No alarms, a surprise or two: Rising singer Chris Stapleton picked up three trophies on Wednesday night at Nashville's Country Music Association Awards ceremony, including Male Vocalist of the Year. That, and Stapleton stole the stage while performing with fellow Tennessean Justin Timberlake.
Georgia sensation Luke Bryan won Entertainer of the Year -- the guy does draw a huge, loyal crowd. And Lindale's Miranda Lambert claims the Female Vocalist crown once more.
Lambert kept her speech short, its key line being, "I needed a bright spot this year, so thank you."
What else stood out during Wednesday night's ABC broadcast? Read on for the full spectrum of CMA moments.
-- Hank Williams Jr. and Eric Church, "Are You Ready for the Country" -- Williams' new single lays on the cheese, but that worked strangely well for the musical kickoff. It was quickly followed by John Mellencamp and Keith Urban singing "Pink Houses," because why not? Urban then did a new song, "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16," whose title I never want to type again.
-- It speaks to the Zac Brown Band's skill that it can blend EDM and pop-grass and come out mostly unscathed. Credit a super-catchy chorus. Yep, "Beautiful Drug" is most likely inching up the streaming charts already.
-- Little Big Town, "Girl Crush" -- A guitar and a perfect four-part harmony. Works every time.
-- Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake, "Tennessee Whiskey" -- A sly tour de force with Stapleton's booming soul vocals at the forefront."Tennessee Whiskey" segued into Timberlake's country-ish tune "Drink You Away."
-- Eric Church, "Mr. Misunderstood" -- It's a well constructed song, his latest ode to outsiders, and also the title track of a surprise new album that recently landed in the mailboxes of fan club members.
-- The introspective song "Bathroom Sink" was a good choice for Miranda Lambert, who seemed to have fun and get a little aggression out while performing it. Lambert's fellow East Texan Kacey Musgraves made Golden proud with the biographical ditty "Dime Store Cowgirl."
-- Shouts out to Reba and Brooks & Dunn, who were in particularly robust form during their victory lap medley. No wonder they're in Vegas.
Other notable moments
-- Steve Martin and Dallas' Edie Brickell, who've just released another album together, displayed an easy charm presenting the award for Single of the Year. That award went to the much-deserving "Girl Crush." It also won Song of the Year, which allowed co-writer and Dallas native Liz Rose to take the stage to accept a trophy.
-- The 'Star Wars' opening skit was full of OK wink-wink jokes, yet still a shameless promotional tactic for Disney. That kind of company boosterism on ABC? Never. Oh yeah, Kermit and Miss Piggy were there, too, used in a bait-and-switch divorce joke. A little indirect humor at the expense of Blake and Miranda. Awkward.
-- Pentatonix, our No. 1 hometown a cappella all-stars, did a ver'nice version of "Elvira" in tribute to the Oak Ridge Boys, and then presented the Vocal Group of the Year award (to Little Big Town).
-- While it was confidently delivered, Sam Hunt's Drake-esque country-pop hit "Take Your Time" went on and on ...
-- Genre boundaries continued to blur when Fall Out Boy joined Thomas Rhett for a song swap. The whole thing was comically bad. Including the dancers.
-- That hair guy in Florida Georgia Line -- you know the one -- has replaced his normal McConaughey-ish do with a man bun. That distracted me completely from the rest of the "Confession" performance.
-- Brad Paisley opted for a football-themed production while performing "Country Nation." Blake Shelton went simpler on "Gonna." Neither song wows.
Single of the Year: "Girl Crush," Little Big Town
Song of the Year: "Girl Crush," Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Dallas native Liz Rose
New Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line
Album of the Year: Traveller, Chris Stapleton
Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan