The Country Music Association’s 53rd annual CMA Awards are poised to make history on Wednesday night, with this year’s show spotlighting a half-century of female artistry and opening with an all-star, all-women collaboration.
Here’s everything you need to know before the CMAs get underway from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
How to watch: The show airs live on November 13th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC, with multiple digital outlets carrying live red-carpet coverage prior to the ceremonies. Ahead of some 40 female performers and presenters, co-hosts Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire will set the tone for the night’s festivities with an opening medley built around some legendary country songs. Joining the trio will be Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson, Jennifer Nettles, and the Highwomen — the group consisting of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby, and this year’s nominations champ, Maren Morris.
Who’s hosting: With her 12th consecutive appearance, Underwood now ties Vince Gill as host-with-the-most. But instead of her straight-woman role beside comical Brad Paisley, her longtime co-host, she’s teamed up with two Hall of Fame legends in Dolly and Reba. Expect high class, quick wits, and a palpable sense of female empowerment.
Who’s up for awards: Maren Morris leads the field with six nominations, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, for 2019’s Girl. The album’s title track also landed Morris a pair of nods for Single of the Year and Song of the Year. She shares a nomination with Brothers Osborne for “All My Favorite People” in the Musical Event of the Year category, with the duo following close behind her with a total of four nods, including two for the Dierks Bentley collab “Burning Man,” and, of course, a Duo of the Year nomination, an award they’ve claimed for the past three years. Three-time nominees this year are Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Combs, Eric Church, Dan + Shay, Blake Shelton, Chris Stapleton, and Underwood, who was previously nominated for the top prize, Entertainer of the Year, and could finally take that one home.
Who will take the stage: Along with the show’s opening, notable performances include Entertainer of the Year nominee Garth Brooks joining Blake Shelton on their nominated hit “Dive Bar”; new Hall of Fame members Brooks & Dunn reprising their smash “Hard Workin’ Man” with Brothers Osborne; and Chris Stapleton, who teamed with Justin Timberlake in 2015 for a star-making collaboration, singing with Pink on her current single “Love Me Anyway,” which she wrote with “The House That Built Me” songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.
Other collabs include Willie Nelson returning to the CMAs to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Rainbow Connection” with Kacey Musgraves. A 1979 movie hit for the Muppets’ Kermit the Frog, Nelson previously cut it as the title track of an album in 2001. First-time CMA performer Halsey and Lady Antebellum will deliver a genre-blending mashup, and Dolly Parton teams with For King & Country, Zach Williams, and the local Christ Church choir for a medley of “God Only Knows,” “There Was Jesus,” and “Faith.”
Elsewhere, Entertainer of the Year nominee Church will sing “Some of It,” while Lambert performs “It All Comes Out in the Wash” from her new Wildcard LP. Also performing will be Morris, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Old Dominion, and Thomas Rhett.
Who are the new artists to know: Midland, who released their second album Let It Roll in August, make a return appearance to the New Artist category. They’re joined by four first-timers: Texan Cody Johnson, mullet throwback Morgan Wallen, “Every Little Thing” singer Carly Pearce, and critical favorite Ashley McBryde, who released the new song “One Night Standards” earlier this year.
Anything special to watch for? Reba McEntire will celebrate this month’s 50th anniversary of the Bobbie Gentry classic “Fancy” by singing the song that became a Top Ten hit — and concert favorite — for her in 1991. She recently teased to The Tennessean that the performance will offer a “big surprise.”