Nov 12, 2021 - News
Luke Combs arrives after big CMA win
Luke Combs performs at the CMA Awards on Wednesday in a black button down short sleeve shirt
Luke Combs performs at the CMA Awards on Wednesday. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Luke Combs put an exclamation point on his ascent from scrappy indie upstart to country music's upper echelon Wednesday after winning the CMA's treasured entertainer of the year award.

Why it matters: The award is reserved for artists who move the needle commercially and earn admiration within the insular country music industry.

  • Combs' meteoric rise and his partnership with River House Artists' Lynn Oliver-Cline should go down in Music Row lore. Oliver-Cline went all Jerry Maguire by quitting her job, starting her own record label, and signing Combs as her first artist.

Driving the news: Brothers Osborne nabbed the best country duo trophy in the same year that co-frontman TJ Osborne came out as gay, while Jimmie Allen's win for best new artist reflected the progress that artists of color have earned in recent years.

  • Two of the show's highlights were Mickey Guyton's performance with Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards of "I Love My Hair," and Jennifer Hudson's collaboration with Chris Stapleton to perform a pair of Aretha Franklin songs.
  • "We are becoming more inclusive and representative of our fanbase, which allows us to share even more diverse stories," Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern tells Axios. "I am so proud that our show can give artists a platform to share these stories and perform what is authentic and meaningful to them."

Quick take: Other notable CMA Awards winners were Carly Pearce's somewhat surprising victory for female vocalist and Old Dominion's fourth win in a row for vocal group of the year.

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