The best and worst moments at the 2020 CMT Awards

Award shows in 2020 have been like nothing we’ve seen before. October’s CMT Awards had some normalcy — an audience, people on stage performing — but it still wasn’t what we’re used to. For one, the audience was socially-distanced and wearing masks, and all the awards were accepted remotely, but as time goes on, it seems the award shows are slowly but surely figuring themselves out and continuing to improve the experience. 

The CMT Awards, broadcast from Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020, were not too bad! Country music’s biggest names showed up and showed out to perform and tout each other’s accomplishments, with Kane Brown, Ashley McBrydge, and Sarah Hyland hosting. Luke Combs took the stage, as did Shania Twain, Maren Morris, and even Halsey with Kelsea Ballerini. We picked our favorite and least favorite moments from the show, including some performances and some general awkwardness, so check it all out in the gallery ahead.

Best: Jennifer Nettles was honored with the Equal Play Award

Country star Jennifer Nettles has often been outspoken about the lack of equality in country music. She speaks out loudly about how women in country music don’t get enough airplay and are constantly suppressed. At the 2019 CMA Awards, she even showed up in a custom dress calling for justice. The dress had a doodle of a woman on the back, but when she lifted the sides, it read, “Play Our F*cking Records” on one side and “Please and Thank You” on the other. 

For the first time ever, the CMT Awards handed out the Equal Play Award in 2020, and it went to Nettles for her constant work in support of her fellow women. While accepting the award, she said, “Thank you to all the fans, and especially to my artists, my sisters out there who continue to burn the holy fire. 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 we tell. We have more to do as soon as we can, and I can’t wait to do it all alongside you, holding your hands.”

Worst: Shania Twain's night at the museum

Shania Twain is a living legend, and there was a lot to love about her performance at the 2020 CMT Awards. The five-time Grammy winner wore an iconic leopard print outfit and sang her classic 1995 hit “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” But the venue for Twain’s performance was odd, to say the least.

Twain performed at a museum in Switzerland amid what appeared to be wax figures of Charlie Chaplin. Yes, performing among wax figures instead of real people is a smart move in the era of social-distancing, but seeing her pretend to interact with said figures was just weird to watch.

“This is the wildest thing. Shania is performing in a Charlie Chaplin museum in Switzerland and dancing around wax figures,” one fan tweeted. Despite the strange surroundings, it was fun for fans to see the icon perform her 25-year-old hit.

Best: This sweet moment between Kane Brown & Chris Young

Chris Young received the award for best performance of the year for singing “Drowning” at the the CMT Artists of the Year special. While accepting the award, Young mentioned how he wrote the song for an old friend who passed away, but he also went on to speak directly to host Kane Brown, who presented him with the award. It turns out that Brown was originally scheduled to perform at the aforementioned special, but his friend and drummer, Kenny Dixon, passed away just days prior. Young stepped in to perform for Brown, and as Young accepted his award for that performance, he told Brown during his acceptance speech that he “can’t imagine, even still, what [Dixon’s] passing does” to Brown. 

Brown, clearly touched by Young’s award-winning performance and subsequent message, told Young how much the performance meant to him at a time that was so difficult. Brown said he believed Dixon would have been so “proud” of Young’s performance.

Worst: Ashley McBryde's potty mouth raised eyebrows

After Dan + Shay accepted the first CMT Award of the night for duo video of the year, host Ashley McBryde joked that she would keep the award in a “safe place — my bathroom.” (The country duo accepted the award virtually, to help with social distancing measures during the pandemic.) McBryde clarified that she meant the award would be next to hers, but it was still an awkward joke. The “One Night Standards” singer probably doesn’t keep her own awards in the bathroom, either — but why make the joke in the first place?

Fans were just as baffled by McBryde’s odd comment. “Did Ashley Mcbryde just say she’s putting Dan and Shays award in her bathroom? Next to hers? She keeps her awards in her bathroom????” one fan tweeted. Yeah, we don’t get it, either, but McBryde clearly meant the comment in good fun, and she went on to kill her CMT Awards performance, too.

Best: The 2020 CMT Awards included an actual audience

It almost feels weird to call this a best part of the show, but in light of COVID-19, having an audience feels like a huge dose of normal. The performances took place outside, so a small audience could be in attendance for some of them, and it was so refreshing to hear actual clapping and cheering. Everyone was socially-distanced and wearing masks but looked to be enjoying themselves!

In the award shows that have happened so far in 2020, this is the first one that’s had a true, live audience, albeit small. Production on these shows are slowly but surely figuring out how to make them as enjoyable as possible, and having a live audience for music is of the utmost importance. We can only imagine that the artists on stage were just as appreciative of the audience as the audience was of the show.

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