Carrie Underwood CMA Awards

When it came to the top honor at Wednesday’s “2021 CMT Music Awards,” one winner won his first award while the other won her 23rd. Carrie Underwood and John Legend’s “Hallelujah” was voted Video of the Year by CMT viewers — Underwood’s third consecutive year to take the category and her ninth overall.

“Fans!” Underwood exclaimed as she accepted the award. “Thank you so much, fans. You guys, you’re the reason we are all here, doing what we do, doing what we love, making music videos.”

Underwood appeared in two locations Wednesday, performing “I Wanna Remember” with NEEDTOBREATHE at The Bonnaroo Farm in Manchester before returning to Nashville and Bridgestone Arena to make her acceptance speech.

For the second year, the “CMT Music Awards” showcased locations around Middle Tennessee, staging more than 20 performances at places like The Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin and the outdoor Assembly Hall at the new Fifth and Broadway development in downtown Nashville across the street from both the Bridgestone Arena and the Ryman Auditorium.

Collaborations were the theme of the night, led by Chris Stapleton and R&B star H.E.R.’s duet on H.E.R.’s “Hold On.” (Stapleton, too, had a Bonnaroo Farm performance early in the show, singing “Arkansas.”) Other highlight pairings included a show-opening Lady A performance that featured Carly Pearce, guitarist Lindsay Ell and an all-female band; and a Breland/Mickey Guyton performance of their “Cross Country” that segued into Guyton singing “Friendship Train” with R&B legend Gladys Knight. Chris Young and Kane Brown closed the show with their “Famous Friends.”

The KBs — co-hosts Brown and Kelsea Ballerini — each won awards: Brown for Male Video (“Worship You”) and Collaborative Video with Young (“Famous Friends”), Ballerini for CMT Performance of the Year for “The Other Girl” with Halsey. That win gave Ballerini her first CMT Music Award. Dylan Scott also won his first CMT, for “Nobody” as Breakthrough Video of the Year.

Another first-time winner: Linda Martell, the ground-breaking artist who had three charting country singles in 1969 and 1970 and was the first Black female singer to play the Grand Ole Opry. Martell received the second CMT Equal Play Award and was the subject of a touching video tribute that featured congratulatory messages from Underwood, Darius Rucker, Jennifer Nettles, Rhiannon Giddens and Rissi Palmer. The 86-year-old Martell did not attend the ceremony but watched with her family from her South Carolina home.

The list of “CMT Music Awards” winners follows:

Video: Carrie Underwood and John Legend, “Hallelujah”

Female Video: Gabby Barrett, “The Good Ones”

Male Video: Kane Brown, “Worship You”

Duo/Group Video: Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey”

Breakthrough Video: Dylan Scott, “Nobody”

Collaborative Video: Chris Young and Kane Brown, “Famous Friends”

CMT Performance: Kelsea Ballerini and Halsey, “The Other Girl”

Best Family Feature: Taylor Swift, “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version)”

CMT Equal Play Award: Linda Martell

Carrie Underwood photo courtesy of CMT/ViacomCBS