Carrie Underwood extended her run as the most decorated act in the history of the CMT Music Awards with her 20th win Wednesday night.
Underwood won two prizes at the fan-voted show, including video of the year for “Cry Pretty” and female video of the year for “Love Wins.”
“Fans, thank you so much. I saw you guys doing the Twitter parties and getting together and doing your thing and voting,” she said. “None of us would be able to do any of what we do if not for you guys. You guys put us here. You guys keep us going. You guys let us live out our dreams.”
When she won the first televised award of the night, Underwood acknowledged her husband’s birthday (she is married to former hockey player Mike Fisher, who sat in the audience).
“It is my husband’s birthday today – look what they got you,” she said.
The Grammy-winning country star also performed at the show honoring the year’s best country music videos, which took place at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Thomas Rhett, Little Big Town and Trombone Shorty kicked off the event with a performance of “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time.” More collaborative performances followed: Brett Young sang “Here Tonight” with Boyz II Men, even blending in some of the R&B group’s “Water Runs Dry” for the performance. Sheryl Crow and Maren Morris teamed up onstage, while Tanya Tucker – whose new album will be produced by Brandi Carlile – sang “Delta Dawn” with the Grammy-winning Americana singer, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Lauren Alaina and more acts.
Little Big Town, who also performed and returned for a second year as hosts of the show, talked about the lack of female singers on country radio ahead of the strong female performance. On this week’s Billboard country airplay chart – which tracks radio airplay – only 10 of the 60 slots belong to women or songs co-starring a woman.
“Back in December it was even worse – there were none,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild said. “Here’s my question, ladies in the house: ‘What do we have to do to get some airplay around here?'”
Little Big Town told jokes at the top of the show and even sang some of “Old Town Road,” the No. 1 country-rap hit from newcomer Lil Nas X that was booted from the Billboard country songs chart when the tune was deemed not country enough.
Dan + Shay – who won a Grammy this year as well as honors at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards – kept their year of winning alive by taking home duo video of the year for “Speechless.”
Shay Mooney thanked “the real stars of the video” – their wives – when they accepted the award.
Zac Brown Band won group video of the year for “Someone I Used to Know” and its frontman was passionate as he read his speech from a paper.
“For you young artists, have courage to stand up against the machine, be yourself, work hard and one day you can stand up here and tell all the haters to ‘(expletive) off,'” Zac Brown said.
When Ashley McBryde won breakthrough video of the year, she took a drink from Luke Combs as she walked to the stage.
“I’m always awkward and I usually bring my drink with me, but I didn’t have a drink so I took Luke Combs’ drink,” said McBryde, who scored Grammy and Emmy nominations this year.
Keith Urban and Julia Michaels – the pop singer who has co-written hits for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and herself – won collaborative video of the year for “Coming Home,” while Kane Brown won male video of the year for “Lose It.”
Luke Combs and R&B singer Leon Bridges – who won his first Grammy this year – won CMT performance of the year for “Beautiful Crazy” from the series “CMT Crossroads.”
“First off, my beautiful fiancé Nicole,” Combs said, “thank you for inspiring this song.”