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Hollywood’s about to get a little bit country!
In just a few short hours, country music’s biggest stars will descend upon Nashville to celebrate the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards, and when it comes to all the need-to-know details, E! News has you covered.
Like years’ past, the broadcast promises the dynamically fabulous hosting duo that is Carrie Underwoodand Brad Paisley, epic live performances (Yes, that includes a Garth Brooks–Trisha Yearwood duet), and more than a handful unforgettable surprises. Did we mention the potential for a Luke Bryanthree-peat in the Entertainer of the Year category? Emphasis on the word unforgettable.
So without further ado, here are five tidbits you’ll want to have handy going into the 2016 CMA Awards:
1. Ninth Time’s the Charm: It’s rare for awards show hosts to perform so well they get asked back a second or even third round, but Carrie and Brad will do the honors for their whopping ninth year in a row later tonight! And to fit with the evening’s theme (more on that later), country music lovers can expect to travel back in time with Underwood and her many wardrobe changes. The “Church Bells” songstress has already teased a few of her 11 presumably show-stopping looks, which will track the evolution of country style through the decades.
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2. Hats Off to History: What better way to celebrate the CMA Awards’ golden anniversary than with a tribute to the artists that made the industry what it is? The performance lineup reads like a who’s who of the genre, from icons like Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn and George Strait to fixtures like Luke Bryan, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and so many more.
Country’s cutest couple Garth and Trisha will also honor the genre’s most classic duets with a medley of hits from the past. Brooks dished to ABC News of the evening’s “Forever Country” theme, “I don’t know if you guys know this, but all of the artists are pretty much saying the same thing. ‘Hey, screw my current stuff, whoever we need to pay homage to, count us in!'”
With 35 scheduled performances and counting, suffice to say its the biggest lineup the CMA Awards has brought to Bridgestone Arena yet.
3. Comeback Kid: After a life-threatening stroke stole Randy Travis‘ voice and ability to walk in 2013, the country music icon stunned fans when he sang “Amazing Grace” during his mid-October induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame alongside Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster.
All eyes will be on Travis during tonight’s broadcast, as Paisley hinted in a Facebook post following his induction that he’ll be recognized with an extra special salute: “I can’t wait to honor [Travis] again, this time in front of the nation at the CMAs in a few weeks,” he wrote. “All of us are working to make this year the best it’s ever been. Legends like Randy deserve it.”
4. Major Milestones: Not everyone will go home a winner as the curtains close on the 2016 CMA Awards, but Dolly Partonand Kenny Chesney sure will. Parton will receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, a most coveted accolade for any country music artist. As for Chesney, he’ll join the elite ranks of previous honorees Brooks and Taylor Swift to earn the CMA’s Pinnacle Award. Congratulations, you two!
5. Battle for the Top Spot: Among the CMA Awards’ top nominees this year are “Tennessee Whiskey” singer Chris Stapleton, two-time winner Eric Church and country newcomer Maren Morris, whom have all tied for the top spot with five nominations a piece.
But the real competition comes down to the Entertainer of the Year category, where Brooks, Bryan, Underwood, Stapleton and Keith Urban will duke it out for No. 1 country crooner of 2016. The stakes are equally as high for Female Vocalist of the Year, as Miranda Lambert—whose won the title every year since 2010—faces Morris, Underwood, Kacey Musgravesand Kelsea Ballerini.
Don’t miss the 2016 CMA Awards when they go live at 8/7 c on ABC!