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THE 50TH ANNUAL CMA AWARDS 2016
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee

The Country Music Association Awards were held on November 2, 2016 in Nashville, TN.
 
The Country Music Association Awards, theoretically a joyful night that celebrates country singers, had a common theme this year: tears.

Miranda Lambert wiped her eyes at the end of the show's emotional opener, which featured a medley of classic country songs that culminated in a singalong of "Forever and Ever, Amen" with Randy Travis, who suffered a near-fatal stroke three years ago. Thomas Rhett said he and Garth Brooks cried together during that performance. Songwriter Lori McKenna broke down when she won song of the year for Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind."

Carrie Underwood and Maren Morris sobbed as they picked up their trophies for female vocalist and new artist, respectively. John Osborne wept when he accepted the prize for vocal duo of the year with his brother, TJ, who was trying not to cry. Kenny Chesney looked a little teary during his Pinnacle Award speech. Even Dolly Parton could barely keep it together after a group of female country singers paid tribute to her most famous songs.

"I would have cried, but I didn't want to mess up my eyelashes," Parton said. "I was doing my best!"

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This was one of the most entertaining CMA Awards in recent memory. A complete list of winners and nominees are below; here's a rundown of the show.

That opening number.

The CMA producers promised the night would be stacked with legendary singers, given that it was the 50th anniversary of the show. They delivered in the opening minutes with Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Charley Pride, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Reba, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs, and Alan Jackson, singing their greatest hits.

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood's many election jokes.

You have to give the co-hosts credit for their commitment to the bit. Much of their monologue was devoted to the endless presidential election, with a "This election is taking forever and ever, amen," joke, playing off Travis's famous song. Paisley also did his best Donald Trump impression, leaning into the microphone to say "WRONG" or "LIES" as Underwood talked, and then declared the show rigged. And yes, there were "basket of deplorables" and "nasty woman" jokes, too.

Maren Morris's big night.

As country music writer Grady Smith pointed out, Morris - the 26-year-old Texas breakout artist who made a splash this year - got a huge sales bump from the show, with her debut album spiking to No. 2 on iTunes. That's likely the result of a riveting performance of her debut hit single "My Church," along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the McCrary Sisters, which also shot up iTunes.
She also won new artist of the year: "Y'all, I can't win this award after performing. I'm gonna fall apart," Morris said to the crowd, in tears. "Last year, I sat across the street at a bar and watched this show. I never thought as a songwriter I'd be standing here today."

The Alan Jackson and George Strait duet.

A mash-up of "Remember When" and "Troubadour" was something we never knew we needed until this show - and the country stars rocking out in the audience, from Lady Antebellum to Eric Paslay, seemed to agree.

Dolly Parton tribute.

Jennifer Nettles, Kacey Musgraves, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood perfected this medley (along with a cappella group Pentatonix), with "9 to 5," "Jolene," "Here You Come Again" and a group version of "I Will Always Love You."

A very satisfying winners list.

The much-loved Chris Stapleton took home two awards (male vocalist and music video), which was the most of anyone; the other prizes were pretty varied. While unstoppable Florida Georgia Line could have feasibly won the vocal duo of the year trophy until the end of time, acclaimed Maryland sibling duo Brothers Osborne shocked the room when they were awarded the prize. No one was more surprised than they were.

"We sat behind Florida Georgia Line. I thought for sure I'd congratulate them tonight," TJ Osborne joked. Meanwhile, industry favorite Garth Brooks landed the coveted entertainer of the year, while Carrie Underwood broke Miranda Lambert's six-year female vocalist winning streak.

Dolly Parton won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dolly clearly had more to say when accepting her Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement award.

Complete list of winners: 

Entertainer of the year
Garth Brooks

Male vocalist of the year
Chris Stapleton

Female vocalist of the year
Carrie Underwood

New artist of the year
Maren Morris

Album of the year
Eric Church, "Mr. Misunderstood"

Single of the year
"Die a Happy Man," Thomas Rhett

Song of the year
"Humble and Kind," Tim McGraw (written by Lori McKenna)
 
Vocal Group of the year
Little Big Town

Vocal duo of the year
Brothers Osborne

Musical event of the year
"Different For Girls," Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King

Music video of the year
"Fire Away," Chris Stapleton


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