The 2017 CMT Artists of the Year celebration took place in Nashville last night, honoring Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban. The event was billed as a night of hope and healing, and it was quite evident that the Route 91 Festival tragedy and recent natural disasters were on everyone’s mind.
Following an opening performance of Little Big Town and Andra Daysinging Day’s track “Rise Up,” this year’s honorees took the stage together, with Luke talking about the power of music and how the hope was that “tonight music could be part of the healing.” Chris added that the night was a chance to “celebrate a year of incredible human spirit, a spirit that we see in our fans every night.”
Jason, who was on stage when the shooting started at the Route 91 Festival, noted that the country’s “been tested beyond our worst nightmares the past few months,” adding “heartbroken doesn’t begin to explain how some of us feel.” He added, “we dedicate this night to you and to everyone who’s experienced loss or tragedy in the past few months…we will get through this together.”
Among the show’s highlights
- Little Big town, Andra Day, Danielle Bradbery and Commonperformed “Stand Up For Something.”
- Lionel Richie introduced his “American Idol” judging partner Luke Bryan with a hysterical story about Luke trying to get him to go hunting and fishing. Luke then performed his hit single “Fast.”
- Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road” was honored as Song of the Year, and while Sam wasn’t on hand to perform it, former “American Idol” champ Phillip Phillips shared his take on the song.
- Chris Stapleton was introduced by Brothers Osborne, who called Chris “one of the voices of our generation,” adding he’s “(bleeping) awesome.” Chris then took the stage with his wife Morgane to perform the very appropriate “Broken Halos.”
- Vince Gill was on hand to introduce Keith Urban, sharing, “he’s like a little brother to me and who wouldn’t want Keith Urban as your little brother” and then joked about him bringing Nicole Kidman home for dinner. Keith then performed a stripped down version of “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
- Backstreet Boys were on hand to introduce their buddies in Florida Georgia Line. FGL didn’t actually perform and instead BSB did the honors performing the duo’s “H.O.L.Y.”
- Luke Bryan returned to the stage to help honor Jason Aldean, noting the “nightmare” he had to face being on stage at the Route 91 Festival. Luke said Jason “responded with dignity, care and respect and in some ways defiance,” adding, “and we are all proud of him especially me,” which received a standing ovation. Jason then took the stage to perform a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” like he did on “Saturday Night Live,” only this time he was, joined by Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton and LBT.