The 2021 CMA Awards LIVE Blog

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 2021 CMA Awards LIVE blog. For the entirety of the decreasingly-relevant broadcast, thoughts pointed remarks, keen observations, outright snark, and probably a few swear words and errant typos will be presented in real time, and credit will also be given where credit is due.

And of course, your feedback and observations are welcome as well, so please feel free to pipe up in the comments section.

To see a list of nominees and predictions, CLICK HERE.

WARNING: Language
All Times Central Time.


Entertainer of the Year – Luke Combs
Album of the Year – Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over
Song of the Year – Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over”
Single of the Year – Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over”
Female Vocalist of the Year – Carly Pearce
Male Vocalist of the Year- Chris Stapleton
Vocal Duo of the Year – Brothers Osborne
Vocal Group of the Year – Old Dominion
Musician of the Year – Jenee Fleenor

Musical Event of the Year – Kenny Chesney and Kelsea Ballerini – “Half of My Hometown
Video of the Year – Kenny Chesney and Kelsea Ballerini – “Half of My Hometown”

10:17 – It’s really hard to know what to feel about the 2021 CMA Awards, or awards shows in general in 2021. When the ratings come out, it’s likely to be another double digit loss. It’s not necessarily the fault of the CMAs. It’s just awards shows do not feel long for this world, at least as currently constructed.

Obviously, it was Chris Stapleton’s night, again. Hard to say he didn’t deserve it considering the competition, and that Morgan Wallen’s disqualification left a void. Jennifer Hudson clearly stole the show, which always seems to happen when someone outside of the genre is invited in, and shows us all what real talent looks like.

Carly Pearce also had a potentially career-defining night, not only with one of the best performances with Ashley McBryde, but taking home a slightly surprising, but clearly deserved Female Vocalist of the Year award. She is the future of women in country music, and if that’s the case, country music is in good hands moving forward.

And Luke Combs finally got the award he’s probably deserved for years now. The narrative for the media coming out of this will be the lack of female and diverse representation, but that doesn’t mean all the wins weren’t deserved, including Jimmie Allen for New Artist in a pretty weak field, and Brothers Osborne for Duo as the protest vote against Dan + Shay.

Many of the performances are what dragged this presentation down. Nothing was downright terrible, but few were memorable. With so many entertainment options for consumers, if you can’t offer something world-beating, you won’t compete. If the CMA’s are to survive, they have no other choice but to open up the stage to artists such as Billy Strings, Charley Crockett, Emily Scott Robinson, who can offer something you can’t find anywhere else, as opposed to the same old generic songs and acts.

10:06 – THANK YOU to everyone who followed along! I am going to compose some final thoughts on the night, recap the winners, and get out of here.

10:04 – Honestly, Luke Combs has deserved this award the last two or three years. And he may win it for two or three years to come. Stapleton may never win it now, neither may Miranda or Carrie Underwood. But it’s hard to argue with the pick.

10:03 – Luke Combs: “Alan Jackson just said my name. Twice.”
10:01 – WINNER – The 2021 CMA Entertainer of the Year is Luke Combs.

10:00 – Alan Jackson shouldn’t be relegated to just presenting an damn award. He should be performing a retrospective of “Murder on Music Row” with George Strait, which won the CMA Song of the Year 20 years ago this week, and remains as relevant as ever.

9:57 – Should have saved that one for Luke Combs.

At this point, Stapleton and his team probably don’t want to be winning this many awards. Now Entertainer of the Year is his to lose.

One things for sure. Even if Stapleton never releases another song, he’s a Hall of Famer.

9:56 – WINNER – The 2021 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year is Chris Stapleton.

Hope he brought the truck, not the car to haul all this hardware home.

9:53 – I mean, after watching Jennifer Hudson, and then watching this Luke Bryan performance just puts it all in perspective. It’s not that country music doesn’t have talent. It’s brimming with it. But it doesn’t make it onto the CMA Awards. Where’s Billy Strings? Tyler Childers?

9:44 – I’m glad that T.J. Osborne is accepted in country music, and feels so. It validates all the accusations against country music for being unaccepting are (mostly) unfounded. But like so many of the acts tonight, Brothers Osborne just aren’t that country, and their latest album “Skeletons” was a dud seven different ways. Their performance did little for me.

9:41 – Carly Pearce was playing bluegrass at the age of 11. She dropped out of school at 16 to play Dolly Parton’s Dollywood 6 days a week, 5 times a day. She’s played the Opry 80 times. Carly Pearce IS country music. Very well deserved Female Vocalist of the Year.

9:38 – WINNER – The 2021 CMA for Female Vocalist of the Year is Carly Pearce.

9:37 – Jimmie Allen – All the boringness of Kane Brown, and the generic-ness of Old Dominion.

9:35 – Remember in 2nd grade, when you would make designs with Elmer’s glue on construction paper, and then dump glitter on it and sift the remaining loose stuff off? Jimmie Allen’s getup, ladies and gentlemen.

9:33 – Hey, Mary Stuart! He gets pointed out in the crowd for being a new Hall of Fame inductee.

But of course Luke Bryan doesn’t mention Connie Smith right beside Marty, who is also a Hall of Famer, because Luke Bryan has no idea who she is.

9:30 – Jennifer was winding down, but still not cool they cut her off a little short to go to commercial. She just MADE your damn show. Show a little respect.

9:28 – Told you Jennifer Hudson would show up everyone on this presentation, but Lord, wasn’t expecting that. WOW.

9:23 – Jennifer Huson comes out singing “Night Life” written by Willie Nelson. Willie sold the song for $150 to Paul Buskirk in 1960. Like literally, the whole song, the rights to it and everything. It’s since been recorded by some 400 different performers.

9:19 – Man, all this product placement “generosity” marketing rubs me the wrong way. Doesn’t mean teachers, the military, and everyone else doesn’t deserve our praise because they do. But can you give them praise without trying to sell us shit? It would be more sincere.

9:15 – With every Chris Stapleton win, the hate for him rises. Good chance he will win Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year too. Why not? But it’s not his fault country music is so talent bereft that the only undeniably talented guy (however tired of that talent folks might be) sucks up all the awards. Better he’s defining this generation of mainstream country than Morgan Wallen.

9:13 – That riser is higher than Katy Perry.

9:12– Gee, hope Dan + Shat don’t fall off that extremely tall riser. That would break my little heart.

9:09 – Chris Stapleton had to win. It was the only actually good ALBUM. “29” by Carly Pearce was great too, but was an EP that was quickly replaced by an LP, making it dumb to award.

And I’m telling you, and lot of think piece writers out there that already pre-wrote their articles about Morgan Wallen winning (which he never was going to) are absolutely crushed right now.

9:06 – WINNER – The CMA for Album of the Year goes to “Starting Over” by Chris Stapleton.

9:05 – Thomas Rhett exemplifies the discrepancy between proven pedigree and outright nepotism in country music. If it wasn’t for daddy, Rhett would be trying to upsell you on the warranty package on a new Volvo.

9:04 – Sorry Thomas Rhett, but to be “Country Again,” you had to be country in the first place. You dweeb.

9:03 – Luke Bryan is the worst host in CMA Awards history.

9:02 – Why is Lady A still a thing?

8:57 – Finally one of my predictions came true, only because the strange success of Old Dominion is so overhyped and predictable. They’ve now won Group of the Year four years in a row, and the only song I can remember from them is the one they just performed because it scarred me so deeply. The epitome of generic.

8:55 – WINNER – The 2021 CMA for Vocal Group of the Year goes to Old Dominion.

8:53 – Luke Combs comes out to debut a new song called “Doin’ This.” And just like most Luke Combs songs, it a bit more country, is passionately performed, and still leaves you a bit flat. Still, he’s the leader country music needs, shouting out and collaborating with important songwriters, and hard not to root for over the competition.

8:48 – Luke Combs should eat Luke Bryan.

8:47 – Russell Dickerson looks like Beaker from the Muppets.

8:45 – Prediction: Jennifer Hudson comes out to tribute Aretha Franklin in a complete non-sequitur for a country show, and blows all these crackers off the stage.

8:40 – Chris Stapleton’s talent is undeniable. It is generation defining. Both as a singer and a guitar player, as he proves performing “Cold.” You just wish is was more country, and just more … “something” so you could root for him harder. Still, you can help but feel blessed it’s him up there performing and winning all the awards, NOT Florida Georgia Line, NOT Kane Brown, NOT Sam Hunt.

8:37 – Chris Stapleton comes out to sing “Cold” with Dave Cobb playing rhythm guitar. I believe the Americana Instrumentalist of the Year Kristin Weber whose played on a lot of your favorite independent releases is also back in the string section.

8:37 – Use your words, Gomer.

8:34 – I feel seasick enough to projectile vomit my supper against the wall watching Old Dominion perform their dumb boat song. Damn boat songs are getting as ubiquitous as truck songs.

8:32 – Song of the Year and Single of the Year NEED to be different, not interchangeable. One is supposed to be the commercial powerhouse. The other is supposed to be a substantive, year-defining masterpiece. “Starting Over” is a fine song, but I don’t know that it’s either of those.

8:28 – As much as I wanted to like the Mickey Guyton performance, the hair was as over-the-top as the sentimentality. I think she would have been better served performing “All American” or “Black Like Me” solo, and showcasing her voice, which is her strongest asset. This tried too hard.

8:26 – Faith Fennidy who was the young woman who inspired Mickey Guyton’s “Love My Hair” introduces Guyton, with Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards.

8:23 – Cool to see not just Dave Cobb, but Vance Powell on the CMA Awards stage with Chris Stapleton. Powell has engineered all kinds of great albums, including Sturgill Simpson’s “High Top Mountain.”

8:22 – WINNER – The CMA Single of the Year goes to Chris Stapleton for “Starting Over.”

8:21 – Deana Carter, and the great Lainey Wilson sing a quick a capella version of “Strawberry Wine.” Thanks goodness for the small gifts.

8:19 – Ooh, a Deana Carter sighting! Let her fucking perform.

8:16 – “If you sell out hard and become a puppet for the industry like me, you can be a middling washed up pop country 50-something tool clinging to relevancy like me.”

–Keith Urban

Thanks for the pep talk, you prick.

8:15 – Already can tell from the level of online chatter, ratings for these awards are going to be abysmal. No big legends. No big outside-the-genre collaborations. It all just feels so flat. Just don’t know how long these things are for this world.

8:11 – Dude, all of these songs just suck. “If my neck don’t come out red, just keep me dead.” Who thinks this shit is good? If this is the future of country music, I don’t want to be resurrected.

8:09 – Over an hour into a country music awards show, and we finally hear the first prominent steel guitar, and it’s behind Blake “Old Farts and Jackasses” Shelton.

8:08 – Good to hear fiddle player Jenee Fleenor won Musician of the Year again. She’s playing guitar here though.

8:07 – Carrie and Jason Alean were fine I guess. I just can’t stand that dude, or his wife’s dumb Instagram T-shirts.

8:04 – Um, what’s up with the post-Apocalyptic smashed piano stage prop behind this performance? I’m missing the symbolism, aside from trying to get through this performance is like trying to survive a extinction-level asteroid strike.

8:03 – Screw Jason Aldean.

8:00 – Going back to New Artist of the Year, it felt pretty much baked in that Mickey Guyton was going to win it, even though calling her a “New Artist” at this point feels almost like a euphemism. I think when her album flopped (and it flopped), Jimmie Allen made for the next safe bet. By sales and influence, Gabby Barrett is who probably deserved it.

7:58 – I guess briefly seeing Willie Nelson on the back screen of a bad Chris Young/Kane Brown collaboration is about as close as we’ll get to seeing a country legend tonight. Hopefully Kane can find his way back home tonight without a police escort.

7:56 – Kane Brown’s 14-year-old predominantly female fans are wondering at the moment why he’s performing with their dad. (Eww! Who’s that old creep?!?) Perhaps nobody’s pissed more talent away trying to stay relevant than Chris Young.

7:54 – Jimmie Allen is not that good. But you got to respect the dude. He’s a fighter, and gave a heartfelt speech through the tears.

7:53 – Jimmy Allen dressed like he should be shooting up the Batmobile with a Tommy Gun.

7:53 – WINNER – The CMA for New Artist of the Year goes to Jimmie Allen.

7:52 – Imagine a music world where Gabby Barrett’s “Good Ones” is one of the deepest, most substantive songs out there. How empty.

7:51 – More fiddles, less violins.

7:49 – A+ on the Gabby Barrett visual presentation. This song does nothing for me, but not bad.

7:47 – Looks like Katy Perry got her hands on some of that Astro-World Fentanyl.

7:44 – Welp, Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde came out and killed it, but now there’s virtually no other performances to look forward to. Hopefully somebody surprises us. I’m more exited about Jennifer Hudson than anyone else.

7:41 – I’m glad Zac Brown has decided to go back to his roots. Again. But after the dude was out there white boy rapping about Gucci bags and Veyron whips, I just can’t take him seriously anymore.

7:38 – Brothers Osborne are a favorite anti-vote by the CMA. That’s how they won Vocal Duo three consecutive times between 2016-2018. The most important thing to take from their win is it wasn’t Dan+Shay.

7:36 – WINNER – The 2021 CMA Vocal Duo of the Year goes to Brothers Osborne.

7:35 – I’m pretty sure my drunk uncle had the same eagle Ashley McBryde has on her chest on the side of his Good Times van in 1982.

7:33 – Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde give you sincere hope for the future of mainstream country music. “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” is great writing, and these ladies took this performance seriously, and are delivering it flawlessly.

7:31 – Interfacing with network TV and all the damn commercial breaks is jarring if you haven’t done it in a while.

7:28 – The Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde performance is about the only other performance I’m looking forward to tonight. I think the CMA’s pulled a big boner not having at least one country legend perform to draw in more of the one demo who actually still watches television.

7:26 – Consistently, the best thing about these awards shows is Church’s backup singer Joanna Cotten, and Carrie Underwood’s gams.

7:24 – I prefer my Eric Church on the stool, doing the solo acoustic thing where he thrives in this setting. But at least this doesn’t feel as canned as the other performances so far.

7:22 – Wow, I hated this “Beers On Me” performance until they name-checked my favorite macro-brew. Now I think it’s genius.

7:21 – Yikes. Three-part disharmony. Not enough time for practice fellas? Dierks is better than this lame, radio-friendly shit.

7:19 – I’d call Breland the Steve Urkel of country music, but Breland’s not country, and unlike Urkel, he’s not in any way entertaining.

Country music should stop trying to make him a thing. He’s more derivative than Florida Georgia Line. If you want diversity, get some Charley Crockett in there.

7:17 – Stapleton winning Song of the Year right off the bat probably portends well for him the rest of the night. It means voters are willing to pull the lever for him, and that could weigh in with Album of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year.

7:15 – Stapleton hands the mic over to his co-writer Mike Henderson. Great to see Mike get some face time. Guy has been a great writer, performer, and independent label owner for years. Among other things, Mike name drops another deserving songwriter, Kevin Welch. A win for the good guys to start off the show, though “One Night Standards” by Ashley McBryde would have been a good pick as well.

7:12 – WINNER – The CMA Award of Song of the Year goes to Chris Stapleton for “Starting Over.”

7:11 – Katy Perry is wearing a dress made of the tape Amazon uses to seal your moving boxes.

7:09 – Luke Bryan listing off all the performers tonight is like reading off the gauntlet of requirements for a gang initiation.

7:07 – Luke Bryan being about as funny as a positive COVID test for your grandmother.

7:06 – The CMAs addressing the calls for diversity by having the whitest, cracker-ist Caspar Milquetoast American goober host this thing, none other than Gomer Pyle.

7:03 – Looks like we have washed out audio to look forward to for the next three hours. Think that a music presentation in 2021 could figure this shit out.

7:02 – Miranda better mind that arm fringe. Get that stuff stuck in some heavy machinery, she’ll quickly become a damsel in distress.

7:01 – Oh great. A medley.

7:01 – The show opens with Carly Pearce, Mickey Guyton, and Gabby Barrett wearing one of those flying squirrel wind suits introducing Miranda Lambert.

7:00 – Here we go!

6:56 – Some hard, last minute predictions:

Mickey Guyton = Best New Artist
Luke Combs = Best Male Vocalist
Old Dominion = Vocal Group
Dan + Shay = Vocal Duo

Also feeling good that Chris Stapleton could win Album of the Year, and potentially Entertainer of the Year. It feels like Stapleton’s year, and if he doesn’t win it this year, he may never win it. But both Carrie and Miranda are also strong contenders for Entertainer of the Year since CMA voters may want to finally award a woman. And of course, Luke Combs is the actual biggest artists in country music right now. When he starts winning the award, he may not stop for years.

6:54 – An award has already been handed out: Kenny Chesney and Kelsea Ballerini won in Musical Event of the Year for “Half of My Hometown.”

And in a very strange and lame move, Kenny Chesney and Kelsea Ballerini also won Video of the Year for “Half of My Hometown.”

6:50 – A big question many have is if Morgan Wallen will win for Album of the Year. Even though he’s been made ineligible for individual awards this year, he was allowed to still compete for Album of the Year out of respect for his producers and collaborators. If he wins, expect it to be the event that launches 1,000 think pieces.

Truth is, many folks who love to brand country music as wholly racist are hoping for a win by Morgan Wallen just as much as his fans. It will be a boon for business and their media brands. It’s also not very likely to happen.

6:45 – Every year there tends to be some tribute, or some moment toasting country music from the past or a traditional country artist. If this happens in 2021, it will be a surprise. Aside from Alan Jackson presenting, there is nothing paying tribute to anyone on the slate whatsoever. This is a change from past presentations when the CMAs have been showing tribute to the past more and more. Last year there were half a dozen tribute performances, and Charley Pride was the centerpiece of the presentation. We’ll also have to see if they 86 the “In Memoriam” segment. Remember, in 2020, the CMAs were called out by many folks even with all of their tributes for not acknowledging John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, and others.

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