It was a celebratory evening in Nashville last night as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes, and Tim McGraw were honored as this year’s CMT Artists of the Year during the 90-minute special broadcast live from Music City Center. Hosted by Ron White, the five honorees were applauded by their peers and other superstars during an exclusive night of wall-to-wall performances and special appearances.
The evening kicked-off with an opening segment featuring the legendary Ron Burgundy and the cast of “Anchorman 2” to introduce the host for the evening. Much to Burgundy’s chagrin, the ‘other Ron’ was chosen to host this year’s show and he struggled to grasp why anyone “would order White when you can have Burgundy?” Burgundy and crew would go on to make several skit-like appearances throughout the evening, mostly with Burgundy complaining that country group Alabama should have been included in this year’s group of honorees. Scotch in hand, Ron White took the stage and welcomed everyone out to this year’s show, the first time CMT Artists of the Year has been broadcast live and the first time a live show has been held at Nashville’s Music City Center.
McGraw was the first honoree of the evening, receiving his award from Dwight Yoakam. McGraw thanked his “girls,” wife Faith Hill and three daughters, who accompanied him for the evening. He also gave props to the younger, newer generation of artists who he said inspire him in his own career. Lady Antebellum then took the stage to perform McGraw’s hit “Highway Don’t Care” with surprise special guest Peter Frampton joining on guitar. Honoree Florida Georgia Line performed next with “Stay,” and presenting their award was one of their idols, Alabama. The duo gave thanks to country radio, their fellow peers for accepting them in country music and to their fans for being loyal and supportive.
Four-time CMT Artist of the Year recipient Jason Aldean was saluted next, with powerhouse singer Cassadee Pope and the legendary Travis Tritt coming together to sing Aldean’s hit “Night Train.” Aldean was presented his award from “Nashville” star Hayden Panettiere and gave a heartfelt speech highlighting the amount of respect he holds for his fellow honorees and musicians in the room. The youngest Artist of the Year honoree of the evening, Hunter Hayes, took the stage next alongside special guest Pat Monahan from Train. The two performed a mashup of Hayes’ “I Want Crazy” and Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister.” Hayes was given his award by superstar Peter Frampton, telling the crowd how happy it makes him to be able to share his successes with those around him.
Two-time honoree Luke Bryan was the final recipient of the evening, with close friend and drinking buddy Dierks Bentley presenting him with his award. Saying that his cheeks were cramping from smiling so much, Bryan expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped him along the way, and swore to the room he never intended for his popular behind to get so much attention for its shaking. Bryan joined the great Lionel Richie to close out the evening with Richie’s hit songs “Oh No” and the crowd-favorite “All Night Long.”
Encore presentations of CMT Artists of the Year will air Thursday, December 5 at 8 p.m., ET/PT; and Saturday, December 7 at 2 p.m., ET/PT.
Check out photos from the show below.
Florida Georgia Line
Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw