Academy Award-winning actor and singer Jennifer Hudson gave a show-stopping performance at the 2021 CMA Awards, teaming up with multiple winner Chris Stapleton for a soulful medley of “Night Life” and “You Are My Sunshine.”
Hudson, who plays Aretha Franklin in the new biopic Respect, gave her first performance at the CMA Awards with Franklin’s arrangement of Willie Nelson’s “Night Life,” starting the song off low and slow before ramping it up with brassy horn hits and explosive vocal runs. Stapleton joined in behind Hudson on guitar.
After a brief interlude, the second half of the performance featured Stapleton’s smoldering take on “You Are My Sunshine,” which he and wife Morgane recorded for Dave Cobb’s multi-artist Southern Family project. Hudson chimed in with some soaring ad libs of her own before the song shifted from a blues shuffle to a full gallop.
Stapleton began the evening tied with Eric Church for the event’s most nominations, including Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year (which he won), and Male Vocalist of the Year. He’s currently headlining shows on his All-American Road Show tour, including a pair of Nashville dates Dec. 10 and 11.
Earlier in the CMA Awards show, Stapleton and a string section performed his song “Cold,” off his CMA Album of the Year winner Starting Over.