The 51st annual CMA Awards didn’t open with an all-star performance on Wednesday night, although it got to one of those quickly enough. It began instead with Eric Church alone on a half-lit stage, singing “Amazing Grace.” Country music has been battered in recent weeks, and this awards gala – the first to take place since the deaths of 58 fans at Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas on October 1st – didn’t shy away from that fact.
CMA Awards 2017: The Complete Winners List
From Entertainer of the Year to New Artist, here are the winners of the 51st CMAs, 51st CMA Awards,
Church’s performance recalled Jason Aldean’s cold open last month on Saturday Night Live, less than a week after his set at Route 91 was interrupted by the shooting spree of a gunman. Segueing straight into Darius Rucker’s all-star sing-along of Hootie & the Blowfish’s 1994 hit “Hold My Hand,” the opening set the tone for how the CMAs would handle that tragedy: by turning to God and, for the first of many times during the evening, to music from all corners, 51st CMA Awards.
“We do what families do,” Carrie Underwood said during the opening monologue. “We come together and we pray together.” Her co-host, Brad Paisley, took a robust tone, declaring, “The best thing to do is sing our music loud and proud.” Later on, Underwood delivered a touching tribute to those who lost their lives in Las Vegas during her candlelit In Memoriam performance of the hymn “Softly and Tenderly, Cma Awards 2017.
The CMAs’ efforts at healing proved to be a mixed bag, and the monologue played a part. Underwood and Paisley, who celebrated their 10th year emceeing the event, joked about the “guidelines” mandating the awards show as a politics-free zone, spinning it into a musical bit mocking President Donald Trump. But the context wasn’t very funny: organizers had tried to bar mention of topics like gun control, thereby stifling conversation of the issues that must be addressed when tragedies like Route 91 or last weekend’s massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, do occur, Cma Awards 2017.
Those guidelines were ultimately retracted, but the artists remained on their best behavior Wednesday night. The statements of the evening were left to someone like Keith Urban, who offered the live debut of his brand-new song “Female,” which had premiered earlier in the day. Written as a response to the sexual assault scandals that have reached from Hollywood to Nashville, it was well-meaning but slightly tone deaf considering that there wasn’t a single woman on the stage, Cma Awards 2017.
It didn’t help that some of the biggest upsets of the evening tended to go in favor of male performers, who were the only ones nominated for Entertainer of the Year – an honor Garth Brooks claimed for the second straight year. On more than one occasion, those upsets went specifically against Miranda Lambert. While she came away with Female Vocalist of the Year honors, it felt like a consolation prize given that she had already missed out on Album, Song and Single of the Year (the last of those going to Urban), each of which she deserved to win