Acclaimed songwriter Chris Stapleton was the big winner at the 49th annual CMA Awards last night. He unexpectedly beat out some of the biggest names in country and walked away with three trophies for New Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.
Stapleton’s first-length solo album Traveller was released earlier this year, receiving high critical acclaim. For years, Stapleton has been writing hits for artists like George Strait and Kenny Chesney. After decades of hard work in the industry, the 37-year-old finally got his own time in the spotlight.
Stapleton proved why he deserved all of the recognition he received during his buzzed-about performance with pop icon Justin Timberlake. In a ceremony filled with hit or miss cross-genre collaborations, Timberlake and Stapleton’s pairing stood out as the best performance of the night.
The two began by soulfully sliding into Stapleton’s version of “Tennessee Whiskey”. It’s not easy to shine on the same stage as Timberlake, but Stapleton’s gritty and incredibly controlled voice stood out like no other that night.
Without hesitation, the two talents began Timberlake’s “Drink You Away”, a Memphis soul-inspired track from his last album, The 20/20 Experience. Their flawless harmonies and stellar voices blended perfectly, creating an electricity on stage that rarely appears during these sometimes overly-predictable award shows.
Even Stapleton’s friends and colleagues in the audience were overtaken by the show-stopping performance. How many times have you seen Keith Urban whip out his cell phone to record another performer on stage during an awards ceremony? Exactly.
Other country artists took to their social media accounts to praise their fellow musician and congratulate him on his incredible achievements. Scroll down to see just a few of the many tweets that celebrated Stapleton’s big night.
It’s clear that with a reaction like this from fellow country stars, the world of country is bound to change in the coming year. A return to real country music seems to be on the agenda, and it’ll be a a soulful, gritty ride with Chris Stapleton leading the way.