In a night that paid a fitting tribute to the invaluable contributions of country’s female artists over the past year, the 2018 CMT Artists of the Year live telecast on Wednesday spent a few minutes looking back at a handful of the women whose music has inspired them, from Tammy Wynette to Shania Twain and beyond.
Artist of the Year honoree Carrie Underwood was aided in song by duo Maddie & Tae and trio Runaway June but the singer and expectant mother initially delivered a positively spine-chilling a cappella version of one of the most famous opening lines in all of country music, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” from Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.” “Right? Am I right, ladies?” she quipped, before launching back into the tune, eventually being joined by her band on the familiar chorus. Long misunderstood for its lyrical content, it’s impossible to watch the visibly pregnant Underwood flawlessly belt out the song’s pivotal line, “after all, he’s just a man,” and not come away with a fresh perspective.
The tribute to classic women in country merely touched on a few of the greats, with Underwood and company singing snippets of songs from Dolly Parton (“9 to 5”), Reba (“Why Haven’t I Heard From You”), Martina McBride (“Independence Day”), Faith Hill (“Wild One”), Shania Twain (Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”) and the Judds (“Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain”). Underwood finished the set in spectacular fashion with an arena-filling rendition of her CMA-nominated (for Music Video of the Year) hit, “Cry Pretty.
Maddie & Tae and Runaway June will hit the road with Underwood beginning in May 2019 for the Cry Pretty Tour.