Everyone agrees that country music all starts with the song. And on Wednesday’s (Nov. 14) 52nd annual CMA Awards in Nashville, the song was celebrated all night long.
First up was the CMA Award for song of the year, and Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson won the first trophy of the night for Stapleton’s “Broken Halos.”
“I didn’t expect this one. Man, thank you. So many great songs in that category. And I wrote this one with one of my dear friends and heroes, Mr. Mike Anderson,” Stapleton said. Anderson thanked his wife, his family and his lucky stars for letting him live in Nashville where he said that all the cool stuff happens.
The next award went to Luke Combs for new artist of the year. “Whoa,” he said before beginning his long list of thanks to all the usual suspects. Then he cast a bigger net, thanking everyone in the room at the Bridgestone Arena. “Thanks to everybody who believed in me, thanks to everybody in this room who inspired me,” he said. “God, I love country music, man.”
Next up was the award for single of the year, which went to Stapleton, again for “Broken Halos.”
“Lord have mercy,” he said. “First of all, I want to say there’s so many great songs in this category and they all should’ve won. We wrote this song about people who have gone on long before their time, and I’m thinking about the people in California right now, I’m accepting this award and dedicating this to them.”
The vocal group of the year CMA Award went to Old Dominion. The band of five came up on stage, and frontman Matt Ramsey held onto the crystal trophy, saying, “This is beautiful, first of all. We have so many reasons to be grateful. Our families grind away when we’re gone, our management company treats us like a family, our label respects what we do, our moms and dads are here, we have songwriters who write with us, we have people who inspire the songs. We love you more than you’ll ever know.” At the end, Ramsey held the award high and said, “We’ll try and live up to this.”
The winner for the CMA’s album of the year was Kacey Musgraves for Golden Hour. It was her first win in the category. “This is really, really, really crazy timing, because I just realized this morning, it sounds like a lie,” she said, “ten years ago today I moved to Nashville.” She thanked her co-producers, management, label, band and crew, and she said the album was inspired by everyone in the beautiful universe.
By the second half of the show, the CMA was ready to present more awards, like the vocal duo of the year. Brothers Osborne won for the third time in this category. “I don’t know why we keep winning this,” the eldest brother John said. “If this was in Florida, there would definitely be a recount,” T.J. Osborne added. John went on to say that he grew up as a self-described total nerd, in his bedroom, by himself, playing guitar. “And I stuck with it for a very long damn time, and if you stick with it for a long time you can do it, too. Work hard, be diligent, be good to people, and this can be yours as well,” he said.
The CMA seemed to be saving the best for last, holding their biggest awards until the end of the show. The male vocalist of the year wasn’t announced until the last half hour of the night. It went to Stapleton, and was his fourth win in the category. When he approached the mic for the third time of the night, he looked down at the trophy reverently and said how proud he was of the win. “I try real hard to be a good singer, but I want to thank my kids who put up with me being gone quite a bit and not getting to be as good of a dad as I would always like to be,” Stapleton said to his growing family. “I love you so much, and you share me with all these people and I appreciate it. I want to thank my wife for always being my rock and taking care of me and helping me find the right thing to be and the right thing to do.”
When it was time for the female vocalist, the competition was fierce. But at the end of the night, the CMA Award went to Carrie Underwood, for the fifth time.
“Thank you God. I have been blessed with so much in my life,” she said through her tears. “Still, every day, trying to figure out why, because I haven’t done anything to deserve it. But thank you God, thank you family, thank you country music, thank you country music family. It’s all about family around here. This means so much. Thank you.”
The very last CMA Award of the night — the grand finale — was for the coveted entertainer of the year. This year, it went to Keith Urban. He’s only taken this award home once before, in 2005. While he began his acceptance speech this year, the cameras went right to a tearful Nicole Kidman who was watching her husband pick up the trophy he so deserved. He was crying, too. “I’m shocked beyond shocked,” he said, thanking Kidman and their two young daughters, his team and ultimately, his fans. “You are phenomenal. Thank you so much. Above all, just God I thank you so much for the blessings of this,” Urban said. “I wish my dad was alive to see this, but I think he’s watching over me tonight. And I just feel very, very blessed, and very grateful that I get to do what I do.”
At the very end, Urban added a heartfelt close to the show. “God bless country music,” he said, “and God bless y’all.”
See the full list of CMA Awards winners on CMT.com.