The country stars came out to celebrate even if audiences weren’t there. Country’s newest star Luke Combs shotgunned a beer with legends Brooks and Dunn to open the show.
Country singers Kane Brown and Ashley McBryde joined “Modern Family” actor Sarah Hyland as co-hosts during Wednesday night’s show, which was shot in various outdoor locations around Nashville, including the former home of Reba McEntire.
Taylor Swift, who won breakthrough video of the year 13 years ago, presented the award to Gabby Barrett, for her song “I Hope,” which has been a No. 1 hit across country and pop charts this year.
Barrett, who pretended to hold an imaginary award in her hand, thanked the fans.
“That’s something that I absolutely loved about country music, coming into it, was how loyal the fan bases are and how they just incredibly love the people that they love,” said Barrett.
Old Dominion won group video of the year for “One Man Band,” while Chris Young won CMT performance of the year for his song “Drowning.”
Not all the performances were shot in Nashville. Country superstar Shania Twain performed “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” a classic from her breakthrough 1995 album, from inside a Charlie Chaplin museum in Switzerland. Twain, in a leopard print top and sequined pants, danced and sang alongside mannequins dressed to look like the famous silent film comedian and actor.
Luke Bryan won male video of the year for “One Margarita,” while country duo Dan + Shay won for duo video of the year for their song “I Should Probably Go To Bed.”
Shay Mooney gave a shoutout remotely to his toddler son, Asher. “He’s watching right now. So you do need to go to bed for sure right now,” he joked.
The show’s cross genre’s performances included Jimmie Allen and Noah Cyrus and Kelsea Ballerini with pop star Halsey.
New this year was the CMT equal play award, which was presented to singer, actor and activist Jennifer Nettles, for her work advocating for women and diversity in country music.
“Thank you to all the fans and especially my artists, my sisters out there who continue to burn the holy fire,” said Nettles. “I am so proud to be a part of this legacy of women in country music with you. And I am so proud of the stories that we tell. We have more to do as soon as we can.”
The fan-voted awards show had a new category, quarantine video of the year, that highlighted country artists who got creative with music videos and songs during the pandemic. Singer Granger Smith won for his on-the-nose music video called “Don’t Cough On Me!”