NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country singers Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini honored each other and celebrated their shared successes at the CMT Artists of the Year show.
Female singers rocked the stage, geeked out over on another and showcased women’s impact on country music’s past, present and future during the award show held Wednesday at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The show will air on CMT at 9 p.m. Eastern Thursday.
Twain, who is country music’s most successful female singers, was given the artist of the lifetime award and was serenaded with a medley of her songs by female artists across three genres.
Grammy winners pop singer Meghan Trainor and R&B singer Jill Scott joined Ballerini to sing Twain’s classic anthem to female strength, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” while Twain sang along from her seat in the crowd.
Twain made her name in the mid-’90s with her big pop country songs and her music videos that combined sex appeal, female empowerment and high fashion.
“I want to thank CMT for being such a huge support all these years even in my more rebellious years in the beginning when I was probably considered controversial, but you still put me on the air,” Twain said.
Ballerini, who was given the breakout artist honor, was in the middle of her speech noting all the other young female singers she has worked with when she stopped to have a fan-girl moment.
“Whoa, I am nervous,” Ballerini said. “That is Shania Twain,” pointing to the Grammy winner in the audience.
Underwood, who was one of the artists of the year, performed “Like I’ll Never Love You Again,” backed up by hit songwriters Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna.
“Aren’t we blessed?” Underwood said. “God is good and he has definitely been good to me.”
Also honored as an artist of the year was Chris Stapleton, who held the crowd’s attention singing a solo rendition of “Whiskey and You.” He said that CMT let him fill in for Luke Bryan on the show two years ago when Bryan had to cancel because of the death of his brother-in-law.
“I filled in for Luke sitting up here singing a song I wrote called ‘Drink a Beer,’ and that was one of the first times anybody put me on national television,” Stapleton said.
Bryan, who was also honored at an artist of the year, was teased by his tourmates Little Big Town for his recent fall from a bicycle that ended up breaking his collarbone.
“Luke, we have all made fun of you for falling off stages here and there and you can hardly hold yourself upright,” said Phillip Sweet. “What in god’s name makes you think you should start riding a bicycle?”
Before giving him his trophy, the country group presented him with a kid’s bicycle with training wheels.
The duo Florida Georgia Line also was honored as an artist of the year and performed “May We All.”
And artist of the year honoree Thomas Rhett and Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson performed a mashup of his song “Die a Happy Man,” with her song “Never Forget You.”
“I am honored to be here because all the artists that are honored here in this room, they didn’t get here by chance, they got here by taking chances,” Rhett said.