The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards were last night, and they signaled a changing climate for the traditionally very-white affair. In the past, several artists, including Darius Rucker (who hosted the CMAs in November), Mickey Guyton, Maren Morris, and Carrie Underwood have noted that the awards have lacked representation of women and people in the BIPOC and queer communities.
There was some positive progress Sunday night with Mickey Guyton (hot off a stirring performance of "Black Like Me" at the Grammys this year) co-hosting the ceremony alongside Keith Urban.
In addition to that, four Black artists were nominated in various categories, which is the most ever nominated in one year in the history of the awards (yes, really).
Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, and John Legend were all nominated, and in the end, Allen became the first Black musician ever to win New Male Artist of the Year. Brown also had a history-making night, winning ACM Video of the Year, and becoming the first Black solo artist to do so.
In speaking about his win, Allen told The NY Post, “It’s about time. What I’m hoping it does is open some doors for more Black artists to have success in country and more Black artists to feel comfortable enough to do country if that’s what they want to do.”
Allen also performed “Freedom was a Highway” alongside Brad Paisley at the show.
Several Black artists also gave stellar performances Sunday night, including host Guyton who sang “Hold On;” Kane Brown who performed "Famous Friends" with Chris Young; husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty covering U2's "Pride (In The Name of Love);" and Carrie Underwood and CeCe Winans, who performed a powerful gospel medley.
The ceremony, which was held at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, also saw some other big names win big over the course of the evening.
Luke Bryan, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, won Entertainer of the Year. He accepted the award virtually. Maren Morris (who was tied with Chris Stapleton for most nominations) won Female Artist of the Year, and Chris Stapleton himself won Album of the Year for Starting Over. Thomas Rhett won Male Artist of the Year.
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice's "I Hope You're Happy Now" won Single of the Year and Morris' "The Bones" won Song of the Year.
Country megastar/The Voice coach Blake Shelton performed a medley of his career highs over the past 20 years, including “Austin” which made fans swoon in nostalgia.
Other big names who took the stage include Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Kenny Chesney, Dan + Shay (who experienced some audio issues), Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd, Eric Church, and Chris Young.
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