Combs won two awards -- album of the year for the first time for his sophomore album What You See Is What You Get, and male vocalist of the year for the second year in a row. This brings Combs’ collection of CMA Awards to five.
Eric Church was a surprise winner for entertainer of the year. He won on his fourth nomination for the award. Church doesn’t usually win at award shows. He has, for example, yet to win for male vocalist of the year (despite seven nominations over the years.) He was nominated for new artist of the year in 2011, but lost to The Band Perry. This was his first CMA win in any category in four years. This brings Church’s tally of CMA Award wins to four. He won album of the year for Chief in 2012 and Mr. Misunderstood in 2016. He also won a 2015 award for a “Raise ‘Em Up,” a collab with Keith Urban.
Though Church’s win was unexpected, he delivered an uncommonly thoughtful acceptance speech. “If ever there was a year not to win this award…This award this year, at least for me, has been about the loss of this year—the loss of life, loss of playing shows, loss of freedom, loss of kids being in schools. And you know what the win is—the win is we all were here tonight together as a country music, in person, live, not on Zoom. And I believe this—it’s going to be music that brings us out of this…Politicians are about division. Music is about unity…I’ve got a bunch of stuff to say, but I didn’t think I was going to win this, so thank you guys very much.”
Co-host Reba McEntire, who won the CMA Award for entertainer of the year 34 years ago, was impressed by Church’s remarks. “Excellent acceptance speech,” she said.
Morgan Wallen won new artist of the year on his second try. He was nominated last year, but lost to Ashley McBryde. Wallen is the 10th artist in CMA history to win the new artist prize on his/her/their second try. He follows such big names as LeAnn Rimes, Zac Brown Band and Combs.
Old Dominion took vocal group of the year for the third year in a row.
Dan + Shay won vocal duo of the year for the second year running.
Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird” was named music video of the year. This is Lambert’s 14th CMA award, which extends her lead among female artists. Among all artists, she is now tied for fourth place with Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley. Only four artists have won more CMA Awards -- Brooks & Dunn and Vince Gill (18 each), George Strait (17) and Alan Jackson (16).
This is Lambert’s second win for music video of the year. “The House That Built Me” won 10 years ago. Trey Fanjoy directed both videos. Fanjoy also won in the category for directing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” the 2009 winner. Lambert is only the third female artist or group, following Dixie Chicks and Swift, to win two awards in this category.
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice took musical event of the year for “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” It’s the first CMA Award for both performers. Brice was forced to miss this year’s CMA telecast after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Charles Kelley subbed for him in a pre-taped performance of this song. busbee won his second CMA award for producing the Pearce/Brice recording. The popular producer died in September 2019. Six weeks later, he won his first CMA Award as a co-producer of Morris’ GIRL, last year’s album of the year winner.
Jenee Fleenor, who last year became the first female musician to win musician of the year, won in that category for the second year in a row. Though the gender breakthrough rightly received most of the attention, she’s also the first fiddle player to win in the category since Mark O’Connor, who won six straight awards from 1991-96.