The CMA Awards is thought of as country music’s biggest night -- and it is. All big nights come with great performances, some upsets and elated winners -- and in this case, controversy.
I have been attending the CMA Awards for many years, and sometimes I see things that don’t make TV – like two years ago when Tim McGraw took dollar bills from his wallet and threw them at Luke Bryan while Bryan was performing.
The show responded to recent tragedies well. It started with Eric Church, with a guitar and a single beam of light, singing "Amazing Grace." Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood talked about doing what all families do during times of tragedy -- coming together and singing and crying together. Later in the show, the CMAs acknowledged the deaths in the music industry including Troy Gentry, Glen Campbell, Tom Petty and Don Williams, as well as the 58 victims of the Las Vegas shootings.
Underwood took the stage, while everyone in the audience held up electric candles while she sang her version on the hymn “Softly and Tenderly.” Toward the end of the song, photos of the 58 victims of the Las Vegas shooting were shown on the screen and at the same time Underwood became emotional while singing. Looking around where I was sitting, many people were as emotional as Underwood.
The show was also filled with a lot of fun – upbeat songs from artists. Old Dominion, Reba McEntire and Eric Church were a few of my favorite performances. Other standouts were Dierks Bentley with Rascal Flatts, honoring Troy Gentry, with an appearance by Eddie Montgomery at the end.
As for controversy, Garth Brooks, Entertainer of the Year-winner, lip-synced his hit “Ask Me How I Know.” (Though, this was not as obvious live as it was on TV.)
Because of Brooks' long run in country music, with hit after hit, is he allowed to take the night off and lip-sync? Blake Shelton has since come out in Brooks defense. Brooks said he was in the midst of a few shows and was dealing with being sick, but didn’t want to disappoint fans at the show, or those tuning in to see him preform his latest hit. I won’t bore you with my opinion on the subject.
Another controversial choice was P!nk being a performer this year, albeit receiving much less backlash than Beyoncé last year. I don’t like pop stars in my country awards shows at all, even though P!nk and Beyoncé are great singers.
The following day, I saw P!nk at a local candy shop with her daughter and 2 security guards. She appeared to be living as normal as a life as you can have, being a pop star. A pop star -- just not a country star.
Last year. Alan Jackson, who closed the show this year, walked out during Beyoncé's performance, using the hashtag #KeepItCountry.
Jackson played two great songs, “Chasing that Neon Rainbow” and “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.” I like Jackson, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last month, a lot. He is as country as they come, from songs, to cowboy hats and boots. I liked how the show ended.
However, if you were in the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., there was a bit of time after these performances where no one moved. I think they were unsure if the show was over.
During the telecast, you may have seen Dierks Bentley, who I was seated behind, singing along in the crowd. Bentley was pretty funny all show. When they were teasing the upcoming award, Male Vocalist of the Year, Bentley pretended to go accept the award during this time. The award would be given to Chris Stapleton, who also won Album of the Year.
Brothers Osborne was behind me celebrating their win for Vocal Duo of the Year with a few alcoholic beverages. TJ Osborne was having such a good time, a decent amount of his drink ended up on my dress. Don’t worry, he was quick to apologize.
It is a unique experience to be so close to the stars on their big night -- to see their highs and lows, to see them interacting with each other, taking pictures and having fun. They're real people with really cool jobs.