Jennifer Hudson and Chris Stapleton Earn ‘Respect’ at the CMA Awards

This had to be the musical high point of the night!

Written by Chris Parton
Jennifer Hudson and Chris Stapleton Earn ‘Respect’ at the CMA Awards
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 10: Chris Stapleton and Jennifer Hudson perform during the 55th Annual Country Music Association Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMA)

Jennifer Hudson certainly left her mark on the 55th Annual CMA Awards, stunning the crowd with powerful acrobatics and trading runs with country music’s own vocal star, Chris Stapleton.

Marking her first performance on the long-running country awards show, the actress and R&B favorite put on a vocal clinic, in tribute to the great Aretha Franklin. Hudson portrays Franklin in the new biopic, Respect (which came out in August), and once she was done, she had the full respect of the CMA crowd.

With a band that featured a blasting brass section behind her, Hudson started off with Franklin’s 1967 favorite, “Night Life,” easing into the number with slow, sensual soul. But with the crowd swaying and raising their hands in support, Hudson was just getting started. She transitioned over to the “Don’t Take My Sunshine,” with Stapleton joining in. He could hardly keep up, though, as Hudson let her voice loose with fire, brimstone and everything in between. The pair wrapped up with the whole audience out of their seats, jaws on the floor, marking the musical high point of the entire night.

Respect is out now, and Stapleton had already won three awards at this point in the night. The hitmaker had trophies for Song of the Year and Single of the Year for “Starting Over,” and also Album of the Year for Starting Over. He was also up for Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.

Back in their usual format after the pandemic-impacted 2020 show, the 55th Annual CMA Awards aired live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on November 10. The night featured dozens of performances and awards presentation for a glitzy ceremony dubbed “Country’s Biggest Night,” and was hosted by superstar Luke Bryan for the first time. You can check out Sounds Like Nashville’s full coverage here.