The countdown is on until tonight’s 2018 CMT Artists of the Year honors, which air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.
This year’s all-female lineup of honorees has everyone anticipating a night of surprises and magical moments, and we think you’re going to see all that and more as Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Hillary Scott, Miranda Lambert, and Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild are honored for their incredible contributions to country music and the greater world.
We honestly cannot wait! Here are our CMT.com staff picks of moments we’re most looking forward to tonight, in no particular order.
Annie Up, Y’all
The CMT Artists of the Year is the only place to see Pistol Annies premiere new music from their album Interstate Gospel live from Nashville. The collection arrives Nov. 2, and they’re only performing three shows this fall with engagements at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 25, The Town Hall in New York City on Nov. 2 and The Novo in Los Angeles on Nov. 7 Lambert heads to the show as a three-time honoree following recognitions in 2012 and 2014. “I think it’s cool to see because all the women on this show are all different kinds of artists,” Lambert tells CMT.com, “and it represents not only that it’s an all-female show, which is really cool, but it’s all different types of artists of all different types of ages. I feel honored to be there.” — LT
We Love You, Loretta
I am literally counting down the hours and minutes until the Loretta Lynn tribute tonight. Mostly because I love to watch country singers singing country songs. But also because I can think of no better man to honor the women of country music than “Woman, Amen” singer, Dierks Bentley. He is one of only a handful of guys taking the stage during the show dedicated to the ladies of country, so whatever he has up his sleeve when he joins Sheryl Crow and Martina McBride to honor Lynn, I know it will be one of the stand-out highlights of the special. — AB
Maren + Brandi: BFFs
Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile: two names that just belong together on a duet. I won’t lie, there is a huge possibility that I will be crying my eyeballs out over the sheer power of both their pristine and incredibly soulful vocals tonight. Singularly, they’re already unstoppable. Together, it will be otherworldly. I really, really want to see Carlile given more love on the mainstream country circuit and am so glad she’s a part of the show this evening. It couldn’t be more appropriate, as she’s getting ready to host an all-female festival, her Girls Just Wanna Weekend, in January, which will feature Morris as a headliner. At this point, do we even need to ask “who run the world?” Oh, what the heck: GIRLS. — SS
Two Angelic Voices
No one will want to miss the rare collaboration between Kelsea Ballerini and Alison Krauss. Ballerini heads to the show as a two-time honoree after having been recognized in 2016 with her longtime idol, Shania Twain. “The first time I met her I was like I can’t even make words,” Ballerini tells CMT.com. “It wasn’t just her music; it was the way she did everything. It was the way she was like, ‘I’m going to write songs how I want to, and I’m going to make music videos how I want to, and I’m going to wear what I want to because it’s what I want, and this is how I’m going to do it.’ And I think that’s bold.” — LT
Midnight Train…to Nashville
Nobody doesn’t love Gladys Knight, right? So when the Empress of Soul gets up on the stage tonight to sing with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, I know that they’ll treasure every minute of that performance. Probably just as much as the rest of us are treasuring it. And with all that influence and inspiration between the three powerhouse singers, I know they’ll choose cover songs that are a little off the beaten path. — AB
Hillary Gets a Little Help from Her Friends
Yep, that’s exactly how we feel about Hillary Scott’s moment tonight already. Tori Kelly, it is so good to see you back in our world. With Hillary Scott. And Kirk Franklin. What is this magic happening later tonight?! We can’t say for sure, but two thoughts come to mind: soul and harmony, and we are here for all of it. Kelly made a splash in country music appearing on Chris Lane’s smash “(Take Back) Home Girl,” and her voice paired with the sweet lilt of Scott is already giving us goosebumps. The addition of Kirk Franklin is icing on the cake and a cherry on top. It’s Wednesday night, folks. Prepare to be taken to church. — SS
A Cry Pretty Preview?
I already bought my tickets for Carrie Underwood’s 2019 Chicago show, but it’s literally more than a year away. So I’m hoping that her performance tonight with her tour mates Maddie & Tae and Runaway June gives us all a little taste of things to come. I don’t think her decision to tour with women was about any kind of girl-power agenda. It’s just about great country music. And I know the medley of songs they’ll collaborate on tonight will take us on a trip down memory lane, which runs right through the heart of Nashville. — AB
The 2018 CMT Artists of the Year ceremony airs live tonight (Oct. 17) from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Stay in the conversation by using the #CMTAOTY on socials.