Wednesday’s 49th Annual CMA Awards is one Chris Stapleton will remember for the rest of his life. Not only did he get pop superstar Justin Timberlake to join him for a performance of his song, “Tennessee Whiskey” and Justin’s “Drink You Away,” but the newcomer pulled off a clean sweep – winning all three categories in which he was nominated, including New Artist of the Year and Album of the Year for Traveller. After his Male Vocalist win, Chris joked, “Probably gonna be a party tonight.”
Then, Stapleton got a little emotional, telling the audience, “Two years ago I lost my dad and I made my record and I think a lot about the music he would’ve liked.” He also thanked his family and declared, “I’m not gonna take it lightly.”
Luke Bryan acknowledged Stapleton while accepting the award for Entertainer of the Year, noting, “Watching Chris Stapleton have this night is so uplifting.”
It was Luke’s second Entertainer of the Year win – he won the award for the first time last year. During his speech he thanked everyone from his label to his fans, including a special thank you to his wife Caroline for letting him “go out on the road so many times and do what I love for the people that I love — our fans, our friends, our family.”
Wednesday was also a big night for Miranda Lambert, who continued her dominance in the Female Vocalist of the Year category, winning for a sixth straight time. In an obvious reference to her divorce from Blake Shelton this past July, Miranda confessed, “I appreciate it. I needed a bright spot this year.”
Little Big Town also came out on top, nabbing their fourth consecutive Vocal Group of the Year award. Making the night even more special, the band was celebrating a big anniversary. Said band member Kimberly Schlapman, “17 years ago this very month we became a band.”
LBT also bagged Single of the Year honors for “Girl Crush,” which caused some controversy over its lyrics, thought by some people to be about a lesbian affair. The band’s other female member, Karan Fairchild, thanked country radio for “having the guts to play it,” adding, “The fans want to hear it.”
Rounding out the night’s winners were Florida Georgia Line, who won their third Vocal Duo of the Year award. The a capella group Pentatonix saluted new Country Music Hall of Fame inductees the Oak Ridge Boys with a version of the quartet’s classic, “Elvira.”
The show opened with a Star Wars parody featuring Little Big Town as the Cantina band, and hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as “Guitar Solo” and “Princess Carrie,” respectively. Coincidentally, Underwood took her husband Mike Fisher’s last name when they wed, making her Carrie Fisher, the same as the actress who played Princess Leia.
Luke Bryan played “Garth” Vader. In a nod to an early teaser for the new Star Wars, which stirred up a racist backlash when it was revealed that African-American actor John Boyega was a Stormtrooper, Darius Rucker appeared in the parody as – you guessed it — a Stormtrooper.
In keeping with their tradition, Carrie and Brad sang a song to kick off the show. This year, they focused on some of 2015’s more unusual events in a parody of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” called “Cray Cray.”
As anticipated, Paisley and Underwood also poked fun at Shelton and Lambert’s divorce – albeit in a sneaky way. Noting all the couples who have broken up this year, Carrie described “the one that rocked our world…two people in this room we all know and love and…splitsville.” The camera then flashed to a shot of, not Shelton or Lambert, but of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy seated in the audience, Carrie continued, “We just want you to be happy.” Added Brad, “On a completely unrelated topic….Howdy, Blake!”
The monologue also featured a cameo from William Shatner in a Stormtrooper outfit.
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