COUNTRY MUSIC-IEST: Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” Ceremony-Opener
Lyrics that start “Doublewide Quick Stop midnight T-top, Jack in her Cherry Coke town?” A backdrop of a brokedown, tie-dyed bus? Scruffy dancers raising their red Solo cops in tribute? Yeah, we’re at the right place.
BEST: Miranda Lambert’s Duet with Meghan Trainor
While we were surprised when Trainor’s pop hit “All About That Bass” didn’t segue into one of Lambert’s tunes, we got over it quick: We could listen to these two ladies harmonize (that booty booty) all (that booty booty) night long.
COUNTRY MUSIC-IEST: Loretta Lynn’s Surprise Duet with Kacy Musgraves
“If you’re lookin’ at me, you’re lookin’ at country.” Boy howdy.
BEST: Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s Opening Monologue
There’s a reason the pair have done this seven years in a row. Who else could move so easily from crooning a “Jolene”/quarantine joke to suggesting that Democrats lost control of the Senate because they don’t care about “post-partum Taylor Swift disorder”? And did Underwood really reveal that she’s having a boy?
COUNTRY MUSIC-IEST: Paisley Welcoming Trainor to the Genre… with Denim?
According to the co-host, all the pop star needs is a pair of cutoffs — which he supplied — and a slight refocusing of her catchy song’s lyrics to be a hit with the Music City crowd. You’re the expert, Brad! (Bonus points to Trainor for rolling with it.)
BEST: Kacey Musgraves’ Big Hair
If the higher the hair, the closer to God, Musgraves — who won Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow” — must be besties with the Big Guy himself.
BEST: Dierks Bentley Takes Off
The “Drunk on a Plane” singer had one of the coolest sets of the evening, including a giant aircraft that hung over him while he performed on a mocked-up runway.
WORST: Underwood’s “Baby Shower”
While the visual of Paisley carrying cheeseballs around in a Baby Bjorn was funny, everything else about this bit — in which he gave mom-to-be Underwood country-music-related gag gifts — fell flatter than a stomped Stetson.
BEST: Little Big Town and Ariana Grande’s “Day Drinking”/ “Bang Bang” Medley
Yeah, those light-up outfits made us think of Tron. And “Bang Bang” may be slightly inappropriate for the CMA audience. And the Little Big Town guys doing the Nicki Minaj part was really bizarre. But that drumline started up, and we were all in.
WORST: Kellie Pickler’s Backstage Duty
What’s a reasonably successful country artist gotta do to get a gig inside the auditorium?
WORST: Rayna Was Robbed!
Where was Ms. Jaymes’ trophy? We’d bet the Grand Ol’ Opry that Luke Wheeler had something to do with this…
BEST: “Listen to the Music”
Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, Hunter Hayes and Michael McDonald joined the Doobie Brothers for a rollicking rendition of their hit. Didn’t it seem like everyone up there was having the time of his or her life?
WORST: A Dearth of Garth
Really, CMAs? You bring out country legend Garth Brooks — to present Luke Bryan with Entertainer of the Year — but tease us by having him sing not one note?