What You Didn't See On TV At The 2019 CMA Awards

In 2019, country music is lawless. It's like a chicken running around with its cowboy hat cut off while the horses in the back just scratch their heads. In the same breath that Lil Nas X won a CMA Award for Musical Event of the Year, his record-breaking hit "Old Town Road" was disqualified from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Kacey Musgraves, whose album Golden Hour swept the country categories at the Grammys and won the Album of the Year, can't seem to get regular airplay on country radio. Brad Paisley even sat out the CMAs for the first time in, like, ten years. What gives?

The 53rd Annual CMA Awards, which took place at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, embraced this ever-changing country climate. We didn't really know what was happening, but we definitely knew we liked it. Why was Pink performing? How did Billy Ray Cyrus get his first CMA Award in 27 years? Will anyone ever be more iconic than Dolly Parton? Is that a song from The Muppet Movie? It seems like the only thing that made sense was Garth Brooks' major win if only because he's won seven years in a row, but let's not focus on our unanswered questions from the live broadcast. Those questions are best left to the country gods, who we can only assume are led by Dolly Parton herself. Equally as puzzling stuff happened off-screen, too. Here's what you didn't see on TV at the 2019 CMA Awards.

Of course Brad Paisley took not hosting the 2019 CMA Awards like a total gentleman

The 2019 CMA awards were decidedly female-centric, which means Brad Paisley was given the big, ole cowboy boot. The "Waitin' on a Woman" singer has hosted the show alongside Carrie Underwood for a decade, but this time around, he was replaced by Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. Together, the three hosts totally crushed a rendition of Parton's 1987 hit "Those Memories of You"). 

Instead of begging Parton to please not take his hosting gig like Jolene took her man in the '70s, the singer mustered up some Southern charm. "As a fan of all 3 of these amazing women, I can't wait to watch." Paisley tweeted, like the true gentleman he is.

It's hard to tell why the Country Music Association decided to switch things up. It seems like they sought to broaden the platform for female artists, who are notoriously underrepresented and excluded. According to Us Weekly, it's the first time in the CMA's 53-year history that a woman has been nominated in every single category (except Male Vocalist of the Year, but some of us are still holding out hope that the show will do away with gendered awards altogether). Nonetheless, Paisley's absence could all boil down to ratings. In 2018, viewership dipped by 29% and ratings sunk by 34%, according to Variety. This was an "all-time low," and if anything can save an awards show, it's Dolly Parton.

Kacey Musgraves had a full circle career moment at the 2019 CMA Awards

By the time Kacey Musgraves walked the CMA Awards red carpet, the Golden Hour singer was already a winner. Earlier that day, Good Morning America announced that Musgraves was taking home the Music Video of the Year award for "Rainbow." This wasn't her only win, especially not her only rainbow-related win. The singer had spent the week celebrating a major full-circle career moment: her CMA Awards duet with Willie Nelson. The star slayed a rendition of the Kermit the Frog classic, "Rainbow Connection," which Nelson covered in 2001.

According to a segment on Good Morning America, Musgraves has been "waiting for this moment since she was nine years old." Why? "Rainbow Connection" was linked with some of the singer's earliest career moves. GMA showed her singing the song in a childhood home video, which Musgraves later reposted to her Instagram account. "A [Willie] full circle moment," she wrote. 

Musgraves and Nelson seem to have become fast friends behind-the-scenes, too. According to The FaderNelson made an appearance on Musgraves' cover of his track "Are You Sure?" He also performed on the star's holiday album, A Very Kacey Christmas. Ahead of the awards ceremony, Musgraves hopped into a photobooth with the country legend and shared the cheeky photostrip on Twitter. Friendship goals!

Reba McEntire brushed off her heartbreak for the 2019 CMA Awards

Reba McEntire appeared to be brushing off her heartbreak one Dolly Parton boob joke at a time — but the audience never had a clue. The singer is, obviously, a storied professional with decades of experience. The fact that she made a CW sitcom actually funny should be proof enough, but when it came to the 53rd CMA Awards, the host had to have been hurting underneath all those sequins and feathers. At the very least, she must have been a little nervous making her first public appearance since her most recent split.

According to People, the awards show marks McEntire's first red carpet run since she inadvertently confirmed her split from retired oil geologist Anthony "Skeeter" Lasuzzo. In an Us Weekly interview a couple weeks before her hosting gig, the country star admitted that she wouldn't be spending the holidays with her beau because they split in May. The couple dated for two years after meeting on vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Apparently, the breakup was amicable, and while it wasn't her forever love, perhaps we'll at least get a pretty good song from it.

Did these iconic CMA Awards hosts actually share a dressing room?

You wouldn't think the Bridgestone Arena was short on space, but then again, you never know how many belt buckles, cowboy boots, and puffy satin gowns the place needs to house during an entire country music awards show. Are the horses in the back, too? It's hard to tell, but during the live broadcast, Underwood made it seem like it was slim pickings backstage. Before taking a shot at Parton's chest size, the seven-time CMA Award winner claimed that she was sharing a dressing room with her co-hosts. Apparently, the biggest legends in country don't get their own private space.

"I have loved every second of working with them except maybe the part about us all sharing a dressing room. I mean, it's a fog of hairspray, and shoes, and costume changes. There are racks of clothes and dresses everywhere," she said during the broadcast.

Of course, none of us know what's actually going on backstage. Underwood was probably joking, but we do know she has a track record of being a backstage liability and a habitual dressing room-sharer. There's no reason to believe that history isn't repeating itself. In 2012, the singer busted a zipper during CMA Awards rehearsal after managing to change outfits in a record 40 seconds. In 2016, the star told The Sun that she shared a conjoining dressing room with Adele at the Grammys and seemed to like the company. That's show-biz for you.

The 2019 CMA Awards were a sign for Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan landed a small presenting gig at the 53rd Annual CMA Awards, but the whole thing may have already been written in the stars. At the very least, the singer believes it's a sign that his 19-year-old son, who tragically drowned in July 2016, is still looking down on him.

In an interview with Taste of Country Nights, Morgan admitted that the number 13 has always had a significance regarding his son. The teen planned to play football for Marshall College, and his jersey number was 13. Following his son's death, the Little Bit of Life singer claimed the number was "always popping up" and that he felt like "God is always giving us those little signs." When the CMA Awards fell on Nov. 13, it was just another one of them.

"I said 'I have this feeling that we are going to be doing something at the awards,' and 'Look at what date it is,'" he recalled telling his manager. "Sure enough, God just lines things up. And here we are."

According to USA Today, Morgan wrote the gutting single "The Father, My Son, the Holy Ghost" about his son's tragic passing. It was his first song in the three years since his son's accident.

Runaway June threatened to pull a Kanye at the 2019 CMA Awards

The CMA Awards aren't really known for ruffling any feathers. The worst thing that's likely to happen is someone gets a boot spur caught on their gown, but Runaway June did threaten to shake things up if Garth Brooks won his seven millionth (Okay, seventh) Entertainer of the Year award. Seriously, can you give someone else a turn, dude?

In an interview with Taste of Country, the "Buy My Own Drinks" singers confessed to their own ill-advised plan if Brooks beat out Carrie Underwood for the top prize. "If she doesn't [win], we're gonna Kanye West this event," said Runaway Jayne's Naomi Cooke, adding, "If Garth Wins, we're gonna be like, 'Garth, we're gonna let you finish, but Carrie Underwood had the greatest tours of all time! I got it ready. It's ready to go."

In case you've been living on a deserted island without any WiFi for the last decade, the women were referencing that iconic moment in pop culture history where Kanye West triggered a decade-long feud by interrupting Taylor Swift's 2009 VMA acceptance speech to shout out Beyonce. Because the world isn't just, Kanye West is currently serving people $55 Fyre Fest-inspired breakfasts at his Sunday Service Brunchella, and Brooks did, in fact, win Entertainer of the Year, again. Why are we even still watching this until the end?

Trent Reznor finally took responsibility for Old Town Road

In the weirdest part of 2019's canon — besides that time people actually raided Area 51 because of a viral Facebook meme — Trent Reznor accidentally won his first ever CMA Award. How does one of the most iconic industrial artists of all time accidentally cross over into country music? Surprisingly, it's happened to the Nine Inch Nails singer twice.

Reznor first inadvertently brushed elbows with the CMA Awards in 2003 when Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" swept the awards show. According to Rolling Stone, the song won Cash three awards, but Reznor's actual composition wasn't nominated. The singer initially claimed he felt "a little bit violated" by the cover, though ultimately decided it was "incredible."

This time around, the star took home the award for Musical Event of the Year thanks to his involvement in Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus' controversial hit "Old Town Road." According to Rolling Stone, Lil Nas X created the hit using a $30 beat that included a "short banjo composition" sampled from Nine Inch Nails' 2008 song "34 Ghosts IV." Like what happened in 2003, it took Reznor some time to come to terms with his accidental success. He finally broke his silence in August when he posted a photo of himself and collaborator Atticus Ross photoshopped into a '90s press photo of Brooks & Dunn, who were also nominated for the same award. Yeehaw.

Kelsea Ballerini and Morgan Evans didn't make any big announcements at the 2019 CMA Awards

It seemed like everyone at the CMA Awards was expecting a child. Dan + Shay's Shay Mooney walked the red carpet with his pregnant wife. Thomas Rhett brought his pregnant wife and daughters to the ceremony. Even Maren Morris used the red carpet as a belated gender reveal party for everyone not already following her on Instagram. Is the whole world of country music popping out the next generation of stars? Maybe, but Kelsea Ballerini won't be one of them.

Entertainment Tonight (via People) went behind the scenes with the "Homecoming Queen" singer, who was nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, and her Australian singer husband Morgan Evans. He assured their fans that they won't be yeehawing into parenthood anytime soon. "I feel like everyone around us is having babies right now. It's unbelievable, even on the red carpet there's babies," he told ET, "We're a little ways off from that, but we do very much look forward to that." 

Ballerini and Evans are still newlyweds, so it makes sense that they'd want to hold off. Evans also admitted that becoming an aunt and uncle worked like "a little bit of birth control" even if it was "great." Just imagine how talented and attractive their offspring will be when it finally does happen! 

Jennifer Nettles used the 2019 CMA Awards to made a literal statement

At the 2001 MTV VMAs, Macy Gray inadvertently sparked the most tacky red carpet trend of the aughts when she donned a dress emblazoned with an ad for her new album. Today, celebs have nixed the self promotion for politics, which is decidedly less tacky. We saw it at the 2017 SAG Awards when Jocelyn Helberg scrawled the words "let them in" across her chest. Joy Villa shared the opposite sentiment at the 2019 Grammys her "build the wall" gown. That same year, Laverne Cox fought for trans rights at the Emmys with her Title VII clutch.

Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles took up the time honored tradition at the 2019 CMA Awards, but this time, she was fighting for gender equality. Though the Country Music Association made a valiant effort to raise women's voices at the 2019 awards show, women have seen a sharp drop in country radio plays over the last two decades. According to a study by the Women of Music Action Network in Nashville (via Refinery29), female artists averaged 33.3% of plays on country music stations in 2000. By 2018, the play rate shrunk to just 11.3%.

Nettles' white pantsuit was a clear battle cry. The attached fuchsia cape bore the words "Play Our F—-in' Records Please & Thank You," which is a lot nicer than it could have been. "Equal Play" was sprawled across on her back, according to Vulture.

These Bachelor stars probably skipped the 2019 CMA Awards after parties

The Bachelor star Colton Underwood, who for some reason attended the 2019 CMA Awards, headed right from the awards show to a mystery vacation. The star made some secret plans to whisk away his girlfriend, Cassie Randolph, on their first anniversary. A Bachelor couple that made it an entire year? Stop the presses (but don't actually or we'd be out of a job).

The couple, who have the type of loose boundaries that justify GPSing tracking each other on their phones, are the first Bachelor couple in five years to not end their season with a wedding ring. According to Entertainment Tonight, they couldn't even decide on an anniversary date, and eventually chose Nov. 14, the day after the CMA Awards and also the first day that cameras stopped following their every move. To celebrate, Underwood surprised Randolph with secret get away.

Behind the scenes at the CMA Awards, Randolph told Entertainment Tonight, "We're leaving really early in the morning. ... He said, 'It's warm, pack a lot of bathing suits.' I'm a little stressed out about it, because I'm kind of a control freak. I need to know!" Needless to say, the couple probably won't be hitting any after parties. That early morning airport run is never a fun one.

Gigi Hadid was Kacey Musgraves' plus one to the 2019 CMA Awards

Kacey Musgraves won big. The star pulled in awards for both Video and Female Vocalist of the Year, but she didn't share this exciting moment with her singer-songwriter husband Ruston Kelly. Instead, she took model Gigi Hadid as her plus one. Wait, since when did these two hang out?

On the outside, it looks likes Musgraves did the solid gal pal move and supported her friend through her recent breakup. Fans of the Bachelorette have been following Hadid's unexpected romance with contestant Tyler Cameron since the pair first followed each other on Instagram in July 2019. They've since taken a road trip, danced at a VMAs after party, went to a funeral, and broke up around early October after almost making it two short and sweet months. Though Cameron told Us Weekly the pair were still friends, the tabloid confirmed they had unfollowed each other on Instagram the week before the CMAs. Cameron also reached out to his Bachelorette ex, and Hadid was spotted wearing a sweatsuit that read "Boys Lie." Those are certainly some signals that this split might not be as amicable as Cameron claims. 

Enter: Musgraves, a gleaming ray of girl power, for the feathers on her bedazzled dress to the tips of Hadid's cowboy-inspired boots. The model was all smiles next to the singer on the red carpet, and it appears to have washed away her boy problems completely. Please let this night end up on Hadid's finsta.