Gabby Barrett, whose crossover hit “I Hope” went No. 1 at country earlier this year and just topped the Hot AC chart this week, won breakthrough video of the year. Accepting from home like most of the honorees, she mimed “holding my fake trophy” and noted that “this is my first time receiving a television award.” Barrett’s award was presented, remotely, by Taylor Swift, who’d picked up the same trophy 13 years earlier.
Accepting for collaborative video of the year for “Nobody But You,” Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani toasted one another and looked the model of domestic fireside tranquility. “I love you so much,” said Shelton. “I love you so much,” responded Stefani, who admitted that it felt unusual winning a country award. Said Shelton, “This is a crazy pairing, in lots of different ways, but it’s working.”
Shelton also shared what could be controversial thoughts about country awards contests in general. “These awards shows are beginning to lose credibility over the last few years,” he said, contending that the CMT Music Awards are the only trustworthy honors in the genre because they’re fan-voted. Shelton has not been shut out at the industry-voted awards recently: His song “God’s Country” won single of the year at this fall’s ACM Awards and last year’s CMAs. But he may be responding to not having been nominated for entertainer of the year or male vocalist of the year, trophies he was once regularly up for, by either organization since 2015.
Luke Bryan won male video of the year for “One Margarita.” Dan + Shay picked up the duo award for “I Should Probably Go to Bed,” and One Dominion landed the group honor for “One Man Band.”
The show was co-hosted by the trio of Kane Brown, Ashley McBryde and Sarah Hyland, with some live components mixed in with primarily pre-recorded performances captured in far-flung locations in or around Nashville.
It did have a live audience — a “viewing party” of what looked to be about a hundred masked fans, standing or on blankets in groups in the grassy area downtown along the Cumberland River, where they watched performances and presentations on a set of big screens, joined in person by McBryde.
Performances were filmed at a variety of mostly outdoor locations. Morgan Wallen and Little Big Town sang from the Ruskin Cave. Bicentennial Mall State Park was the setting for the opening number by Luke Combs with Brooks & Dunn as well as several other performances. Dan + Shay and Luke Bryan took advantage of the wide-open spaces at Cherokee Park in Lebanon to wander at length into the mood-lit night for their performances. Shania Twain, promoting a boxed set of her 1997 breakthrough album, sang “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” from Switzerland.
The pairing of Halsey and Kelsea Ballerini on the steamy “The Other Girl” took place on a soundstage, and Maren Morris filed an acoustic rendition of “To Hell and Back” from a home setting. The most provocative costuming choice of the night belonged to Noah Cyrus, who wore a cowboy hat atop a glittery but mostly nude-looking sheer bodysuit while joining Jimmie Allen for a duet.
The full list of winners:
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Carrie Underwood – “Drinking Alone”
FEMALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Carrie Underwood – “Drinking Alone”
MALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Luke Bryan – “One Margarita”
GROUP VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Old Dominion – “One Man Band”
DUO VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Dan + Shay – “I Should Probably Go To Bed”
BREAKTHROUGH VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Gabby Barrett – “I Hope”
COLLABORATIVE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Blake Shelton with Gwen Stefani – “Nobody But You”
CMT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
From “CMT Artists of the Year”: Chris Young – “Drowning”
QUARANTINE VIDEO OF THE YEAR (SOCIAL ONLY AWARD)
Granger Smith – “Don’t Cough on Me!”
CMT EQUAL PLAY AWARD