The 2021 CMT Music Awards, the genre’s only fan-voted awards show, took place Wednesday night (June 9) in Nashville and featured numerous performances from some of Music City’s biggest stars.
While all of the performances are worth talking about, there were a few that have us going back to watch them again and again. Check out some of our favorite performances below.
1. Carrie Underwood and NEEDTOBREATH Perform Nostalgic Ballad
Carrie Underwood, the CMT Music Awards winningest artist, was invited to perform as one of the night’s headlining acts and was joined by NEEDTOBREATHE. The Christian rock band from South Carolina and Underwood have teamed up on a few projects recently, including Carrie’s recent hymns album. NEEDTOBREATHE lead singer Bear Rinehart provided backup vocals for Underwood’s rendition of “Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus.” Underwood returned the favor and joined NEEDTOBREATHE for their new single “I Wanna Remember,” the song they performed during the CMT Music Awards.
2. Chris Stapleton’s Surprise Performance of “Arkansas”
In an unexpected and unannounced performance, Chris Stapleton and his wife delivered a knockout performance atop a stage set up in the middle of Great Stage Park, the location for the Bonnaroo Music Festival, in Manchester, Tennessee. Stapleton surprised fans with the unexpected and unannounced performance of “Arkansas,” an rocking road trip anthem from his Starting Over album.
The song was inspired by a road trip Stapleton took with his wife, Morgane, shortly after his birthday.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I had a birthday, and I happen to like fast cars,” Stapleton said. “So my wife bought me a fast car, but the fast car was in Oklahoma City, so me and JT back there on the bass got dropped off in Oklahoma City and we drove like a bat out of hell through the Ozark Mountains all the way to Nashville, Tennessee, and that’s what this song is all about.”
The lyrics draw attention to often overlooked Arkansas landmarks including the Ozark Mountains, the White River, Fayetteville, contains a reference to “calling the Hogs,” and makes a reference to a pit stop in Little Rock for some barbecue.
3. Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall, and Jack Ingram Sing “Tequila Does” Around A Campfire
Miranda Lambert is never afraid to try something new. So when news of a new album release came out, fans couldn’t wait to hear what Lambert was working on. Miranda announced in May that she was releasing a new project with her longtime friends and co-writers Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. Titled The Marfa Tapes, the entire album was recorded in Marfa, Texas, around a campfire and was done in one take. The songs include mistakes and bits of conversation between Lambert, Ingram, and Randall and the sound of the campfire crackling in the background.
During the CMT Music Awards, the trio performed “Tequila Does,” one of the album’s fifteen tracks, in a setting that likely resembled where they recorded the album. The three were seen sitting “outside” around a campfire, each donning cowboy hats and strumming guitars as Miranda sang the lead vocals, backed by the smooth harmonies of Randall and Ingram.
One final performance worth mentioning is the CMT Music Awards opening number featuring Lady A, Carly Pearce and Lindsay Ell. Watch the group perform “Like A Lady” in the video below.