2015 CMA Live Blog

Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan
Male Vocalist: Chris Stapleton
Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert
Vocal Group: Little Big Town
Album: Chris Stapleton, Traveller
Vocal Duo: Florida Georgia Line
New Artist: Chris Stapleton
Song: “Girl Crush” – Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey
Single: Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
Music Video: Maddie & Tae, “Girl in a Country Song”
Musical Event: Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, “Raise ‘Em Up”
Musician: Mac McAnally


Final thoughts: Underwhelming show production / sketches, but some surprising, uplifting (to use Bryan’s words) and vindicating awards. Most of all, loved joining my CU gang and readers…until next time! -TS

I won’t let the Bryan win bring me down from the Stapleton high,  but I’ll say that it’s a lousy note for the show to end on. -LW


We survived another year, and one with quite a few pleasant surprises. Big thanks to all participated in reading and commenting, to Leeann and Tara for being my live blogging buddies, and to Jonathan for rocking the CU Twitter! -BF


There are worse things that could have happened tonight than Luke Bryan winning Entertainer of the Year. I’m at peace. Thoughts, CU readers? -TS


If only we could have gotten a surprise Chris Stapleton victory in this category as well. But cool of Luke to give him a shout-out. -BF


Reba presents Entertainer of the Year!

Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan


I’ll be reeling (in a wonderful way) from this Stapleton win for days! -LW


Sweetest, most real speech by Stapleton. What a fine example of country music. Here’s to hoping his influence is felt in the next few years. -TS


The best performance and the best acceptance speech. Chris Stapleton totally rules the night. -BF


Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton

Oh…my…god. I can hardly believe this is real. -BF

Holy! Crap!!! -LW


It’s like seeing old friends again. -BF

Bill (husband) just observed that even though the younger artists don’t honor the veterans by imitating them, they seem to enjoy their performances more than those of their peers. -LW


This is so retro and random, but I’m all in. -TS

9:44 Brooks and Dunn and Reba…oh my! -BF


Great speech  with a shout out to Stapleton and Timberlake by Miranda Lambert. I’m happy for her. -LW

Lambert giving a graceful, brief speech and saying what we’re all thinking: Timberlake and Stapleton owned the show. Shout out to Leeann for being the only one to predict her win. -TS


Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert

Miranda rocking a Christ Stapleton tee! -BF


Solid performance of “Riser” by the perpetually underrated Bentley. Could he snag a Male Vocalist of the Year win in the next half hour? -TS


Just saw that Chris Stapleton is trending worldwide on Facebook thanks to his wins tonight. -BF

Ah, yes, Dierks is a riser. He just keeps plugging along, even though he’s always woefully underappreciated by awards shows. -LW


Dierks Bentley performing “Riser”.


Be sure to check out the Country Universe Twitter feed too. Jonathan is doing a great job live tweeting the show for us there! -LW


It still stinks that Musgraves doesn’t get more airplay, but it sure is great to see that’s she’s become a pretty regular awards show presence. -BF


Musgraves is doing a respectable job, but I have to blame the sound for her not sounding better, because I’ve heard her live  in concert and she sounded much stronger than this. -LW

Feeling all the Texas feels during Musgraves’ performance. I don’t think anyone else could smartly pull off these rainbows and unicorns. -TS


“Dime Store Cowgirl” makes my heart happy. -BF


Kacey Musgraves is here to save the day! -BF

This is one of the performances that I’ll turn up. -LW


In fairness to Aldean, the mix on this is bad and his voice is drowned out. Maybe the engineers didn’t want us to have to hear his voice too. -LW


What snarky thing can I say about this Aldean performance that I haven’t already said about Hunt, Florida Georgia Line,, Luke Bryan, et al? -LW


I don’t understand why we’re still being subjected to Jason Aldean performances. I feel like we should be past this by now. -BF


The sound guys have ruined one too many performances tonight. I was hoping to hear Lambert really dig in with her vocals. -TS

“Bathroom Sink” is so heartbreaking and smart. -LW


Great song, but the sound here is pretty rough. -BF


Yeah! Miranda Lambert with “Bathroom Sink”! -BF


Count “Elvira” as one of my favorite performances of the night. -TS

Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town


I’m just going to think happy, shiny thoughts about Chris Stapleton’s victories during this Luke Bryan dreck. -LW


Luke Bryan performing “Strip it Down”. -BF


Maddie & Tae ironically singing about respect for women when the only full solo female performance tonight has been by the show’s co-host. -TS


I derive pleasure from the fact that Maddie and Tae are singing “Girl in a Country song” right in front of the guilty parties! -LW


Wish we could have gotten a full Maddie & Tae performance. Maybe next year. -BF


There are decidedly less Underwood / Paisley sketches this year, no? On another note, this Shelton song is a guilty pleasure of mine. -TS

The Shelton song doesn’t make me want to die. -LW


Blake Shelton performing now. -BF


Brad Paisley performing “Country Nation”. -BF


I, admittedly, haven’t paid much attention to Ballerini, so I was honestly surprised by just how bad that performance was.  -LW


It’s like they’re determined to embarrass FGL and Ballerini by having them follow such stellar performances / wins. -TS


Y’all, this is happening. I don’t even care what the voters’ motives are – a Chris Stapleton Album of the Year win is a win for all of us. -TS

Kelsea Ballerini performs a snippet of “Love Me Like You Mean It” and then announces the radio station winners. -BF


I’m so proud of the CMA right now!!! -LW


Even the Fall Out Boy collaboration was better than FGL. -LW

Album of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Traveler

Chris Stapleton…this is beyond awesome. -BF


I’d rather see Fall Out Boy perform on this show than Thomas Rhett. I’m actually kind of digging this, though it has no place in this line-up. -TS

Ditto to Tara. It doesn’t belong on the CMA stage, but I did enjoy that performance more than I expected to. -BF


I don’t hate this as much as FGL. That’s a ringing endorsement, huh? -LW


Thomas Rhett and Fall Out Boy performing “Crash and Burn” and “Uma Thurman”. -BF


The Church song isn’t striking me now. Maybe it’ll grow on me. -LW


Sometimes I wonder if Eric Church always wears those shades because he’s maintaining a Hannah Montana-esque secret identity. -BF


Ugh! I’m so sad that FGL are going to be the de facto duo for awhile. -LW

First dissappointing moment of the night. Bummed for Maddie & Tae, who truly deserved this award. -TS

Eric Church with “Mr. Misunderstood”. -BF


Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line

I hope FGL were embarrassed to have to perform after Stapleton and Timberlake. -LW


A small part of me felt bad for FGL for having to follow that epic performance, but then they started singing. -TS

Let’s just take a moment to be thankful that Cole Swindell is only presenting and not performing. -BF


Perhaps FGL coming after Stapleton/Timberlake will help highlight how terrible FGL are to people? -LW


Finally we come to the inevitable Florida Georgia Line performance. -BF


Well, the Stapleton/Timberlake performances were delightful! There’s no way that Stapleton didn’t impress the Timberlake fans who only watched the CMAs for Timberlake. -LW


Sick, first class performances by Timberlake and Stapleton. Expected nothing less. I need a studio recording of their “Tennessee Whiskey.” -TS


Justin Timberlake sure has come a long, long way since his Star Search performance of Alan Jackson’s “Love’s Got A Hold On You” as an 11-year-old country growler! I’m guessing Chris Stapleton was  just born a badass singer though! -LW


I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy this. -LW


Finally…our much-anticipated Stapleton and Timberlake collaboration! -BF


Hard to hear Underwood in this arrangement, but she’s on point. Putting good vibes out there that “Choctaw County Affair” is the next single… -TS


Carrie Underwood with “Smoke Break”. -BF


New Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton

Whoa!! Chris Stapleton!!!! -LW

NO WAY. Thrilled for Stapleton’s New Artist of the Year win. -TS


Cam and Brett Eldredge presenting New Artist. -BF


Oh Little Big Town…what would we do without you? -BF


Little Big Town sounding so good, just as they always do when they sing live! -LW


Little Big Town performing “Girl Crush”! Finally! -BF


Got nervous for a second there that Hunt’s performance would be followed by a win. Two for two with “Girl Crush”! -TS


Song of the Year: “Girl Crush” – Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey


Miss America and Darius Rucker presenting Song of the Year. -BF


Again! Sam Hunt is not country! There’s no clever way to say it! -LW


Sam Hunt with “Take Your Time”. – BF


Commercial break side note: anxious to hear the new Church album that he slyly dropped to his fan club members this week. -TS


Zac Brown not at his best during “Beautiful Drug,” but I’ll take this rock-veiled-as-country over the bro-country that will surely follow this evening. -TS


Kenny Chesney with “Save it for a Rainy Day” -BF


I feel like Carrie and Brad have done well so far! -LW


And finally, the Single of the Year is actually the single of the year. Hoping for more “Girl Crush” love later in the show. -TS


Single of the Year: Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”


Miley sets the bar and we try to reach the bar is my favorite line of the night so far. -TS

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell are our first presenters! -BF

Bob Wills! Texas! -TS


STAPLETON shout-out. Paisley calls him the one of the “best country singers that we have.” Take note, country radio. -TS


I’m loving Shatner in the storm trooper suit. -BF


Ha! They just playfully made fun of Sam Hunt! -LW


Anyone else call that Muppets reference? -TS

I give them credit for the Bruce Jenner joke without being jerks. -LW
 And we have Muppets in the audience. -BF
Return of the Brad and Carrie parodies! Starting with a “Crazy”/ “Cray-Cray” complete with a reference to #SaladGate. -BF
Haven’t been a huge fan of this song, but I’m enjoying this performance. -BF
A little late, but I was amused by the Star Wars intro, thought the Hank Jr./Church performance was fun, but think the Urban/Mellancamp performance is unnecessary. -LW
Keith Urban performing “John Cougar John Deere John 3:16”. -BF
Flying through two duets in the first ten minutes. I was neutral to the Church / Williams Jr. duet but I’m feeling the groove of this one with Urban and Mellencamp. -TS


Keith Urban performing with John Mellencamp. -BF


Star Wars-themed intro: cheesy or awesome? You tell us. -TS


Darius Rucker being the storm trooper was a good one! -Leeann Ward

Hank Jr. and Eric Church have the opening performance. -BF


Kicking of with a Star Wars-themed comedy intro. -BF


Welcome, everyone! Sure feels great to be live blogging again. -Ben Foster


First CMA Awards show I’ve been excited about in awhile (due mostly in part to this rad J. Timberlake / Chris Stapleton duet).  Joining you all the way from the Middle East this time! Let’s do this. -Tara Seetharam


  1. I’m not excited about Stapleton/Timberlake only because Stapleton deserves his own slot, not a duet with someone who will get more attention than him.

  2. I’m excited about it, because I think more people will actually pay attention to him thanks to Timberlake’s broad appeal. Otherwise, so many people wouldn’t even recognize his name. I have faith that Stapleton is so good that once Timberlake fans hear him, they’ll be interested in checking him out more. I also read that this is something that was Chris’ idea, since he and Timberlake are friendly with each other.

  3. I think Keith Urban was outstanding!
    Kenny’s wearing his usual JC Penney outfit that he wears every year.
    Brad & Carrie were good as usual.

  4. Man, imagine hearing “Choctow County Affair” and then this afterwards…That would’ve been heaven. But this is the single best musical moment on the CMAs in many years.

  5. I admire the hope but the Chris Stapleton winning awards thing here means nothing. Country radio isn’t suddenly going to shift what it is doing. The garbage will still overrun the quality.

  6. Kelvin, you may be right, but at least it’s something. And if nothing else, it’s a little extra attention for Stapleton’s album.

  7. I’m not planning to see the show, but FGL winning vocal duo of the year makes me sick. Chris Stapleton winning best new album and best new artist makes me hopeful. I learned this year I couldn’t count on radio anymore in any shape or form. I was introduced to Stapleton because of this website and I bought the album because of here. It’s a personal toss up between Stapleton or Maddie and Tae as my favorite albums of the year. One is hardcore country, the other makes me long for the days when artists like the Dixie Chicks and SheDaisy graced us with beautiful harmonies.

  8. I’d like to also point out that during the Male Vocalist nominee list announcement, Chris Stapleton was the only one not to applaud for himself.

  9. “CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Chris Stapleton.” Say it out loud a few times. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

    I’d love to think that Stapleton-mania will be the start of a real shake-up in the genre, but I’m not holding my breath. Still, this was the best show I can remember in a long time.

  10. Just saw the Stapleton/Timberlake performance and wow that was great. Now there is a mesh of genres I can get behind, Country and Soul. Sounds a whole lot better than Country Anthem Rock or whatever this genre on the radio is right now. It sure as heck isn’t country.

    By the way, Before the end of the year can you guys review Maddie and Tae’s album, and Traveller if you haven’t? Leeann said she was writing the M&T review and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. Still waiting. :(

  11. That new Eric Church song’s melody sounds borrowed from somewhere. When he did the acoustic intro and first chorus I could swear I’d heard it before.

    Maybe a Black Crowes song? Or a Steve Azar song? “The River’s Workin’ or something else from that album? Pirates of the Mississippi?

    Could somebody help me out? I know I’ve heard a song super similar to that intro and pre-chorus. Maybe some rock album track from the ’90s?

  12. I can’t believe it was an hour before someone (Brad Paisley) played a tune accompanied by a fiddle and pedal steel.

    Similarly, what is the deal with country music devolving into bad rap?

  13. I don’t think by any means that Chris Stapleton’s CMA wins will spell the end of bro-country (though I don’t believe I’m alone in wishing it would). But what it does say is that there is perhaps a sizeable pushback against it going on (IMHO).

  14. I agree, Erik. I think the wins for Chris Stapleton and “Girl Crush” show there is a bit of push back going on. I think how awful FGL was in comparison to Chris helped the cause.

  15. Quote by Leeann Ward:

    My only major disappointment was also with the Maddie and Tae loss/FGL win.

    I do have to admit, my mind played with the idea of someone lighting Florida-Georgia Line’s Vocal Duo envelope on fire a la Charlie Rich forty years before.

  16. Only time will tell if this week’s CMA Awards represents the start of a trend or was simply a one-off year for the quality of its’ awards’ choices. Yet, Chris Stapelton’s sweep of the table was glorious; some of us will live off the embers of his accolades for some time to come. He was a worthy recipient as Traveller is as stunning an album as they come, with deep lyrics coupled with a unique voice. If there is one criticism of Traveller, it might be that the songs’ themes might have been more varied; yet, that is a minor quible with an album that otherwise is a masterpiece. And Chris’s performances with Justin Timberlake surprisingly set a very high bar for all future CMAs and award shows generally. (Who would have believed?) His victory was so large, that it is hard two days out now to remember even that he had competitors for some of the awards.

    My one real complaint with the CMAs this year concerned their treatment of Maddie & Tae. They, too, represent a re-drawing of the country map, and they, too, are re-directing the genre back to its roots, with very playful and deep lyrics and amazing harmonies. Given their ages, they are having an amazing impact. The entirety of their new album is astonishing in quality. While there were other worthy recipients of the vocal duo award, the CMA voters have some explaining to do as to why FGL walked away with that award rather than affirming what artists like M&T and others are doing.

    For newer artists, Cam should have been offered a performance role, too, yet at least she had a presence. And Lee Ann Womack’s place on the female of the year roster was just huge. Her significant place in country music history is re-emerging with her fabulous album this year.

    All in all though, Wednesday evening was a fascinating and largely refreshing night.

  17. Chris Stapleton is easily moving to #1 on the albums chart with 150,000 sold. Amazing. He basically sold all of that in 24 hours.

    Brian – I love Lee Ann Womack and she’s made some great music, but how does “significant” describe her place in country music? She hasn’t been overly influential, and she’s really only had a few songs that could be seen as genuine classics in the genre.

  18. Jason:
    Full disclosure: I saw Lee Ann in Philadelphia back in April. Her concert was opened by Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell. Lee Ann ended with Last Call. Wow! I melted through the floor and never recovered. As I said, full disclosure!!

  19. I heard Chris Stapelton’s Traveller single on one of Boston’s two country stations this afternoon. Breath of fresh air! Country radio has risen to the occasion. Thank you, 101.7.

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