In a soulful performance of “Die a Happy Man” on the 2016 CMT Artists of the Year special, Thomas Rhett paired with 18-year-old Swedish pop star Zara Larsson for a rousing, falsetto-studded duet. Complemented by a roaring brass orchestra, the unexpected pair harmonized their way through the heartfelt tune before launching into Larrson’s hit, “Never Forget You.” You wouldn’t know it by her spot-on vocals, but the teen singer flew to Nashville from Sweden the night before the show taping, and then flew right back out to Australia —a gesture to which Rhett expressed much gratitude.
A highlight in the above video comes at the 1:12 mark, where Rhett’s song seamlessly shifts into Larrson’s, with the two swapping lyrics as easily as if they’d written them together. Part intimate underground jazz club vibe and part big band swing with a hint of pop, the performance was one of the standout moments of the superstar-studded night.
Rhett was one of five recipients of CMT’s 2016 Artist of the Year trophies, alongside Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. If you missed the show’s premiere, you can catch a re-run this Saturday, October 22nd at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT or Sunday, October 23rd at 12:00 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.