Tragedy Turned Into Light and Joy Through Music at the 2017 Country Music Awards

The first song I ever knew all of the words to was “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith. I was five-going-on-six years old and my brother and I requested to listen to it on repeat during the forty-five minute drive to visit my dad’s second business for the day. We returned home that night and put on a show, complete with cowboy hats and boots, for my mom to prove to her that we knew all the words and to show her how much we loved this song. Our entire family laughed and played more of Toby Keith’s songs throughout our house for the rest of the night; well, at least until we had to go to bed. To this day, I think back on this moment and know that it was undeniable that my brother and I were going to love country music as we got older.

Last night’s 51st Country Music Awards reminded me of how much love and joy country music can infuse into people’s lives, just like it did in mine on that day 17 years ago and has ever since. Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood opened the show with a message to the victims of all the unthinkable tragedies that have occurred over the past year.

“This has been a year marked by tragedy, impacting countless lives, including so many in our country family,” Underwood began.

But while they honored the victims of all of these tragedies, they chose to use their big night to focus on the positive and use country music as a method of healing.

“The way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music loud and proud,” Paisley added. “Our music lifts people up.”

And play their music loud and proud is exactly what they did. One of my favorite things about the CMAs each years is the countless performances. From superstars singing their hits to collaborations with talent old and new, the show was essentially one long concert that I never wanted to end. I also love seeing all of the other nominees in the crowd supporting their fellow artists and singing along during all the performances.

These performances also always serve as a reminder that the country music community is more collaborative and friendly than competitive and cut-throat; it’s something truly special and can be used for a greater purpose than just creating good music. Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild said it best in her part of the group’s acceptance speech for Vocal Group of the Year: “Tonight should be about harmony and doing what we can together to change things. We can actually change things with the way they’re going – we just have to step out.” This idea only helped feed into the love and positive vibes that already seemed to have overtaken the crowd in Bridgestone Arena. I can only imagine the healing that took place in that room last night.

In case you missed the show, the winners are listed down below. But I highly recommend that you don’t miss next year’s show. Because not only is it entertaining night filled with good music, it warms your heart full of joy and light. Every single time; that’s just what country music does. And this year was no different.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert — WINNER

Reba McEntire

Maren Morris

Carrie Underwood


Male Vocalist of the Year

Dierks Bentley

Eric Church

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton — WINNER

Keith Urban


New Artist of the Year

Luke Combs

Old Dominion

Jon Pardi — WINNER

Brett Young

Lauren Alaina


Music Video of the Year

Little Big Town, “Better Man”

Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

Thomas Rhett feat. Maren Morris, “Craving You”

Miranda Lambert, “Vice”

Brothers Osborne, “It Ain’t My Fault” — WINNER


Vocal Duo of the Year

Dan + Shay

Florida Georgia Line


Maddie & Tae

Brothers Osborne — WINNER


Entertainer of the Year

Garth Brooks — WINNER

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban


Single of the Year

“Better Man,” Little Big Town

“Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban — WINNER

“Body Like A Back Road,” Sam Hunt

“Dirt On My Boots,” Jon Pardi

“Tin Man,” Miranda Lambert


Album of the Year

The Breaker, Little Big Town

From A Room: Volume 1, Chris Stapleton — WINNER

Heart Break, Lady Antebellum

The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

The Weight of These Wings, Miranda Lambert


Song of the Year

“Better Man,” Little Big Town — WINNER

“Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban

“Body Like A Back Road,” Sam Hunt

“Dirt On My Boots,” Jon Pardi

“Tin Man,” Miranda Lambert


Vocal Group of the Year

Lady Antebellum

Little Big Town — WINNER

Old Dominion

Rascal Flatts

Zac Brown Band


Musical Event of the Year

“Craving You,” Thomas Rhett feat. Maren Morris

“Funny How Time Slips Away,” Glen Campbell with Willie Nelson — WINNER

“Kill A Word,” Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens

“Setting the World on Fire,” Kenny Chesney feat. Pink

“Speak to a Girl,” Tim McGraw & Faith Hill


Musician of the Year

Jerry Douglas (Dobro)

Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)

Dann Huff (Guitar)

Mac McAnally (Guitar) — WINNER

Derek Wells (Guitar)

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