and country than many of the supposed country performers.

10. Old Dominion are still atrocious, Kelsea Ballerini’s “Legends” still sucks, and Maren Morris’s collaboration of “Seeing Blind” was utterly useless. I have not gotten the Maren Morris hype since “My Church.”

11. Sturgill Simpson busked outside the event in his characteristic arrogant fashion, most likely to protest the CMA attempt to keep the night from being focused on politics.

12. Garth Brooks lip synced–and did a bad job of it–as I’m sure many of you know, thereby making his win for Entertainer of the Year completely embarrassing. He did admit to it, and you can’t fault him for being sick, but this makes his win look pretty idiotic.

13. Eric Church, despite doing more for country music from the inside than most, performing 40-song sets by himself on tour, committing himself to his fans, prominently featuring women in his performances on these shows, doesn’t win anything. Look, it’s good that we’re not recognizing Sam Hunt and FGL, but not recognizing Eric Church for his efforts is wrong and frankly ridiculous.

7 thoughts on “Thirteen Observations From Last Night’s CMA Awards”

  1. I agree with everything here, except #8. Alan was being recognized for his entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is operated by the CMA. So it makes sense that he would perform two of his classic songs, as a celebration of his legacy. And these are the two songs that massively launched his career in 90/91.

    Eric Church definitely deserved EOTY. I appreciate that the members of the CMA are rallying around Stapleton, but they need to reach out beyond the (now predictable) Stapleton. One guy is not enough to bring country music back on track in the mainstream. On the plus side, Pardi and Brothers Osborne won. But, the latter has the advantage of being a duo/group, with its limited competition. Pardi will now have to win beyond the new artist category, such as male vocalist where Stapleton appears to be the strong favorite for the immediate future or even many years to come. I love Stapleton, but From A Room, vol. 1 is not a great album. It’s good, but it’s just leftover tracks from the Traveller sessions. It did not deserve to win album of the year.

    1. I understand this point on Alan Jackson, and all in all,it was a highlight. I agree that Stapleton did not deserve Album of the Year, either over Miranda Lambert or Jason Isbell. I’ll take Brothers Osborne over the other duos, but you’re right, they do have that advantage. I like Chris Stapleton too, but there is a danger in making his wins seem predictable. The CMA did well allowing him a shot when he was virtually unheard of, and they need to continue that trend for other artists. And it’s a shame that Eric Church works his ass off and can’t get any recognition.

  2. I too, agree with most of these. I also would’ve preferred to see Alan perform “The Older I Get” for the reasons you stated, but I can also see why they just had him sing a couple of his classics. Having him come back at the end to sing “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” was a very pleasant surprise! 🙂 I also agree with you about Chris Stapleton. While I would definitely take him over most of the other current top males, I also think it’s becoming too predictable having him win on every one of these shows. I would’ve rather seen Eric Church get Male Vocalist, myself.

    But overall, it’s a better list of winners than I expected. Other highlights for me were “Better Man” winning Song of The Year and Jon Pardi winning New Artist. Pardi’s victory would’ve been even sweeter though if he had performed the far superior “She Ain’t In It” instead of “Dirt On My Boots,” one of his weakest songs, imo. As a long time fan, I was also glad to see Garth win Entertainer again, despite the unfortunate lip syncing mishap and Eric Church also deserving it. Like you said, at least Garth admitted to the lip syncing, plus his voice may have been shot from all of the touring. And yes, I’m so happy that Sam, FGL, Thomas, and the other bros walked away empty handed! That itself was another high point of the night for me. 🙂

    1. Glad to have you, Janie. That’s a great point about Jon Pardi, his win was a victory, and I wish he would have used the opportunity to promote something other than “Dirt on my Boots.” As I said to Kevin, I think the CMA needs to extend the good thing they started with Stapleton to other traditional and independent artists.

  3. I can’t believe people are already getting sick of Stapleton winning. Do we not remember who was winning before him? Do we want to go back to Blake winning? I’m just gobsmacked by this idea of being sick of Stapleton, his music and still newfound popularity. It’s really quite simple why he’s winning over the likes of the other traditional options being offered by the major labels such as Brothers Osborne, Pardi, Morgan, etc. He’s on a whole other level. His sales beat everyone in terms of albums and his single sales are quite solid too, not to mention his streaming numbers are much better than you would expect (Tennessee Whiskey is still heavily streamed years after his breakout performance).His touring numbers are fantastic and one of the most sought after in country. And most importantly his music is connecting with people beyond country listeners. People who have hated/ignored country music their whole lives fall in love with him on one listen. Pardi and others fail to do this because it doesn’t have that “special” quality about it that Stapleton brings to the table. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment though that the CMA needs to start recognizing more traditional and independent artists. There’s plenty out there that’s for sure. But again I think it’s ridiculous to be annoyed by Stapleton’s success considering the impact it’s had on the genre and the fact that people are starting to celebrate traditional country more in the mainstream realm.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Josh. I wholeheartedly agree that for all these reasons, Stapleton is deserving of his wins, just as I think that Miranda Lambert deserved Female Vocalist this year. But she’s also getting that award when she doesn’t deserve it, and I’m afraid that Stapleton could become a token traditionalist for the CMA like she has become the token female. I don’t think he is there yet, although I believe Isbell and Lambert made slightly better albums. I just think the CMA needs to expound on this and explore other traditional options. Not necessarily in place of Stapleton, but just so that he doesn’t become the only one to get awards like Lambert has become for women.

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