Timberlake and Stapleton rocked the house
Miranda Lambert got real
A Caitlyn Jenner joke fell flat
From unexpected guest stars (Captain Kirk?) to knockout performances from reliable acts like Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town, there was plenty of good going on at the 2015 CMAs.
But as with any three-hour awards show, it wasn’t all whiskey and barbecue. Below, check out our picks for the seven best and five worst CMAs moments.
William Shatner dressed as a Stormtrooper
A Star Trek/Star Wars crossover that found Shatner accusing Sam Hunt of ripping off his infamous sing-speak style. For those unfamiliar with Shatner’s “Shatting” style of delivery, he demonstrated by singing Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.” The night’s weirdest, and best, surprise.
Tribute to the Late Little Jimmy Dickens
Hosts Underwood and Paisley paid tribute to the late legend Little Jimmy Dickens, who frequented appeared in CMAs sketches. Mentioning that Dickens wanted to go out making people laugh, they fulfilled his wish by pulling out his purported ashes on stage – and then opening the urn to pull out an even smaller urn no larger than a can of Bud. Mission accomplished.
Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton
“The Nashville sound meets the soul of Memphis” said Brad Paisley as New Artist of the Year winner Chris Stapleton and Tennessee-born pop star Justin Timberlake took the stage together. Trading guitars and verses on each other’s booze-swilling songs, they made Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” sound like old country classics.
Miranda Lambert kept it honest
With her split from Blake Shelton being announced a few months ago (and Shelton’s romance with Gwen Stefani confirmed just hours before the CMAs), Miranda Lambert’s had a rough patch this year. Thanking fans and the CMAs for Female Vocalist of the Year award, she said, “I needed a bright spot this year.”
Chris Stapleton’s tearful acceptance speech
Hardly the favorite according to early predictions, Chris Stapleton was clearly surprised when he won Male Vocalist of the Year. His acceptance speech was the most personal, heartfelt of the night. “About two years ago I lost my dad and I made this record thinking about the music he would have liked,” Stapleton said of Traveller. “This is an unbelievable thing for me and I’m not going to take it lightly.”
Pentatonix singing Oak Ridge Boys
No backing track, no backup singers, no instruments – Pentatonix delivered one of the night’s most unexpected delights with a quick a cappella take on Oak Ridge Boys’ classic “Elvira.” The country crowd responded well to the YouTube-turned-pop stars, giving them a standing ovation.
Eric Church Is Mr. Misunderstood
Eric Church’s surprise album – even more surprising because it came out physically, not online – dropped to his fan club on Tuesday. At the CMAs on Wednesday night, he performed the title track, a Jeff Tweedy-referencing song with melodic shades of Wilco’s “Misunderstood.” Even if you hadn’t heard it prior to the show (which most people hadn’t), it still sounded incredible.
Fall Out vocals
Thomas Rhett singing with Fall Out Boy on their single “Uma Thurman.” They sounded good, the dancers looked great, but Rhett definitely wasn’t familiar with the song (either that or his TelePrompter was off). He seemed to be barely keeping up.
Kelsea Ballerini & Maddie & Tae singing half-songs
In a year where a radio programmer made big waves for sexist comments about women on country radio, it felt weird to have not one but two female performers cut their songs short just to introduce CMA-winning radio stations.
Caitlyn Jenner joke
While it probably wasn’t meant hatefully, Brad and Carrie turned Patsy Cline’s classic “Crazy” into “Cray Cray” and sang a line about, “Bruce’s a babe now.” As her Vanity Fair cover story indicated, “Call Me Caitlyn.”
Joke about Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert that wasn’t about Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert
Considering Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert were country’s most famous couple, the CMA hosts had to make a joke about their split. While leading up to it, they switched gears at the last minute to make the dig about Kermit and Miss Piggy. Why turn it into a just-okay Muppets joke? Well, that’s because The Muppets, like the CMAs, are on ABC.
’Star Wars’ opener
While Carrie Underwood looked great as Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, the Star Wars opener could have used a few actual jokes. Instead, it was just a bunch of country celebs playing dress up. Missed opportunity.