Our CMA Awards 2023 recap is here. Read on to learn who won big during the biggest night in country music.
This year’s CMA Awards took place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. ABC broadcasted the show live. Hulu is streaming the show beginning Thursday, November 9th.
Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning hosted the show. Opening the event, the duo quickly addressed the most talked-about relationship in the world right now: “We’re back. You know what that means?” Manning said. Bryan replied, “Yep, Travis and Taylor weren’t available.”
The first performance of the night was a duet by Jelly Roll and Wynonna Judd. The pair sang the former’s song “Need a Favor.”
The first major award of the night soon followed. Luke Combs won the Single of the Year for his cover of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. Combs shouted out Chapman during his speech: “First and foremost, I wanna thank Tracy Chapman for writing one of the best songs of all time. I just recorded it because I love the song so much. It’s just meant so much to me in my entire life.”
“Fast Car” Keeps Driving
The song “Fast Car” also won Song of the Year, honoring solely Chapman. She did not attend, but presenter Sara Evans read Chapman’s official statement on stage: “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight. It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut. Thank you to the CMAs and a special thanks to Luke and all of the fans of ‘Fast Car.'”
The next performance of the night was by co-host Luke Bryan. He sang a medley of some of his biggest hits: “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” “One Margarita,” “That’s My Kind of Night,” “Play It Again” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”
Shortly after Bryan’s medley, Ashley McBryde performed “Light On in the Kitchen” from her latest album, The Devil I Know.
Then, Cody Johnson performed hit single “The Painter” from his newly released album Leather.
The next major award of the night, Vocal Duo of the Year, went to T.J. Osborne and John Osborne of Brothers Osborne.
Another performance followed after, with Morgan Wallen and Eric Church duetting Wallen’s song “Man Made a Bar.”
Then, Luke Combs returned to the stage to perform “Where the Wild Things Are” from his album Gettin’ Old.
Following Combs’ performance was country superstar Chris Stapleton. He performed “White Horse” off of Higher, his upcoming album, out November 10th.
Then, Old Dominion won the CMA Award for Vocal Group of the Year, marking the sixth year in a row they’ve won in the category.
Lainet Wilson Breaks CMA Awards Record
Following that, this year’s biggest winner Lainey Wilson sang “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” from her album Bell Bottom Country. The singer and Yellowstone actress went into the 2023 CMA Awards as the most-nominated artist of the year, breaking an all-time record with nine nominations under her belt. She took home five of nine.
Afterwards, Dan + Shay performed their latest hit single, “Save Me the Trouble,” coming from their most recent album Bigger Houses.
The night’s next performance was by Kelsea Ballerini, who sang her heartbreaking song “Leave Me Again.”
Then, The War and Treaty performed their duet “That’s How Love is Made” from their album, Lover’s Game.
Jelly Roll returned to the stage, this time to accept the award for New Artist of the Year. The singer made a moving speech:
“There is something poetic about a 39-year-old man winning New Artist of the Year. I don’t know where you’re at in your life, or what you’re going through, but I want to tell you to keep going, baby. I want to tell you success is on the other side of it, I want to tell you it’s going to be OK, I want to tell you that the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. What’s in front of you is so much more important than what’s behind you.”
Jimmy Buffett Honored
Perhaps the most important moment of the night followed shortly. Several of country music’s biggest stars joined forces to honor their fallen friend Jimmy Buffett, who died on September 1st at age 76. Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally and Zac Brown performed a touching medley of Buffett’s beloved hits, including the iconic “Margaritaville” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”
After the tribute, Lainey Wilson won Album of the Year for Bell Bottom Country. She made a passionate speech about the album’s inspiration:
“You sit around a kitchen table and tell the same ol’ stories you’ve been hearing for years, the kind of stories that get better every single time you hear ’em,” she said. “Stories that make you laugh, make you cry, make you want to drink a beer—just make you feel something. That’s what we wanted to do with this record.”
Chris Stapleton returned to the stage for another performance, this time with Carly Pearce to perform their duet “We Don’t Fight Anymore.”
Then, Lainey Wilson won another award: Female Vocalist of the Year. She made another heartfelt speech:
“This is for all of the hardworkin’ ladies that I know, that I don’t know. I see ya,” she said in her acceptance speech. “For all you little girls watching, and for the ones that are here tonight too, it’s something that I’m doing, I’m getting up every single day and look[ing] at myself in the mirror and saying, ‘I am beautiful, I am smart, I am talented, I am godly, I am fearless.’ If somebody tells me I can’t do it, hold my beer—watch this. Here’s to all the ladies who blaze trails every single dang day of their life.”
Post Malone Wows Country Crowd
Morgan Wallen returning to the stage, this time with Hardy to cover Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green.” Post Malone joined them onstage to sing another Diffie tune, this one being “Pickup Man.” To those familiar with Post Malone’s name, but not with his voice, you may have been surprised by his vocal talent, as he shined on the stage.
The next performance was by Little Big Town, joined by country music icon Tanya Tucker to perform “Delta Dawn.” Tucker was just recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Chris Stapleton won the CMA Award for Male Vocalist of the Year. “Thank you CMAs,” he began. “I’ve won a couple of these, and I’m always shocked that I win one, and I’m humbled to be here tonight to get to stay in such a wonderful crowd of people. I wanna thank my wife, Morgane, who, I don’t do any of this without her—certainly don’t get any of these without her.”
He previously won this award last year and in total has won Male Vocalist of the Year seven times.
Afterward, Lainey Wilson won again: this time for Entertainer of the Year. It is the final award and the most important of the night. Wilson made one last speech: “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the only thing I know how to do. It finally feels like country music is starting to love me back. I love it with my whole heart…Thank y’all for letting me be me.”
To close out the night, one more performance was needed. Jelly Roll and K. Michelle were there to supply the crowd with a final goodbye. The duo sang “Love Can Build a Bridge” by The Judds. It was a beautiful performance and the perfect ending.