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2019 CMA Awards: The 8 Best and Worst Moments

Sara Evans, center, performs "Born to Fly" as Karen Fairchild, from left, Kimberly Schlapman, Jennifer Nettles, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood look on at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The 2019 CMA Awards were held last night (Wednesday, Nov. 13) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. The ceremony was filled with special collaborations, first-time wins and surprise moments. In case you missed it (or just want to relive it), the Wide Open Country staff rounded up our picks for the best and worst moments of the 53rd annual CMA Awards.

Best: 'Women of Country' Opening Medley

The opening medley, which celebrated the women of country music, was touted as a can't-miss performance and it didn't disappoint. From CMA co-hosts Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton's show-opening performance of "Those Memories of You" (previously recorded for Parton's supergroup collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, Trio) to The Highwomen performing Tammy Wynette's "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" and backing up living legend Tanya Tucker on "Delta Dawn," the all-star collaboration will go down in CMA history. In 9 minutes, nearly 20 artists celebrated 50 years of songs recorded by country women. Featuring hell-raising anthems (Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman"), post break-up kiss-offs (Terri Clark 's "Better Things To Do") and story songs that still induce chills over 25 years later (Martina McBride's "Independence Day"), the medley was a reminder for anyone who needs it: country women have always recorded incredible songs and they always will. The only thing that's changed is country radio's willingness to play them.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Best: Jennifer Nettles' Fashion Statement

Jennifer Nettles arrives at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Speaking of country radio, Jennifer Nettles should be on everyone's best dressed list for her literal fashion statement. The Sugarland singer and actor wore a white pantsuit with a pink cape designed by Christian Siriano (with art by Alice Mizrachi). On the inside of the cape was a not-so-subtle message to male-dominated country radio: ""Play our f*@#!n records, please & thank you." A 2019 study by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that women performed only 16 percent of the top 500 country songs from 2014 to 2018. In an industry where women have been consistently underrepresented, Nettles' statement was much appreciated -- and needed.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Best: Dolly Parton Gives us Hope

Dolly Parton, center, performs "God Only Knows", "There Was Jesus", and "Faith" with Joel Smallbone, left, and Luke Smallbone, right, of For King & Country at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

If there was any doubt that Dolly Parton rules the world, she put that to rest this year when she conquered even the EDM charts (talk about a crossover) with her song "Faith," a collaboration (and remake of John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me") with EDM duo Galantis and rapper Mr. Probz. Parton took to the CMA stage to perform "Faith" along with additional faith-based songs "God Only Knows" with For King and Country and "There Was Jesus" with Zach Williams. Leave it to Dolly to use her time onstage to spread some love and give us all hope for a better world. Oh, and to show us that she'll never ever stop trying new things. Amen, Dolly. Amen.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Best: Kacey Musgraves + Willie Nelson's Performance For the Ages

Yes, Willie Nelson sounded a little rough on live television, but there was something undeniably surreal about him covering Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection" with kindred spirit Kacey Musgraves. To fully appreciate a special moment, consider how over the moon Musgraves would've felt as a yodeling cowgirl preteen if someone had spoiled this special moment, much less her huge Grammy award haul earlier this year.

-- Bobby Moore

Best: Billy Ray Cyrus Wins His First CMA Award Since 1992

Musicians Lil Nas X, left, and Billy Ray Cyrus speak in the press room after winning the musical event of the year award at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

How insane would it have sounded a year ago if someone told you that Billy Ray Cyrus would soon win his first CMA Award (Musical Event of the Year) in almost 30 years? With all due respect to a singer and songwriter worthy of more than "one hit wonder" and "famous dad" labels, Cyrus' big year ranks among this century's most surreal country music happenings. What's wilder is knowing that Cyrus shared his big win for "Old Town Road" with one of the hottest young rappers (Lil Nas X) and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, of all people.

-- Bobby Moore

Best: Jenee Fleenor Makes History

Jenee Fleenor, left, and Blake Shelton perform "God's Country" at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

When pre-broadcast news broke that Jenee Fleenor, the first woman nominated for Musician of the Year, picked up an historic win, it was bittersweet because one of the best fiddlers in Nashville deserved to share her big moment with a network television audience. Fortunately, Fleenor did get a piece of the spotlight when she stood toe-to-toe with Blake Shelton for a friendly instrumental duel during the on-screen performance of "God's Country."

-- Bobby Moore

Worst: Radio Silence...on Country Radio

It's no secret that the 53rd annual CMA Awards ceremony was billed as a celebration of the genre's women. "We're doing it for all the little girls watching tonight and dreaming of ruling country music -- or maybe just ruling the world," McEntire said in the opening monologue. It was a powerful statement from one of country music's living legends. But the dialogue regarding the gender imbalance on country radio throughout the rest of the show was severely lacking. As Kacey Musgraves said in her acceptance speech for Female Vocalist of the Year, "The female creative spirit, female energy, it's really needed right now." The women of country music have spoken out about women's struggle to be played on country radio. It would be nice to see their male counterparts do the same.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Worst: Carrie Underwood Doesn't Get Her Due

Carrie Underwood performs "Drinking Alone" at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

To give credit where it's due, Garth Brooks is an amazing entertainer. He's deserving of the accolades he's racked up over his 30 year career. But many country fans couldn't help feeling like Brooks' win for Entertainer of the Year was a missed opportunity to give Carrie Underwood her due. During the term of CMA voters are eligible to consider (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019), Underwood released her sixth studio album Cry Pretty and launched her successful Cry Pretty Tour 360 with openers Runaway June and Maddie and Tae. She also hosted last year's CMA Awards ceremony and has been a tireless ambassador for country music. There's no denying that Underwood has had an incredible year and on a night dedicated to recognizing women's contribution to the genre, it felt like she might finally win that Entertainer of the Year trophy. (Brooks himself has been outspoken about the gender imbalance on country radio.) To add insult to injury, a female artist hasn't won CMA Entertainer of the Year since Taylor Swift won in 2011. And in the CMA Awards' 53 year history, women have only won the award eight times (both Barbara Mandrell and Taylor Swift won twice). Seeing another deserving female artist get skipped over yet again is a bitter pill to swallow.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

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2019 CMA Awards: The 8 Best and Worst Moments