8 Hits and Misses at the 2015 CMA Awards
The 2015 CMA Awards featured over 20 performances and 12 big award winners. In between was the usual mix of presenters, jaw-dropping outfits and quips from the show's returning hosts. There weren't too many surprises, and there certainly wasn't anything as shocking as Carrie Underwood's baby gender reveal in 2014. Here's the best and the worst from country music's biggest night.
Hit: New Faces
The biggest complaint every year is that the same people always win. That can’t be said in 2015, as Chris Stapleton tied for the most wins with three. The hottest search term of the night was “Who is Chris Stapleton?” It remains to be seen if this signals a shift in country music, but purists are certainly hoping that’s the case.
Missing: An In Memoriam
Brad Paisley and Underwood paid tribute to Little Jimmy Dickens, showing a wonderful clip of his best CMA Awards moments. This seemed to clear the way for the yearly remembrance of who died, but instead, the hosting duo introduced another performance. It was an awkward exchange that left us wondering why stars like Dixie Hall and Jim Ed Brown weren’t deserving of being mentioned.
Hit: Out-of-the-Box Collaborations
Bringing a YouTube star to join Dierks Bentley was a savvy move. Lindsey Sterling gave life to a ballad called “Riser,” and actually provided extra emotion to an already personal song. Love it or hate it (and there are plenty of people who did both), Fall Out Boy’s mix with Thomas Rhett brought energy, and Justin Timberlake’s duet with Stapleton unquestionably stole the show.
Missing: An OMG Moment
In five years, how will fans remember the 2015 CMA Awards? The year Chris Stapleton won? Maybe, if he’s able to take advantage of his big night. Timberlake’s cameo is what everyone is talking about on Thursday morning, and it should be. But having a non-country star steal headlines isn’t great for the annual ceremony. There wasn’t a single jaw-dropping surprise. Even Paisley and Underwood’s monologue played it safe. The daggers we heard they’d be throwing at Blake Shelton turned out to be made of rubber.
OMG moments can be scripted. An unannounced appearance (by someone other than William Shatner) or a surprise performance (Shania, anyone?) would have played well. There didn’t seem to be a single off-script moment, which made for a dull year.
Hit: The Visuals
There were some great sets, including Florida Georgia Line’s church stage and Kacey Musgraves' (slightly trippy) cowgirl scene. At times, we couldn’t help but wonder how the crew built each so quickly. The stage isn’t that big, is it? By keeping the fun indoors, the production design team was really able to take some creative license with backdrops.
We’re not the site that calls for more old-timers to “save” country music, but aside from Brooks & Dunn with Reba McEntire, and Hank Williams Jr. opening the show, there wasn’t any nod to the legends that build the format. Often this comes in the way of a tribute, or a lifetime achievement award. Something that played upon the #Saladgate controversy would have fit like a glove and made a statement in support of women in country music. Imagine Dolly Parton striding to the stage to join a country newcomer!
Hit: The Right People Won
Few will argue with Little Big Town’s three wins, and even fewer who’ve heard Stapleton’s Traveller album with argue with his victories. Some of the other awards are more up for debate, but even if you don’t like Luke Bryan, it’s tough to say he’s not one of the top stars in the format.
There were some great moments in the monologue, but it was a random piecing together of jokes, songs and ideas. The show never caught a stride, either. If the 2015 CMA Awards were a puzzle put together throughout the night, the end result would be a piece of abstract art.
See Pics from the CMA Awards Red Carpet