The 57th Annual CMA Awards took over Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday evening (Nov. 8), and it was a night full of twists, turns and triumphs as country music's biggest and most beloved stars celebrated their combined accomplishments from the last year.
CMA week is infamously one of the busiest and buzziest weeks in Music City, and that rung true again this year with a star-studded 2023 BMI Awards – with performances from Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs and Lainey Wilson – pop-up shows and parties galore and all of your favorite artists gathering under one roof, if only for a few hours.
The 57th edition of the esteemed award show saw a slew of shocking wins across its categories, most notably with Chris Stapleton's win for Male Vocalist of the Year, marking his seventh win in nine years for the organization.
As we noted on show night, given the hugely dominant year Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen have enjoyed, many were expecting one of the two to walk away as the new victor prior to the ceremony.
Along those same lines, it's worth mentioning that Wallen, who picked up three nominations for the night, left empty-handed at the 2023 ceremony. Similarly, Combs, who was the reigning Entertainer of the Year and had his name in the running in four categories, only took home the trophy for Single and Song of the Year thanks to his cover of Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car'.
Ahead of the show, Holler was also on hand at the illustrious red carpet to catch up with some of our favorite new and established voices in the genre.
Elsewhere during the 57th Annual CMA Awards, fans both in attendance and at home were treated to a blistering bill of performers, tributes and never-before-seen collaborations.
To break it all down and reminisce on some of our favorite moments from this year's festivities, here are Holler's Best Moments from the 2023 CMA Awards.
At any good award show, the red carpet is where artists get to show off and show out, with most decked out in their Sunday best... or better!
With a long line of media outlets chomping at the bit to ask their burning questions, it's also an opportunity for our favorite acts to tease new projects, boast about their 2023 accomplishments or fangirl over being surrounded by fellow country royalty.
This year, Holler was out and about with our phenomenal host, Lauren Watkins, rubbing shoulders with some of the genre's finest and our personal favorites, including Riley Green, Nate Smith, Ashley Cooke, Colbie Callait and more.
A common thread among this year's talent walking the red carpet was that there were a large number of first-time attendees, with several of country's up and comers gushing over being included at what's lovingly referred to as "Country Music's Prom Night".
Almost instantly after it was announced that rap prodigy Post Malone was going to be performing at this year's awards, this was the performance at the top of everyone's list... and it didn't disappoint!
Post Malone has slowly been dipping his toes into the country waters over the last few years, and depending on who you ask, this might serve as his bonafide foray into the genre.
Teaming up with Morgan Wallen and HARDY, who tackled Joe Diffie's iconic 'John Deere Green' just moments before, the trifecta that we didn't know we needed delivered a nostalgic and altogether fantastic version of Diffie's 'Pickup Man', which the packed arena ate up every second of.
As the performance was being introduced, co-host Luke Bryan confirmed that both covers will appear on HARDY's forthcoming Hixtape Vol. 3: DIFFTAPE project, paying homage to the late country icon, Joe Diffie. The album will consist of Diffie's 2006 re-recordings of greatest hits combined with a plethora of star-studded guest appearances.
This collab easily took the cake as the best performance of the night, and likely made several viewers new Diffie fans in the process!
Jelly Roll has been a force to be reckoned with all year long.
From his pair of chart-toppers – 'Son of a Sinner' and 'Need A Favor' – to his current chart-climbing single, 'Save Me', with Lainey Wilson, the Nashville native has been a mainstay on country radio and beyond in 2023.
Releasing his debut country album, Whitsitt Chapel, in June and racking up a long and growing list of award wins and nominations – including his just-announced all-genre nod for Best New Artist at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards – Jelly Roll has cemented his name in the country music history books this year.
Accompanied by a strong collection of nominees, including Zach Bryan, Parker McCollum, Megan Moroney and Hailey Whitters, the genre-blending maverick delivered a soul-stirring, motivational acceptance speech that took Bridgestone Arena to church and injected an untamable feeling of hope in just under 90 seconds.
“There is something poetic about a 39-year-old man winning New Artist of the Year. I don't know where you're at in your life or what you're going through....[but] what's in front of you is so much more important than what's behind you,” he shared from the stage.
Elsewhere that evening, Jelly Roll delivered two astounding collaborations that bookended the show, starting with a fiery version of 'Need A Favor' with Wynonna Judd and ending with an evocative duet of The Judds' 'Love Can Build A Bridge' with K. Michelle.
It was no surprise that country darling Lainey Wilson came out of the 2023 CMA Awards as the most decorated, especially since she went in the most nominated, racking up nine total nods.
Our favorite Louisiana girl walked away with the trophy for Album of the Year for her hit-laden Bell Bottom Country record, as well as Female Vocalist of the Year for the second year in a row. She also picked up two wins for Music Video and Musical Event of the Year alongside HARDY for their blockbuster duet, 'wait in the truck'.
The biggest shock of the night, however, came with the biggest award of the night as the highly contentious Entertainer of the Year trophy also went to Wilson.
Though deeply deserving of the honor, many expected heavyweights Morgan Wallen or reigning 2022 Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs to nab the title.
Regardless, we couldn't be happier for our Bell Bottom Country star who has seen an unprecedented year of success in 2023.
“It finally feels like country music is starting to love me back - I love it with my whole heart." The genre's leading lady concluded her speech by sharing, “Every time [my dream] started bucking I held on...thank y'all for letting me be me, and for giving my this opportunity”.
Apart from her several award wins, Wilson also took the stage to debut her newest single to country radio, 'Wildflowers and Wild Horses', which will surely secure her sixth No. 1 in just over two years.
In one of the most moving moments of the night, a crew of country greats came together to honor the legendary Jimmy Buffett, whom we lost earlier this year.
Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Alan Jackson and Mac McAnally teamed up for a powerful tribute to the late Gulf and Western trailblazer, all of whom had a personal connection to Buffett.
Chesney and McAnally kicked things off with an acoustic performance of ‘A Pirate Looks At Forty’, with McAnally switching out the key lyric with, “Jimmy made a whole world full of friends."
As if it couldn't get any better, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band took over for a soulful, stripped-back introduction to Jimmy Buffett's now-iconic, chart-topping hit, ‘Margaritaville’.
The crowd powerfully sang along to every word, indulging in the convention of shouting ‘Salt, salt, salt’ during the hook. For a brief moment, Bridgestone Arena was completely transformed into a sunny, tequila-drenched Key West dive bar... all in honor of the great Jimmy Buffett.
For more on the 2023 CMA Awards, see below: