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The CMA Awards 2021

Written by on February 28, 2022

By Gabriella Raful

Before the show even started, the excitement around the Country Music Awards was buzzing throughout the streets of Nashville. Late morning on November 10, I walked past the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville TN and to my surprise, noticed people waiting outside of the arena at noon, six hours prior to the show. These fans camped out across the street of the arena hoping to wave to some of the artists as they went in or out of the building. Though I did not join the crowd and camp out across the arena six hours prior to the show, I did get to see Scotty McCreery entering the building in the few moments I was there. Prior to the show, I went back a little early and had the opportunity to witness several artists like Maren Morris, Ryan Hurd, Luke Combs and his wife Nicole Hocking, Dan and Shay, and Dierks Bentley walk onto the red carpet.

Entering the CMAs, many guests of the show were dressed up, with women in gowns and men in suits and ties. After taking our seats, the countdown to going live on air began. For the first time in 18 years, CMAs hosting duties belonged to only one person: Former Entertainer of the Year and current American Idol judge Luke Bryan. He previously stated getting the offer was a “pinch-me moment” and admitted he “put a lot of thought into” taking the gig. Bryan was under a lot of pressure as he was the  CMAs’ first solo host in 18 years, since Vince Gill in 2003. One comment that stuck with the crowd was Bryan’s joke about which country stars may be “immunized,” quoting unvaccinated Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This was soon followed by a side-eye glare from Carrie Underwood, Rodgers’ wife. However, the highlight of the opening was a surprise guest appearance by Bryan’s fellow Idol judges Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, who thought he needed some “help” presenting Single of the Year. From the start, the energy from the crowd and performers was electric.

The performances of the night were stellar, starting off with Miranda Lambert as she opened the show with her 2005 hit, “Kerosene,” along with her popular songs, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Bluebird,” “Little Red Wagon,” and “Gunpowder & Lead,” in a stellar career-spanning medley. Lambert’s medley proved why she has been one of country’s most well-known stars from soothing sing-alongs to breakup bangers. Lambert crushed her performance, on her birthday nonetheless!

Next up, Eric Church and Joanna Cotten performed “Heart on Fire,” which captured the vibrant energy of his live shows, including literal fire and a guitar solo. This performance culminated in a heated sing-off between Church and his longtime backing vocalist Joanna Cotten. Jimmie Allen also performed his latest hit, “Freedom Was a Highway,” soon after winning New Artist of the Year.

Allen’s performance was followed by my personal favorite of the night, Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean’s first ever live performance of “If I Didn’t Love You.” The passion in their voices got the entire crowd on their feet.

Some other performance highlights that stood out were Dan and Shay’s performance of “I Should Probably Go to Bed,” on a stage in the middle of the crowd which was elevated high in the air. Additionally, Old Dominion performed their rendition of “I was on A Boat That Day,” and Kane Brown and Chris Young performed their new song, “Famous Friends.”

Mickey Guyton made a huge statement as she performed, “Love My Hair.” Guyton’s performance turned it into an even bigger moment, as she grabbed fellow singers Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards to join her. Faith Fennidy, who inspired the song after being sent home from school for having braids, introduced the trio, and described Guyton’s song as “turning something very painful into something very positive.”

Before winning Entertainer of the Year, Luke Combs debuted his brand new song, “Doin’ This,” which showcases his passion for singing country music. Shifting from tender notes in the verses to powerful belts in the choruses, the song truly demonstrates Combs’ range.

Recently, there has been a shift between established performers winning top awards and newer stars now taking the lead. This year several up and coming artists performed, such as Breland, Brittney Spencer, and Madeline Edwards. Not to mention, Lainey Wilson took advantage of her presenter role and sang “Strawberry Wine” with Deanna Carter. Seeing Carly Pearce’s reaction to winning Female Vocalist of the Year was extremely inspiring, as she had tears of joy in her eyes. However, Chris Stapleton walked away with the most awards of the night, taking home trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, as well as Single and Song of the Year.

While the Osborne Brothers won Vocal Duo of the year, this was not the biggest surprise of their win, as they have taken home this trophy four times. TJ Osborne, who recently shared that he is gay, kissed his boyfriend after the win was announced. This gave a newfound importance to the win as he stated, “To have you all support me, it really does feel like love wins tonight. Thank you.” Later in the night the brothers performed their single, “Younger Me,” their first release since TJ came out.

Though Entertainer of the Year seemed like it would go to Stapleton, Combs took home the trophy for the first time. Although it doesn’t seem like it, Combs is still a new face to country music and his latest album, What You See Is What You Get, is only his second. He is also the youngest of the five Entertainer of the Year nominees at 31. That being said, this award was a nice surprise and well deserved.

Being able to attend the Country Music Awards was truly a privilege as the performances were stellar. Not to mention, experiencing what goes on behind the scenes of a televised award show was interesting. This two hour show was truly memorable to all, as the excitement in the air was unmatched.