Chris Stapleton wins song, single of the year at CMA Awards


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Stapleton was the big winner with three early trophies and the Brothers Osborne and Jimmie Allen brought big emotion to their victories at the 55th annual Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night.

Stapleton won the night’s first award for song of the year then won as both producer and artist on single of the year, all for “Starting Over.”

That made him dominant, so far, over fellow top nominee Eric Church, who is up for awards in the same five categories. Both are nominated for entertainer of the year along with Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, who opened the ABC telecast with a medley of her hits, including “Kerosene,” “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Gunpowder & Lead.”

The Brothers Osborne won vocal duo of the year for the fourth time. Lead singer T.J. Osborne, who came out as gay this year, appeared to be holding back tears as he accepted.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a year, especially for me emotionally, and for you all to support me, it’s been incredible,” he said from the stage.

Allen was openly tearful as he became the second Black performer to win new artist of the year.

“I want to thank my father who’s no longer with us for introducing me to country music,” Allen said.

He recalled spending the last of his money to be able to see pioneering Black country artist Charley Pride at the CMAs in 2016, then getting to perform with Pride on last year’s show. Pride died of COVID-19 a month later.

Darius Rucker in 2009 was the first Black artist to win the award.

The ceremony represents a return to normal for the show. It’s back in front of an audience at its usual home after last year’s ceremony was held at a crowd-free Music City Center because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re following all the health protocols to keep everyone safe,” Bryan said during his opening. “And we’re all vaccinated,” he said, “or not,” asking the awkwardly laughing audience, “anyone?”

In awards announced before the show Wednesday, “half of my hometown” by Kelsea Ballerini featuring Kenny Chesney won musical event of the year and music video of the year.

In a year when the major categories are dominated by male nominees, Gabby Barrett was the night’s most nominated woman with four nods, but the “American Idol” alum had yet to take a trophy after three of her categories were handed out.

If Underwood or Lambert win entertainer of the year, they would be the first female artist since Taylor Swift in 2011 to take the top prize.

The CMAs are always heavy on performances and this year was no exception, with more songs than awards.

Church was surrounded by flames on the stage as he belted out “Heart on Fire” early in the show. Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde then took the stage for a duet of “Never Wanted to Be That Girl.”

Underwood and Jason Aldean dueted on their current hit “If I Didn’t Love You” and real-life friends Kane Brown and Chris Young will sang their hit duet “Famous Friends,” which was nominated in three categories but failed to take an award.

Morgan Wallen, who was caught earlier this year yelling a racial slur, is disqualified from many major awards and wasn’t in attendance, but could still end up with one of the night’s biggest prizes after an album-of-the-year nomination for “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which was among the year’s best selling records.

The CMA Board of Directors said that Wallen, who in 2020 won new artist of the year, would not be eligible for awards that honor the individual, only those that honor the work.


Dalton reported from Los Angeles.

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Author: Associated Press