2023 CMA Awards: Lainey Wilson shines, Jelly Roll breaks out for five unforgettable moments.

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On a night when country music’s essential foundations — sincere truths and lawless ways — were on full display, Lainey Wilson took the 57th Country Music Association Awards by storm, winning five prizes and becoming the first woman to win the top honor in more than a decade.
Along with Wilson’s dominance, a succession of performances by genre veterans as well as a new generation of hitmakers and collaborators conveyed the story of where country music is now.




With appearances by Morgan Wallen, HARDY, and rising country singer Post Malone, as well as Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton, the genre’s future may look different than its history. But its commercial and cultural health looks to be as strong as ever.
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Wynonna Judd, who started the show with “I Need a Favor” alongside Jelly Roll, marked the rise of the genre’s next generation of famous artists.

2023 CMA Awards: Lainey Wilson shines, Jelly Roll breaks out for five unforgettable moments.

“Like so many (rising) stars, Jelly Roll is having the same moment I had when stars I looked up to, like Loretta Lynn, were honored that I (was seeking to follow in their footsteps),” Judd said in a statement to The Tennessean. “Yes, it’s weird, but the love is authentic and good.”
In addition to Wilson and Jelly Roll, Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Brothers Osborne, Old Dominion, Jenee Fleenor, and unlikely CMA history-maker Tracy Chapman received prizes on country music’s greatest night.



Tracy Chapman became the first Black woman to win a CMA Award.

Chapman became the first Black woman to receive a Country Music Association award on Wednesday evening, 35 years after releasing her hallmark hit “Fast Car,” according to the CMA.

Luke Combs’ cover of “Fast Car” won a Country Music Association Song of the Year award. The honor goes to the winning song’s writer, however, Combs also received a trophy for the song, which also won Single of the Year, an award given to the performer.

Combs’ countryfied version of the song, published on his 2023 album “Gettin’ Old,” peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s country airplay list.
Though Chapman could not attend the CMA Awards to accept the award, she left a note: “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight. It is a true honor for my music to be newly recognized 35 years after its release. Thank you to the CMAs, and especially to Luke and all of the Fast Car fans.
Jelly Roll, a hometown kid-made-good, gains further acclaim




2023 CMA Awards: Lainey Wilson shines, Jelly Roll breaks out for five unforgettable moments.

Nashville-born CMA Best New Artist Jelly Roll has already earned many singles in country and rock, as well as billion-play YouTube hip-hop virality, but he has not let his rising celebrity obscure his focus on what is most important in his life and career.

“There’s a narrative of two Nashvilles unfolding right now. “I represent both Music Row, which has embraced me so lovingly, and my local community, which raised me,” said the Antioch native.




“The bartenders, bar backs, construction workers, cooks, firemen, first responders, restaurant table bussers, and valet parking attendants truly run this town and they were cheering for me as if I was one of their own all day today,” he said after collecting the award for Best New Artist.

“Those are the (blue collar) people, who when they realize that the kid who grew up living next door to them is becoming a celebrity, they know that the heart of who [that celebrity] is will never change.”




He went on to say that performers such as Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Sam Hunt, and Kid Rock opened the way for him as an artist as well as an open-minded listener of music in a variety of formats.

CMA hosts Bryan and Manning cracked jokes.

“We’re back,” CMA Awards co-host Peyton Manning informed the audience. “And you understand what that means. Yes, Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift were not available.




“You know the difference between Taylor Swift and the New York Jets?” Luke Bryan asked. “Taylor Swift can fill a stadium.”

2023 CMA Awards: Lainey Wilson shines, Jelly Roll breaks out for five unforgettable moments.

The attacks on country-born pop star Swift and her Kansas City Chiefs tight-end boyfriend were unsurprising for the duo, whose comedic timing as hosts is swiftly becoming a show feature.
Manning and Bryan recognized a few of the stars in the crowd, including Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen, Lainey Wilson, and Jelly Roll.




“Jelly Roll is so inspiring, he has my mother considering a face tattoo,” Bryan told me.

Manning said, “Eli already got his,” and the cameras cut to a photo of Eli Manning with a Jelly Roll-style tattoo on his face.

A moving (and appropriately wild) tribute to Jimmy Buffett.

The audience and stars paid respect to Jimmy Buffett’s life with a song performed by Kenny Chesney, Mac MacAnally, the Zac Brown Band, and Alan Jackson.

Chesney and MacAnally began their homage with an acoustic rendition of Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” with both playing guitar on a tiny platform in front of the mainstage. A picture of Buffett was projected on the screen behind the stage, and blue lights washed over the performers.




After that, the curtain parted to reveal the larger stage beyond, where the Zac Brown Band and Jackson performed the classic “Margaritaville.” A slideshow of Buffett played in the background, with photographs of him smiling and sun-kissed while seated on a yacht.
Brown dressed in beachy shorts (and no shoes) for the celebration performance, while Jackson donned sunglasses indoors.




Jackson and his band sang, “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville / Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt,” while the audience chanted, “Salt, salt, salt!” As they ended the chorus, they sang, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame / But I know it’s nobody’s fault,” and the audience danced and smiled in celebration of Buffett.

2023 CMA Awards: Lainey Wilson shines, Jelly Roll breaks out for five unforgettable moments.

Lainey Wilson established herself as country music’s brightest new superstar.

Lainey Wilson’s lucky number is 9. Thus, the five-time 2023 Country Music Association award winner (who was nominated nine times) strolled into the ceremony expecting the evening to be memorable.




Three hours later, after becoming the first woman to win the coveted Entertainer of the Year award since Swift in 2011, she knew it.

“I was 9 years old when my parents brought me to Nashville for the first time and I was given my first horse,” she told The Tennessean.

In regards to the power she feels moving forward from her incredible night of success, the “Bell Bottom Country” vocalist stated the following:

“With every fiber of my being I believe that nothing is impossible. Brick by brick, fan by fan, song by song and team member by team member, I’m setting the foundation for continuing my success [in country music]. Getting endless opportunities resulting from me doing exactly what I always wanted to do in life is fun.”





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