All 18 Performances from the 2023 CMA Awards Ranked

The Country Music Association Awards have come and gone, leaving 18 stellar performances in its wake. A host of country heavyweights tore up the CMA stage on Wednesday night (November 8) performing anthems, ballads, and tributes to country legends. It’s hard to pit them against one another, but we’ve given it our best shot, below. Find our definitive ranking of all eighteen performances at the 2023 CMA Awards.

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[RELATED: 6 Things We Learned Backstage at the 2023 CMA Awards]

18. Morgan Wallen and Eric Church – “Man Made a Bar

If an award show set in Nashville promises anything, it’s the addition of a surprise guest or two. Morgan Wallen took it upon himself to provide just that at last night’s CMA Awards. He and Eric Church expertly flew through “Man Made a Bar.” It was an enticing watch but was later drowned out by other, more memorable performances.

17. Dan + Shay – “Save Me the Trouble

Dan + Shay are always a welcomed addition to any award show lineup. Their harmonies and insatiably catchy hits, like “Save Me the Trouble,” make them a shoo-in for a televised event. That being said, there were other, far-splashier performances throughout the night. Because of that, we have to put this one at No. 17.

16. Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton– “We Don’t Fight Anymore

Both Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton always wow us with their vocals. Every time either one opens up their mouth to hit a note, we’re instantly swooning. Their performance of “We Don’t Fight Anymore” at the CMAs was beautifully performed, but there were other ballads throughout the night that shined a little brighter (more on that, below).

15. Joe Diffe medley from HARDY, Morgan Wallen, and Post Malone

Morgan Wallen and HARDY have Post Malone to thank for this placement on our list. The two mainstay country singers were in their element while singing a pair of songs from Joe Diffe, but what really kept this performance firmly planted in our minds was the addition of Malone, who decided to try on a country persona for the night. The trio looked like they were having a lot of fun and we had some fun right along with them. As enjoyable as it was to watch, it was not the best super group performance of the night.

14. Old Dominion and Megan Moroney – “Can’t Break Up Now

Old Dominion and Megan Moroney made a smile creep up on our faces while performing “Can’t Break Up Now.” While Old Dominion has long secured their space in the country scene, Moroney is at the beginning of her career. There was something heartwarming about seeing both acts in very different spaces in their careers, perform together.

13. Luke Bryan medley of No. 1 hits

Co-host Luke Bryan reminded the world just how many hits he has under his belt with a medley performance at the CMAs. From “One Margarita” to “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t sing along to Bryan’s hits—well, except for Peyton Manning. We loved this medley, but it wasn’t specific to this year and thus we can’t rationalize putting it at the top of this list.

12. Jelly Roll and Wynonna Judd – “Need a Favor

Jelly Roll opened the show with “Need a Favor.” The gospel-tinged song was just the ticket to get the show started off right. The addition of Wynonna Judd only bolstered the song’s effects. However, with it being the first performance of the night, it eventually got overshadowed by other moments. We’d love to hear more of this duo though.

11. Jordan Davis – “Next Thing You Know

Jordan Davis is a bundle of energy whenever he takes the stage. His presence could rival anyone else’s from the night. Nevertheless, we found other, similarly anthemic performances from throughout the night to hit a little harder.

10. Jelly Roll and K. Michelle – “Love Can Build a Bridge

The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge” is a powerful song. It would be difficult for any artist to take that innate power away from this song, but K. Michelle and Jelly Roll managed to up the ante with their rendition. Perhaps it’s Jelly Roll’s affecting life story, K. Michelle’s stunning vocals, or the collective loss of Naomi Judd—whatever the cause, this performance took “Love Can Build a Bridge” to new emotional heights.

9. Tanya Tucker and Little Big Town – “Delta Dawn

Tanya Tucker‘s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame was made even sweeter by a special duet performance at this year’s CMA Awards alongside Little Big Town. The foursome’s harmonies are some of the most honed in the country scene and “Delta Dawn” has a rarified air to it. Naturally, this performance was all we could ask for and then some.

8. Luke Combs – “Where the Wild Things Are

Luke Combs‘ vocals fill up a room in a way few other male vocalists can. His performance of “Where the Wild Things Are” reminded us of his strength behind the microphone. Combs possesses an unmatched ability to captivate an audience.

7. Kelsea Ballerini – “Leave Me Again

Kelsea Ballerini brought things down for a moment with her Rolling Up the Welcome Mat cut, “Leave Me Again.” Standing at the edge of the stage with only an acoustic guitar backing her up, Ballerini dared to be vulnerable. If there was ever any doubt of her star power, she cleared it right up with this performance.

6. Chris Stapleton – “White Horse

Speaking of male vocalists that can capture a room, next up we have Chris Stapleton. It’s not a surprise he took home the award for Male Vocalist. This performance was proof enough that he was more than deserving of that honor—not to mention the countless other appearances in which he has flexed his stellar vocals.

5. The War & Treaty – “That’s How Love Is Made

It’s hard to beat The War & Treaty when it comes to live performances. They pumped in as much acrobatic vocals, soulful growls, and emotionally ridden notes into a three-minute performance as one could. Though we aren’t surprised they delivered with this performance, we watched on in awe nonetheless.

4. Cody Johnson – “The Painter

Cody Johnson‘s “The Painter” brings the storytelling spirit back to country music. Johnson employs something classic in his musicality that has been duly missed. Moreover, he touched our hearts with this stunning ode to his wife.

3. Ashley McBryde – “Light on in the Kitchen

Ashley McBryde‘s “Light on in the Kitchen” instantly prompts a stream of tears. Nostalgia mixed with McBryde’s powerful and personal songwriting style gives this song a heavy emotional weight. Based on past experiences with this song, we knew this performance would likely be a favorite from the night. Nevertheless she exceeded our expectations.

2. Jimmy Buffett tribute performance from Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band – “Margaritaville

There is a large hole in all of our hearts made by the passing of Jimmy Buffett. Though many wouldn’t automatically jump to call Buffett a country artist, his music has inspired countless artists in the genre, making this tribute far overdue. Each artist in this super group gave the tribute the reverence it deserved, all without sacrificing an ounce of the fun-loving spirit Buffett made his name on.

1. Lainey Wilson – “Wildflowers and Wild Horses

Of course, our top spot had to go to the reigning Entertainer of the Year, Lainey Wilson. This performance of “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” was the only push anyone needed to feel fully satisfied with Wilson earning the EOTY title. She bounded around the stage, hitting high notes with gravitas. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her and what more could you ask of the premiere country entertainer of 2023?

Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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