CMT Artist of the Year Highlights: Big Names and Big Smiles

The famed CMT Awards celebrated its biggest stars this weekend and the country music royalty was on display in full force.

Videos by American Songwriter

Check out photos, performances, and more from artists like Kane Brown, Carly Pearce, Luke Combs, and others in this hand-dandy recap.

Martina McBride kicked off the evening with a special moment dedicated to the late Loretta Lynn, telling the packed crowd: “Tonight, we honor her in every performance and every moment of this show.”

Honoree Walker Hayes took the CMT stage by storm with the night’s first performance, a high-energy world premiere collab with Ciara, before accepting his award from Kelsea Ballerini & Shane McAnally. Watch the performance and speech below.

Luke Combs remotely accepted his third AOTY award presented by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Erndhart Jr., before tourmate Riley Green took the stage to honor Combs with a rendition of his smash hit “The Kind of Love We Make.”  Watch the performance and speech below.

Honoree Carly Pearce received the night’s first standing ovation for her stripped-back version of “29,” announcing, “Divorce has never looked so good!” as she accepted her first-ever AOTY trophy from former Rascal Flatts tourmate Gary LeVox. Watch the performance and speech below.

Introduced by her new Yellowstone co-star, Kelsey Asbille, ‘Breakout Artist’ Lainey Wilson gave an unforgettable performance of her single, “Heart Like a Truck,” before delivering a heartfelt speech that acknowledged coming a long way from her “camper trailer days” to the CMT stage and dedicating her award to her father, Brian Wilson, exclaiming “We’re just getting started!” Watch the performance and speech below.

Three-time honoree Kane Brown put on an energetic performance of his hit “Like I Love Country Music” backed by a group of line dancers before accepting his trophy from future tourmate Dustin Lynch and shouting out his 4th wedding anniversary with wife Katelyn Brown. Watch the performance and speech below.

Tanya Tucker shared some special words about her “truly great, great friend” Loretta Lynn before introducing a surprise appearance from Crystal Gayle & Peggy Sue Wright, who paid homage to their sister with a moving performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

The fast-rising Texas cowboy, Cody Johnson, performed the emotional track “Human” upon a stool center stage before accepting his first AOTY trophy from Dan + Shay and proclaiming “I believe in country music!” Watch the performance and speech below.

Introduced by four-time AOTY honoree Chris Stapleton, stating “every chance to see him play live is a gift,” Alan Jackson was named Artist of a Lifetime with a heartfelt speech that nodded to his belief that “videos were important to the music.” Jackson then shut down the event with a grand finale of his hit “Chattahoochee” that had the entire crowd on its feet singing along for the entire performance. Watch the performance and speech below.

Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images for CMT

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