Female acts may be scarce on contemporary country radio and the country charts, but they brought girl power to the 2019 Country Music Association with a resilient performance featuring top women from the genre, from Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood to Reba McEntire.
The three acts, who are hosting Wednesday's show together, were joined by Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Crystal Gayle, Sara Evans, Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and more, singing classic country songs across two stages.
After the performance Parton asked, "What do you call three women hosting the CMAs?"
"Your lucky night," she screamed.
McEntire added that they joined forces to host the show and perform the opening number to inspire young women watching the awards show from their TV screens.
Morris is also representing women at the show: She's the most nominated-act at the show, airing live on ABC from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. She will pay tribute to her producer busbee, who died in September at age 43 and earned two nominations for his work on Morris' acclaimed project, "GIRL." And Wednesday night's show marked the pregnant singer's "kid's first awards show" — as she put it.
"Dolly Parton touched my stomach earlier when we were rehearsing, so he's been touched by an angel," Morris said in an interview with The Associated Press this week.
In a white dress and standing on a stage donned with white flowers, Morris performed her hit song "GIRL," touching her belly as she hit a high note at the end of her performance.
She went on to win album of the year for "GIRL," which also gives producer busbee a win.
"I would be really remiss if I didn't mention a huge facet of why this album sounds the way it does, and we miss him so dearly. He texted me the morning that we got the nomination for album of the year this year, and we were so excited, and that's our friend busbee," a teary-eyed Morris said onstage. "His wife Jess is here tonight and she looks so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your husband with us once a month, and my heart just goes out to you and your beautiful daughters. I hope when they listen to this record or any of the songs that he made that made us all better, they know how amazing their father was."
"GIRL" was also nominated for single of the year and song of the year, but it lost in both categories (the winners were Blake Shelton's "God's Country" and Luke Combs' "Beautiful Crazy"). Morris also lost musical event of the year to Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus' ubiquitous No. 1 hit, "Old Town Road."
Women still won honors Wednesday: Kacey Musgraves' "Rainbow" was named music video of the year and Ashley McBryde won new artist of the year.
And Underwood still has a chance to make history: She could be the first female to win entertainer of the year since 2011, when Taylor Swift took home the honor. Underwood is the sole women competing for the top prize along with Garth Brooks, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church and last year's winner, Keith Urban. No women were nominated in the top category in 2018 and 2017.
Underwood won over the audience: She was a vocal beast, hitting all the right notes and more during a smoky performance of "Drinking Alone." Pink also shined, with Stapleton by her side, as she performed the song "Love Me Anyway." And Dan + Shay, who won vocal duo of the year, gave a beautiful, heartwarming performance of the hit "Speechless."
Other performers included Brooks & Dunn, Shelton, Combs, Urban, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini and Lady Antebellum with pop singer Halsey.
Kris Kristofferson will be honored with a performance featuring Sheryl Crow, Dierks Bentley, John Osborne and Chris Janson. Brooks, Musgraves and Willie Nelson will also perform.