54th Annual Country Music Association Awards

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54th Annual Country Music Association Awards
DateNovember 11, 2020
LocationMusic City Center, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Hosted byReba McEntire
Darius Rucker
Most awardsMaren Morris (3)
Most nominationsMiranda Lambert (7)
Television/radio coverage
Viewership7.1 million
← 53rd · CMA · 55th →
Exterior of the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee

The 54th Annual Country Music Association Awards were held on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee and was hosted by CMA Award winners Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker.[1]

Eric Church, the recipient of the highest honor, Entertainer of the Year.
Recipient of Male Vocalist and Album of the Year, Luke Combs.
Maren Morris, winner of Female Vocalist, Song and Single of the Year.
Vocal Duo of the Year, Dan + Shay.
Old Dominion, Vocal Group of the Year.
Morgan Wallen, New Artist of the Year.


Darius Rucker is the second African-American male to co-host the award show after Charley Pride, who co-hosted the 1975 ceremony.

On October 22, the CMA announced that Pride would be the recipient of the 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.[2] It would be Pride's last public appearance before his death that December.[3]

On November 9, following the announcement that two of the artists (Lee Brice and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line) originally scheduled to perform on the CMA Awards had tested positive for coronavirus, the CMA released a statement to Entertainment Tonight explaining that "We have been extremely diligent with our testing process in advance of anyone entering our footprint. Every single person has been tested, and many will be tested repeatedly throughout the week. This is in addition to wearing PPE and of course practicing social and physical distancing. We have an incredible show planned and look forward to bringing the country music community together. However, our number one priority has been and will continue to be the safety of our artists, our crew and our staff. That will never be compromised."[4][5]

In order to mitigate the likelihood of spreading coronavirus during the ceremony, only the nominees, their staff, guests and the crew were allowed into the venue and the traditional red carpet did not take place. Longtime CMA producer Roger Deaton confirmed to The Tennessean that the show would incorporate both live and pre-recorded performances (with around 60% being performed live) and that multiple stages throughout the venue would be utilized in order to account for how each stage must be fully cleaned and sanitized by crew members following a performance, taking about fifteen to twenty minutes. Seating arrangements for the attendees were designed to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines, with a banquet-style layout akin to the inaugural untelevised CMA Awards wherein an artist and their guests each have their own table which is spaced eight meters apart from the other tables.[6] After Pride's death, speculation arose that he may have caught the virus from an asymptomatic carrier at the ceremony who had gone undetected.[3]

Winners and nominees[edit]

The nominees were announced on September 1, 2020 by Luke Combs and Carly Pearce on Good Morning America as well as by Ingrid Andress and Gabby Barrett on the CMA YouTube channel.[7][8] The eligibility period for the 54th CMA Awards was from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.[9]

Winners in Bold.

Entertainer of the Year Album of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year Female Vocalist of the Year
Vocal Group of the Year Vocal Duo of the Year
Single of the Year Song of the Year
New Artist of the Year Musician of the Year
Music Video of the Year Musical Event of the Year
Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award

International Awards[edit]

Award Recipient[10]
International Country Broadcaster Award Ben Earle
Jo Walker-Meador International Award John Esposito
Jeff Walker Global Country Artist Award Ilse DeLange


The first wave of performers were announced on October 29, 2020, followed by the second wave on November 5.[11][12][13][14]

Artist(s) Song(s)
Dierks Bentley
Brothers Osborne
Ashley McBryde
Jason Aldean
Tribute to Charlie Daniels
"Long Haired Country Boy"
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
Morgan Wallen "More Than My Hometown"
Gabby Barrett
Cade Foehner
Charlie Puth
"I Hope"
Eric Church "Hell of a View"
Darius Rucker
"Beers and Sunshine"
Ashley McBryde "One Night Standards"
Dan + Shay
Justin Bieber
"10,000 Hours"
Luke Combs "Cold as You"
Jon Pardi Tribute to Joe Diffie
"Pickup Man"
Carly Pearce
Charles Kelley
"I Hope You're Happy Now"
Darius Rucker
Reba McEntire
Tribute to Mac Davis
"In the Ghetto"
Miranda Lambert "Settling Down"
Jimmie Allen "Best Shot"
Charley Pride
Jimmie Allen
Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award
"Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'"
Chris Stapleton
Morgane Stapleton
"Starting Over"
Ingrid Andress "More Hearts Than Mine"
Thomas Rhett
Reba McEntire
Chris Tomlin
"Be a Light"
Little Big Town Tribute to Kenny Rogers
"Sweet Music Man"
Brothers Osborne "All Night"
Old Dominion "Lookin' for Love"
Maren Morris "The Bones"
Keith Urban "God Whispered Your Name"
Kelsea Ballerini "Hole in the Bottle"

Artists test positive for COVID-19[edit]

On November 8, 2020, Lee Brice was forced to pull out of performing his multi-nominated song "I Hope You're Happy Now" with Carly Pearce after testing positive for coronavirus. Charles Kelley from Lady A was later announced to be performing Brice's part alongside Pearce.[15] On November 9, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line revealed that he had also tested positive, resulting in the duo's performance of "Long Live" being cancelled, with their slot being given to Kelsea Ballerini who was originally not scheduled to appear. Both Brice and Hubbard received their positive test results before entering CMA rehearsals.[16] Jenee Fleenor also tested positive for COVID-19 and her part in the Charlie Daniels tribute was given to Dan Hochhalter, the fiddle player in Dierks Bentley's band. Ahead of the awards, Lady A announced that, while the band themselves had all tested negative, a member of their immediate family had tested positive and they had made the decision not to attend the show, therefore not appearing alongside Thomas Rhett and Darius Rucker as planned. Kelley's performance with Pearce had been pre-recorded and aired as part of the show. Rascal Flatts also did not perform "Bless the Broken Road" after a member of the band tested positive.[17]

Charley Pride later tested positive after the show, an infection that later proved fatal. It is under investigation how Pride caught the virus.[3]


Presenter(s) Award
Bobby Bones Single of the Year
Taylor Hill Song of the Year
Lauren Akins New Artist of the Year
Dierks Bentley Vocal Duo of the Year
Lauren Alaina and Patrick Schwarzenegger Vocal Group of the Year
Jake Owen Album of the Year
Charles Esten Female Vocalist of the Year
Sara Evans Male Vocalist of the Year
Darius Rucker and Reba McEntire Entertainer of the Year

CeCe Winans introduced Darius Rucker & Reba McEntire's performance.

Nominee milestones[edit]

Courtesy of Billboard.[18]

  • As the top nominee with seven nods, Miranda Lambert overtakes Reba McEntire as the most nominated woman in CMA history, with 55 total nominations to McEntire's 51. Lambert is now the fourth most-nominated artist behind Brad Paisley (58), Alan Jackson (81) and George Strait (83).
  • Additionally, with Lambert's nominations for Album, Single and Song of the Year, she matches Jackson (1990, 1991, 1993 and 2002) as the only artist in CMA history to be nominated in all three categories four times (after previously sweeping the categories in 2010, 2014 and 2017). She also ties Paisley as the second most-nominated artist in the Single of the Year category with 8 nominations behind Strait's nine.
  • Keith Urban's Entertainer of the Year nod brings his career total to 13 nominations, second only to Strait's 19.
  • Lambert and Underwood's nominations for Entertainer of the Year marks the first time that two women have been nominated in the category at the same time since 1979 when Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell were nominated. It is also worth noting that Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks were both nominated in 2000, but Lambert and Underwood is the first time that two solo women have been nominated since Gayle and Mandrell.[19]
  • Lambert, Morris and Barrett's nominations for Single of the Year also mark the first time three women have been nominated in the category since 1994 when Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless and Reba McEntire were all featured.
  • Andress, Barrett and Pearce's nominations for New Artist of the Year mark the first time three female artists have been nominated in the category since 1999 when Sara Evans, Chely Wright and eventual winner Jo Dee Messina were nominated. Additionally, Jimmie Allen's nomination in the category is the first for an African American artist since Darius Rucker won in 2009.
  • Brooks & Dunn's 21'st Vocal Duo of the Year nomination extends their lead as the highest nominated act in that category.
  • For the first time since the 1977 CMA Awards, all five Single of the Year nominees reached the top thirty on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • "10,000 Hours" is the fourth collaboration with a pop star to be nominated for Single of the Year, following Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias' "To All the Girls I've Loved Before", Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay" and Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line's "Meant to Be".


Garth Brooks[edit]

On July 30, 2020, Garth Brooks announced that he wants his name to be permanently out of contention for Entertainer of the Year.[20] After he won the 2019 Entertainer of the Year award, it caused a social media firestorm; many fans and artists believed Carrie Underwood or Eric Church deserved to win the award over Brooks. Brooks stated that after the last win, that it was "not that fun, to tell you the truth." As he absorbed the backlash after the November awards show, Brooks said, he couldn't shake the sentiment expressed in one of the tweets he read: "It said, 'Hey man, this guy, why doesn't he step down and just [leave] the entertainer for the next generation?'" He said he realized that taking his name out of the running was his only way forward. The timing of his announcement came just two days before the second round of voting begins for the annual awards, "I'm very grateful for the time that I've got to go [win]," he said, but now, "somebody else needs to hold that." According to a statement released July 30, 2020 by the Country Music Association, "The long-standing CMA Awards rules do not allow individuals to remove themselves from the balloting process at any point."

In 2021, Brooks restated that his position on receiving a nomination for Entertainer of the Year still stands.

CMA Messaging[edit]

Singer Margo Price was critical of the awards after the CMA released a statement stating that the show would feature "no drama, just music" promising to help the audience "forget the weight of the world for just a little while". Price tweeted her anger stating that "once again, the CMA’s are censoring/white washing their show but who’s surprised? anyone still participating is a socially unconscious pawn. Artists pander woke authenticity when it benefits them and then sit in silence as they collect their plastic trophies. Also the music sucks". She additionally criticized the lack of diversity as "appalling" and the fact that the event included a live audience by stating that "covid cases are at an all time high and the CMA’s are holding an event INSIDE where they censor what you talk about if it doesn’t fit their narrative".[21][22] Many articles however pointed out that the CMA's statement did not mention anywhere that they would censor artists and was simply a piece of promotion and was not, in fact, directed towards the artists or performers at all. The CMA released a response to the criticism stating that: “we look forward to an evening of incredible music and celebration at next week’s CMA Awards. While our intentions with our social campaign was to communicate to our fans that the show will offer a brief escape, we recognize that our phrasing did not convey that message. We welcome every artist’s right to express themselves.”.[23]

John Prine[edit]

After airing, the CMA Awards received criticism from artists Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires for failing to mention John Prine who had passed away in April following complications from COVID-19 as well as Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff Walker who both died in October, with Isbell noting that he and Shires had returned their CMA membership cards in protest. A statement from Prine's label Oh Boy Records read "we're disappointed John won't be a part of the CMA award show tonight. Country music was both the inspiration and foundation for his songwriting and performing. While there may be a number of artists who have had more commercial success than John, there are very few who achieved more artistically".[24][25]

The Death of Charley Pride[edit]

Charley Pride, the 86 year old recipient of the 54th CMA's Lifetime Achievement Award, died on December 12, just weeks after attending the ceremony in what would be his final public appearance. A statement released by Pride's family explained that the star had died of complications from COVID-19 which launched speculation that he may have caught it at the ceremony, with several stars including Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Rissi Palmer and Mickey Guyton demanding answers from the CMAs. A joint statement released by the CMA and Pride's representatives stated "Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further." While it was noted that Pride was the only attendee to test positive following the awards and that he made the decision to attend in-person and accept his award, the controversy persisted, Pride's longtime manager and bass player Kevin Bailey released a statement defending the CMAs explaining that "U do know that Charley tested negative twice after he came back from Nashville, and it may have even been three times. My understanding is that when Charley went into the hospital, we thought he had pneumonia. Somebody decided to do another test, and then they put him in the COVID unit. Every precaution was taken. I think it’s unfortunate that people are out there crusading to stir up some mud. Because I really don’t think the CMAs were negligent in any way. Every time we darkened the door, we got tested."[26]


  1. ^ "Reba McEntire And Darius Rucker To Host 54th Annual CMA Awards". Deadline Hollywood. October 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "Charley Pride to Receive CMA Awards' 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award". Billboard.
  3. ^ a b c Chris Morris (December 12, 2020). "Charley Pride, Country Music's First Black Superstar, Dies of COVID-19 at 86". Variety. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  4. ^ https://www.etonline.com/kelsea-ballerini-among-country-music-stars-to-perform-at-2020-cma-awards155570 [dead link]
  5. ^ "The CMA Awards Promise to Bring Top Country Stars Together 'Safely, All in One Room'". Billboard.
  6. ^ "How the CMA Awards will keep attendees safe from coronavirus". Fox News. 10 November 2020.
  7. ^ "54th CMA Awards nominations announced". September 1, 2020.
  8. ^ Leimkuehler, Matthew. "CMA Awards 2020: Here's the full list of nominees". The Tennessean.
  9. ^ "CMA Awards Nominations 2020: Snubs and Surprises". Billboard.
  10. ^ "CMA Announces Dean Dillon, Marty Stuart And Hank Williams Jr. As The Country Music Hall Of Fame Class Of 2020". CMA World. August 17, 2020.
  11. ^ CMA Country Music [@CountryMusic] (October 29, 2020). "#CMAawards PERFORMERS! @Reba McEntire with @DariusRucker, Darius feat. @LadyA, @GabbyBarrett_ feat. @CharliePuth, @EricChurch, @LukeCombs, @FLAGALine, @MirandaLambert, @AshleyMcBryde, @MarenMorris, @RascalFlatts and @ThomasRhett feat. Reba, @HillaryScottLA & @ChrisTomlin!! https://t.co/PJr94SPJQo" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  12. ^ "Breaking News - Performers Announced for "The 54th Annual CMA Awards," Country Music's Biggest Night(TM), Broadcasting Live from Nashville's Music City Center Wednesday, Nov. 11, on ABC". TheFutonCritic.com. 2020-10-29. Retrieved 2022-05-05.
  13. ^ CMA Country Music [@CountryMusic] (November 5, 2020). "MORE #CMAawards PERFORMERS! @Jason_Aldean, @DierksBentley, @BrothersOsborne, @JeneeMusic, @AshleyMcBryde, @DanAndShay with @JustinBieber, @JimmieAllen, @IngridAndress, @LittleBigTown, @OldDominion, @JonPardi, @CarlyPearce & @LeeBrice, @KeithUrban, & @MorganWallen! 🤩 https://t.co/BXnRa21Agi" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  14. ^ CMA Country Music [@CountryMusic] (November 9, 2020). "Just announced!! Two-time #CMAawards nominee this year @ChrisStapleton will take the stage to perform his new single "Starting Over" and we are PUMPED! Watch the CMA Awards Wednesday at 8|7c on @ABCNetwork! https://t.co/FPBanHFyvr" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ "Country Star Lee Brice Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Will Miss CMA Awards Performance". 9 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard is Second CMA Awards Performer to Cancel After Testing Positive for COVID-19". 9 November 2020.
  17. ^ "CMA Awards 2020: Lady a exits show after family member tests positive for COVID-19".
  18. ^ "Miranda Lambert Is the Top CMA Awards Nominee in a Much-Improved Year For Women". Billboard.
  19. ^ Black, Lauren Jo (September 1, 2020). "For the First Time in 41 Years, Two Solo Female Artists Are Nominated For CMA Entertainer of the Year".
  20. ^ "Garth Brooks Pulls His Name from Consideration for CMA Entertainer of the Year". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  21. ^ Price, Margo [@MissMargoPrice] (November 5, 2020). "once again, the CMA's are censoring/white washing their show but who's surprised? anyone still participating is a socially unconscious pawn. artists pander woke authenticity when it benefits them and then sit in silence as they collect their plastic trophies. also the music sucks https://t.co/QB3sHwB9kP" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Price, Margo [@MissMargoPrice] (November 10, 2020). "so let me get this straight, covid cases are at an all time high, the CMA's are holding an event INSIDE where they censor what you talk about if it doesn't fit their narrative... the dude from Lady Antebellum is performing & bro from Florida Georgia Line tested positive for covid https://t.co/Lj2SHKqIH9" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "Twitter Mob Sows False Claim CMA's Looked to Stifle Speech". 6 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson criticise CMAs after John Prine snub". NME. 13 November 2020.
  25. ^ Oh Boy Records [@ohboyrecords] (November 12, 2020). "We'll be tuning in tonight for the great performances and to root on our favs, but we just wanted to share this too #countrymusic https://t.co/eUjSjetC5i" (Tweet). Retrieved December 29, 2020 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "Charley Pride Manager Says CMA Critics "Crusading to Stir up Mud"". 18 December 2020.