The 51st CMA Awards were held on November 8, 2017, with a spectacular show at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.It was an emotional show allowing the songs and artists to use the powerful genre to focus on unifying the country through country music during a year rampant with gun violence, hurricanes, floods and a divisive political climate.
Garth Brooks took home the night's top honor of Entertainer of the Year for the sixth time in his career although it was not without controversy as Brooks admitted post-show to lip-synching his performance due to a bad throat. Brooks explained, "We made a game-time call on whether to sing to a track or lip-sync. And we decided to lip-sync it. My voice just isn't going anywhere and we wanted to represent country music the best we can." Brooks won out over Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Eric Church. Brothers Osborne and Chris Stapleton were the night's most-awarded performers, with two wins each.
Chris Stapleton's ‘From A Room: Volume 1’ was named Album of the Year, beating out releases that included Miranda Lambert's ‘The Weight of These Wings’ and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's ‘The Nashville Sound’. Stapleton won Album of the Year in 2015 for ‘Traveller’. He also added Male Vocalist of the Year category, beating out Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett for his third consecutive win.
Brothers Osborne repeating their win in 2016 when named Vocal Duo of the Year, beating out a field that included Florida Georgia Line and Dan + Shay. TJ and John Osborne also took home a second award in the Music Video of the Year category for their song "It Ain't My Fault," The brothers performed on the telecast, combining "It Ain't My Fault" with the late Don Williams' hit "Tulsa Time."
Jon Pardi won his first CMA Award, taking home the New Artist of the Year prize after a breakthrough year with hits such as "Head Over Boots," "Dirt on My Boots" and "Heartache on the Dance Floor."
Many past winners held fast in their respective categories with Miranda Lambert extending her reign as Female Vocalist of the Year, for the seventh consecutive time. Little Big Town collected their sixth consecutive Vocal Group of the Year win. LBT also accepted the Song of the Year award for "Better Man" on behalf of the song’s writer, Taylor Swift. Keith Urban's "Blue Ain't Your Color", a song co-written by Canadian Steven Lee Olsen, was named Single of the Year, giving the Aussie performer his 11th career win. Guitarist Mac McAnally was named Musician of the Year, marking his ninth win in the category. "Funny How Time Slips Away” which the late Glen Campbell recorded with Willie Nelson for his farewell album Adios, won Musical Event of the Year.
From my seat, the best performance of the night was Carrie Underwood's stirring version of the old hymn "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" in the "In Memoriam" portion of the show while pictures of country music personalities who have died in the past year were projected on the screen, ending with images of the 58 people gunned down during Jason Aldean’s performance in the tragic .Las Vegas shooting.
The night included tributes to Troy Gentry, Don Williams and Glen Campbell with Gentry’s duo partner Eddie Montgomery joining Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts in a rendition of the Montgomery Gentry song "My Town." Brothers Osborne performed a cover of Don Williams' "Tulsa Time" and Little Big Town performed Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman," with Glen's family in the front row, the song's writer, Jimmy Webb playing piano. Well done.
Despite the rumors and death knells, country music is alive and well.