CMT Artists of the Year special honors top country talent

In a night of once-in-a-lifetime performances, unexpected tributes and unforgettable toasts, country music superstars and friends will gather at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center to celebrate honorees: Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Shania Twain and Thomas Rhett during the CMT Artists of the Year special.

Universally loved, Shania Twain receives the biggest honor of the evening as “CMT Artist of a Lifetime” presented by RAM Trucks. Powerhouse vocalists from the worlds of pop, country and R&B – Meghan Trainor, Kelsea Ballerini and Jill Scott – honor Twain in a cross-genre medley of her biggest hits “Still the One,” “Any Man of Mine” and “Man, I Feel Like A Woman.” Twain accepts her award through tears, exclaiming “Holy Beep-it.” Twain speaks of her lifelong love affair with music and dogs, thanking the industry for picking up where her mother left off and setting the stage for her meteoric rise and continued influence across all of music.

The singer also announced she is working on a new album.

“I have new music coming out really soon, and I’m very excited about it. There will be a new musical chapter,” Twain tells Rolling Stone Country.

“I’m a songwriter, a performer, an entertainer, a singer, and I guess collectively a huge pile of hard work has gone into it all over so many years,” she says, reflecting on her Artist of a Lifetime honor. “I started professionally 44 years ago. Almost my entire life has been as a professional artist in one capacity or the other. I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes.”

Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild perform their No. 1 hit “Home Alone Tonight.” Little Big Town presents their friend and tour mate Bryan with his fifth “CMT Artists of the Year” honor, having some fun at his expense. Fairchild quips, “You might not have any balance, but you have a big old heart,” as the group presents him with a new pint-sized training bicycle in reference to his recent bike accident.

After notching three back-to-back No. 1 singles, Kelsea Ballerini nabs only the second “Breakout Artist of the Year” honor; and delivers an ethereal rendition of “Peter Pan” while fellow honorees Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood sing along from their seats. Arsenio Hall presents his “baby sister” Ballerini her award with his signature fist pumps. In an emotional speech, she thanks CMT for their ongoing support of female artists, gushes as she spots Shania Twain in the audience and dedicates the award to her grandfather, who passed earlier in the day.

Thomas Rhett swaps lyrics with international pop star Zara Larsson for a jazz-tinged mashup of his crossover mega hit “Die A Happy Man,” followed by her breakout hit “Never Forget You.” In his first-ever “CMT Artists of the Year” acceptance speech, he thanks his best friends and co-honorees, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan, for their influence and support, and for paving the way for him to do something “kind of weird and different.”

Ten-times platinum duo Florida Georgia Line kick off the show with their anthemic new hit, “May We All.” Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley accept the award from Nashville’s Charles Esten with heartfelt thanks to their family, colleagues and fans; noting “It’s hard to love a music man.”

Chris Stapleton captivates the crowd with a haunting performance of his hit song “Whiskey and You.” As he accepts the honor, he recalls being on the exact stage two years earlier performing fellow honoree Luke Bryan’s hit “Drink A Beer.”

Carrie Underwood delivers a heart-warming performance of her song “Like I’ll Never Love You Again,” backed by co-writers The Love Junkies. After seeing a video of her child on the screen, Underwood notes with tear-filled eyes how hard it is being away from her family. Her closing statement, “Thank God for country music,” receives cheers from the crowd.

7th Annual CMT Artists of the Year encore airings:

Friday, October 21st at 9:30 am ET/PT
Saturday, October 22nd at 6 pm and 12:30 am ET/PT
Sunday, October 23rd at 12 pm ET/PT

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.