The third and final installment of my countdown of favorite CMA Awards moments ends with some incredible performances, history making wins, and a collaboration that will go down as a truly iconic moment in country music history. Here are the final 10 of my favorite CMA Awards moments.
10. Carrie & Brad offer snippet of “Once a Day”
In 2012, legendary member of the Grand Ole Opry and one of country music’s iconic voices, Connie Smith, entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. During that year’s CMA Awards, hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood offered an acoustic snippet of Smith’s signature hit, “Once a Day.” I’ve said many times that Carrie Underwood should release a country classic cover album because once again she proved she can sing just about anything as she stunned during the mini-performance. With this year’s awards show focusing on honoring country’s past, let’s hope Carrie pulls out another stellar classic country cover.
9. Paisley & Underwood: The Hosts with the Mosts
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are entering their 9th consecutive year as hosts for the CMA Awards. Throughout the pair’s hosting tenure we’ve been treated to some hilarious moments including parody songs, tons of political jokes, and lots of Tim McGraw & Faith Hill moments. Brad and Carrie have proven to be an incredible team that balance each other perfectly as Brad brings the goofiness and Carrie brings the class. Let’s hope the pair will be around a lot longer to guide us through many more awards shows.
8. Kacey Follows Her Arrow to CMA Gold
In her first year as a CMA nominated artist, Kacey Musgraves entered the 2013 as one of the night’s leading nominees with multiple nominations and even won the New Artist of the Year. During the telecast, she sang her controversial single about rolling joints, kissing whomever, and living life the way you want to live it, “Follow Your Arrow.” Hats off to the CMAs for allowing her to perform such a risky song, although they didn’t really need to sensor the lines about rolling joints. This song would stun the CMA audience a year later when it was named Song of the Year at the 2014 CMAs. Let’s hope we see more fantastic performances and wins from one of country’s most talented female artists.
7. The King Rides Away in Style
In 2013 George Strait was in middle of his final tour, The Cowboy Rides Away tour, and was selling out arenas and stadiums left and right. It was no surprise that The King would be nominated for yet another Entertainer of the Year award. However, no one expected the outcome Robin Roberts delivered during the final minutes of the CMAs. When the envelope was opened, the GMA host announced Strait had won his third Entertainer of the Year trophy and first since the 1990 ceremony. Shocked and honored, George could barely get through his speech. Needless to say, it was a fitting sendoff for an artist people call the Entertainer of a Lifetime.
6. CMAs get Carrie-d Away
Just one year after winning American Idol, Carrie Underwood made country music history by becoming just the 4th artist and 5th overall to win the New Artist of the Year and their respective vocalist trophy in the same night. Only Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, the Dixie Chicks, and Chris Stapleton have done the same in the CMA’s history. Through tears, Underwood delivered an emotional speech that will forever live on in my mind as one of the best. This moment was met with a little controversy as Faith Hill was hounded for her reaction as Carrie’s name was announced. Though it appears she is upset, Faith apologized to Carrie and later said she was only playing and joking with the camera.
5. Alan Jackson debuts “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
The 2001 CMA Awards took place just a few months after the horrible events of September 11th. The country was still in a state of shock after witnessing the biggest act of terrorism the United States has ever seen. A lot of country music fans were looking for a way to cope with the emotions. During the ceremony, Alan Jackson provided what will go down as one of the greatest country music songs ever written. “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” left the audience stunned and in tears as he sang his way through the many emotions millions of Americans felt that day. Jackson proved just how powerful country music can be. The song would go on to win Single and Song of the Year at the 2002 awards ceremony.
4. Living Legends Honor the Possum
In April of 2013, country music was hit with one of its most devastating losses as we lost a true country music pioneer, George Jones. The 2013 CMA Awards would not be the same without a fitting tribute to the late legend. The CMAs couldn’t have done a better job. That year, Alan Jackson and George Strait took the stage together to offer a stunning and emotional rendition of Jones’ biggest hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The poignant tribute was met with a huge standing ovation from an audience that included an emotional Nancy Jones. There’ll never be another George Jones.
3. Stapleton Shuts Down the 2015 CMAs
In recent years, the CMA Awards always provide us with some interesting collaborations that bring country together with other genres of music. We’ve seen rockers and pop stars join some of country’s biggest superstars, but there has never been a better collaboration than when Chris Stapleton was joined by Justin Timberlake. The year was 2015 and Stapleton came into the November CMAs as the most nominated artist and would eventually win the night in terms of awards and performances. The pair delivered a flawless performance of Chris’ version of “Tennessee Whiskey” as well as Timberlake’s hit, “Drink You Away.” The performance would easily go down as one of the best in the 50 years of CMA awards, proving just how influential Stapleton has become as a songwriter and artist.
2. Alan Makes CMAs Regret their “Choices”
The producers of the 1999 CMA Awards probably wished they wouldn’t have made some of the choices they did that year. George Jones was invited to perform during the awards show, but would only be allowed to perform a shortened version of his song, “Choices.” Not wanting to do that, Jones decided to skip the performance and the awards show all together. Alan Jackson was not happy with the CMA’s decision. During his performance of “Pop a Top,” the singer stopped midway through and began singing the Jones hit. Alan has said that he wasn’t sure if he was going to do it until he was up on stage and gave a signal to his band. The decision was met with a huge round of applause from the audience. As soon as the performance was over, Jackson walked off and out of the Grand Ole Opry House before the ceremony was finished.
1. Then. Now. Forever Country.
Though not a moment from a CMA Awards show, my favorite CMA Moment is the organization’s “Forever Country” song and music video. A collaboration featuring 30 CMA award winning artists, the song is a mashup of three of country’s most timeless songs: “Country Roads,” “On the Road Again,” and “I Will Always Love You.” This song has a personal meaning to me, which is why it tops my list.
This year hasn’t gone as planned. I intended to be pursuing my career in country music in Nashville by the time fall rolled around. That plan was derailed back in July when I was forced to undergo emergency spinal surgery. The road to recovery has been a long and emotional one. I spent three weeks in the hospital and months in a wheelchair before I finally regained enough strength to stand up on my own. Today, I am finally able to walk, though just at a slower pace for now. Throughout the recovery process, moments of doubt began to fill my mind and I began questioning if a career in the industry would ever happen for me. I could feel that flame extinguishing from inside me and I became extremely close to throwing in the towel on my dream career.
I first heard “Forever Country” on the day the single was released. I was in the gym doing my usual leg workout to improve my mobility. I’ll never forget being on the verge of tears as I heard each and every artist’s voice throughout the song. As the song progressed, it became increasingly more difficult to keep my composure. However, when Carrie Underwood’s part hit, I lost it. At first I didn’t know why I was so emotional, but the more I listened to it, the more I realized why. The song encompasses everything I have always loved about the genre: real life stories, collaboration, a sense of family, and deep history. It reminded me just why I began to pursue a career within the country music industry.
That’s the moment I knew what I had to do. The song help me realized that having back surgery was just a minor bump in the road. It provided motivation for me to work even harder in getting back on my feet so I can continue to do what I love…and that’s to continue chasing a crazy dream. So thank you to the Country Music Association, to each and every artist involved, and to Shane McAnally for lighting that fire within me again.
Make sure to tune into the 50th annual CMA Awards live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, November 2nd on ABC!! From what I’ve heard, it promises to be an incredible and powerful show! Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat as I’ll be in Nashville on the day of the awards ceremony so I’ll be LIVE tweeting throughout the entire show, and you never where I could end up during the festivities!