5 Best And 5 Worst Moments At The 2018 CMA Awards

Let's be totally honest: awards shows are kind of the pits. They're hours-long, and the commercials make them seem like they stretch for an eternity. The CMA Awards may not have broken that tradition this year (we're still holding out hope for next year), but we did see more visibility for female country artists who are paving their own way in the male-dominated industry, baby bumps and all. 

Women were the stars of the 52nd Country Music Awards — from the anonymous, sequin-clad guitarist who kicked off the first medley with some epic shredding, to Kacey Musgraves' underdog win, to Bebe Rexha's impeccable performance, and Carrie Underwood's general presence as an adorable mama-to-be. Musgraves even took home a double-win because she performed and produced her acclaimed album Golden Hour. From Chris Stapleton's CMA Awards sweep to a fly-by appearance from a viral star, these were the best and worst moments at the 2018 CMA Awards. Yee Haw!

Worst: Carrie Underwood as Brad Paisley's punching bag

After more than a decade hosting the CMA Awards together, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley still somehow manage to find new ground to cover. That's not to say that ground should be covered at all. Some things are better left unsaid. With Fox News claiming Paisley swore off politics, there was little else for him to poke fun at beyond his co-host, who got the brunt of his bad jokes.

Paisley's bit was peppered with a few easy jabs. Such low-hanging comedic fruit included teasing Underwood about breastfeeding and suggesting she didn't know the father of her unborn baby. While a smattering of light sexism seems par for the course, Paisley got a little too personal by making light of Underwood's frightening November 2017 fall. According to The Washington Post, the star chipped her tooth, broke her wrist, damaged the skin around her mouth, and needed 40 to 50 stitches. All the while, she feared permanent disfigurement and avoided cameras in an effort to not shock her fans. "When I am ready to get in front of a camera, I want you all to understand why I might look a bit different," she said in a message to her fan club earlier in the year (via Today).

After hearing that, Paisley's bubble-wrap dress just seems sort of tacky, even if Underwood managed to recover from her ordeal with only slight scarring.

Best: Mason Ramsey

Some may call Mason Ramsey's path to stardom a travesty to the integrity of country music, but it's hard to deny that the 11-year-old is a crossover success. Ramsey managed to yodel his way from Walmart to the CMA Awards, taking little more than a brief pit stop at Coachella, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Ellen Show. With an arguably age-inappropriate hit under his belt (like all good, impressionable pop megastars), he's cemented himself as a living, breathing meme legend — and not one of Carrie Underwood's children. (Brad Paisley, would you leave her alone already?)

Those of us who watched Ramsey yodel through the CMA Fest national anthem in June 2018, probably got an inkling that the viral star would make an appearance at the awards show in November. We weren't wrong. His performance with Underwood during the show's opening was flawless. Ramsey didn't lose his composure for a second or show a hint of nerves. Um, can we adopt this kid?

Worst: Everyone gets hot chicken

Hot chicken is a delicate art. The famed Nashville delicacy made Thrillist's list of 50 things to eat in Nashville before you die. In fact, it took spots six and seven, but let's be real. Thrillist probably wasn't talking about Brad Paisley's hot chicken. Nor is Paisley's poultry likely to be raved about by the Zac Brown Band, the leading authority on all things chicken fried. (Did anyone even verify if they ordered from Prince's?) Our main gripe is that everyone knows there are few sins greater than lukewarm fried chicken. It seems highly unlikely that Paisley's chicken was piping hot (though we may stand to be corrected). The awards show was already kicking for nearly an hour. Paisley and Underwood were still strong in their delivery, handing out the treat to audience members before and after Kelsea Ballerini's performance. It was like Oprah's Favorite Things, only everyone gets heartburn.

On the plus side, Ballerini's voice was flawless throughout her rendition of "Miss Me More." The acrobatic dancers were impressive, but the likely-lukewarm hot chicken probably had more spice than her stage presence. Sorry, girl! 

Best: Kacey Musgraves' album of the year win

Album of the year is arguably one of the CMA Awards' most prestigious prizes, and as a result, it had some stiff competition this year. The category was stacked with male performers who have storied careers and dozens of nominations under their steel-buckled belts — yawn. There are few things more boring than watching Keith Urban get yet another CMA nomination. According to The Boot, the star has been nominated for entertainer of the year 11 times in the last 13 Country Music Awards, but even Urban was no match for Kacey Musgraves, who clawed her way to the top with her heartbreaking, honest songs and outspoken voice.

In a September 2018 interview with Billboard, Musgraves, the only woman nominated in her category, called out the Country Music Association for its lack of female representation. She ended up joining the ranks of country greats such as Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Tim McGraw when Golden Hour took home album of the year. According to Vanity Fair, the star was 19 years old when she moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. That was exactly a decade — to the day — from her underdog win. If you don't believe in fate, Musgraves might sway you.

Worst: A Star Is Bored

A slight to Mother Monster is a slight against all of us. In their opening monologue, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley poked fun at Lady Gaga's critically acclaimed remake of A Star Is Born. The film maintains a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means Paisley and Underwood are virtually the only people on the planet who think it's a laughing matter (The rest of us were bawling in the theater). 

Paisley and Underwood used their joke to launch into a parody called A Star Is Bored, where they laughed at Chris Stapleton for snoring in the front row. Though it's hard to knock a joke so painfully self-aware, we've heard this one before. We heard it when the Daily Beast proclaimed that the Oscars were boring "because they always are." We heard it when Vogue begged Hollywood to "rethink" its big awards shows, and again when Vanity Fair asked, "Why do the Emmys seem so boring?" By now, everyone knows awards shows are painfully long, so instead of making fun of the fact that an awards show is boring, how about making an awards show that isn't boring?

Best: Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line perform 'Meant To Be'

If you're sick of "Meant To Be," the epic collaboration and record-breaking single by Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha, well, who are you? According to The Boot, the hit entered its 49th week at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in November 2018 and smashed Sam Hunt's record for "Body Like a Back Road." After watching the trio's performance at the CMA Awards, it's easy to see why. Rexha has established herself as the kind of versatile star that can excel in any genre — whether it's the trenches of the Warped Tour, the upper echelons of the Top 40 charts, or the CMA's stage. 

She's a star through and through, and her brightness was only emphasized by her glittery, sequined style. On stage, Rexha was the pure embodiment of 1940s Hollywood glamour, and her look stood out against Florida Georgia Line's crisp, monochrome suites. Her powerful voice shined through the group's harmonies, and the orchestra laid a perfect, delicate backdrop behind them. Oh yeah, she also totally nailed that high note, but we wouldn't expect anything less.

Worst: Dan + Shay were robbed of every category

Dan + Shay's self-titled album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and the duo's insanely infectious single, "Tequila," proceeded to absolutely tear up country radio. It peaked at No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart. So, why the heck were these guys snubbed in every single category?

According to ABC News, the duo was nominated in four categories but lost across the board. Dan Smyers even received an additional nomination because he produced "Tequila." The whole thing was so surprising that John Osborne, whose group Brothers Osborne beat out Dan + Shay for vocal duo of the year, told the crowd, "I thought this was going to go to Dan + Shay. Make some noise for those boys." Regardless of their losses, Dan + Shay absolutely slayed their performance of "Tequila." According to Billboard, their show was "so hot, a piano literally burst into flames." Or maybe it's just the fact that tequila is flammable and they had a particularly good light show. Who knows? Either way, it was pure fire. 

Best: Carrie Underwood's baby bump

The 2018 Country Music Association Awards were chock-filled with stars, but none shined as brightly as Carrie Underwood and her baby bump. According to Taste of Country, the singer hasn't shared her due date, but was pregnant enough that some people feared she'd go into labor during the awards show. That didn't happen, but we did get to learn the child's sex. Paisley inadvertently ruined the surprise for her first pregnancy during the 2014 CMA Awards, but this time, he pressed Underwood to share the information herself. The singer revealed that she's having a baby boy.

Not only did Underwood and her bump shine through their red carpet appearance, more outfit changes than we can count, and a moving performance of "Love Wins," but she also took home the award for female vocalist of the year. She sniffled through her heartfelt acceptance speech, and we couldn't help but say awww. The girl truly has it all.

Worst: Dierk Bentley's performance with Brothers Osborne was far from lit

It's not that Dierks Bentley's "Burning Man" is a bad song, or that his performance with Brothers Osborne was some sort of train wreck akin to Miley Cyrus grinding on a middle aged man during the MTV VMA Awards. In fact, if it was, it would have been better TV. The thing is, we just expected it to be a little bit more inspired. Ramping up the pyrotechnics during a song that mentions burning an inordinate amount of times is about as expected as Keith Urban winning entertainer of the year for the umpteenth time.

As a whole, we know "Burning Man" is not specifically about the desert festival, which never fails to conjure up images of trust fund burnouts cosplaying Mad Max. That doesn't mean it can shake the association, especially because the lyrics name-drop Joshua Tree, a Coachella attendee hot spot. The whole thing sort of puts a bad taste in our mouths, but Bentley die-hards probably weren't disappointed with the explosive set. For the rest of us, it was just a smoky blur.

Best: Chris Stapleton's touching tribute

The CMA Awards weren't short on heartwarming moments, but the tributes to the many victims of the Borderline Bar shooting were among the most poignant. About a week prior the CMA Awards, a gunman opened fire in a crowded California country bar and took the lives of 13 people, including himself. According to USA Today, it was the 307th mass shooting within the last 311 days.

At the beginning of the television broadcast, Garth Brooks dedicated the show to the 12 victims and called for a moment of silence. Later, Chris Stapleton absolutely swept the CMA Awards, pulling in both single and song of the year. According to ABC News, he won single of the year as a performer and a producer, and the "Broken Halos" star dedicating that single of the year award to the Borderline victims.