Both Shelton and Bryan picked up honors at the awards show aired live on CMT on Wednesday night in Nashville, Tennessee. But when it was Bryan’s turn to pick up his award, Shelton started in on Bryan about a scented candle named after the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year.
“Man, I gotta get me some of these candles,” Shelton said, with the Luke Bryan candle in his hand. “They smell exactly like Luke. It’s like vanilla with a hint of deer urine.”
But Shelton got a jab back from country singer Trace Adkins, who joked about Shelton’s new relationship with his fellow Voice judge Gwen Stefani.
“There’s not a lot that he can’t do other than keep his love life private,” Adkins said.
Shelton, who divorced country star Miranda Lambert this summer after four years of marriage, noted that 2015 ended better than it started.
“This has been a crazy year from the way it started and how it’s ending, so awesome for me,” Shelton said. “So thank y’all. This a great way to end it.”
The show featured performances of the year’s biggest country hits, including Shelton’s “Neon Lights,” Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up,” and a steamy duet between pop singers Adam Lambert and Leona Lewis on a cover of “Girl Crush,” by honorees Little Big Town.
“Girl Crush” had a little bit of controversy early on when the lyrics were misconstrued as describing a relationship between two women, but many in the country music world showed their support for the ballad, which went platinum.
“You changed the force of that song, because of you, and we are just so thankful,” said band member Phillip Sweet.
The stage turned somber for a moment, with band members Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild absent from the awards show, because Westbrook’s sister, Joyce, had died on Sunday.
“Tonight, Joyce, this is for you,” band member Kimberly Schlapman said, holding the award up in the air to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Country legend Kenny Rogers was honored as the CMT Artist of a Lifetime after he announced earlier this year he would retire from the road after a worldwide tour next year.
“This all started with me when I was 12 year old and I went to see Ray Charles,” Rogers said. “I went home and told my mom, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ And so all of you guys that take the stage, just know that some 10 or 11 or 12 year old boy or girl is saying the same thing to their parents. You can change the world.”
Three-time CMA award winner Chris Stapleton received an award for breakout artist of the year and performed his song, “Nobody to Blame,” with his wife Morgane.
The soft-spoken but big-time vocalist still seemed overwhelmed by the accolades that the country music industry bestowed on him this year. His debut album, Traveller, went No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 chart for two week after the CMA Awards.
“Unbelievable,” Stapleton said. “I have to make more speeches, and I am terrible at it.”