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Eric Church took home the top prize at the CMA Music Awards: entertainer of the year.
"If there was ever a year not to win this award…," quipped Church, 43, who beat out Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
Church went on to say: "This award this year, at least for me has been about the loss of this year, loss of life, loss of playing shows, loss of freedom, loss of kids being in school. And you know what the win is? The win is we all were here tonight, together as country music. In-person live, not on Zoom.
"I really believe this: it's going to be music that brings us out of this. That is the one thing that is going to save the entire world," he continued.
"Politicians are about division and music is about unity," he added before thanking everyone for the award. "And I promise you, it's going to take everybody in this room to unite."
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Earlier this year, Garth Brooks withdrew his name for consideration from the category after winning the coveted nod seven times. Brooks won the award in 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2016, 2017 and 2019 – which was the final straw for many fans who argued Underwood deserved to take home the title for her hosting and performing abilities and considering the night last year was dedicated to celebrating the women of country music.
Eric Church won the 2020 CMA Award for entertainer of the year. Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA)
Co-hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker echoed Church's words by focusing on unity and music rather than politics as is commonplace in most award shows. The pair also addressed the coronavirus: "In 2020, it's great to be anywhere," said McEntire, 65.
"Tonight's a wonderful evening to sing together, stand together and be together at the end of a year when too much in this world has been pulling us apart, sometimes more than six feet," added McEntire. "So true," agreed Rucker, 54.
Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker are hosting the 2020 CMAs. They focused on unity and music, and not on politics during their intro. (Alysse Gafkjen via Getty Images)
Rucker noted that it was his first time hosting the award show whereas McEntire has hosted the evening "many times." When asked if it felt "strange" being six feet away from him, McEntire replied no. "Listen, I hosted with Dolly Parton last year."
Joked Rucker: "Those are two big reasons to socially-distance."
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McEntire's boyfriend, Rex Linn, also got a shout-out during the co-hosts' intro. Rucker joked to Linn to "always stay six feet away from Carrie Underwood," to which McEntire teased: "That's not social distancing, that's Reba's rules."
The hosts also teased Morgan Wallen, who made headlines when he was pulled from performing on "SNL" last month after the singer broke "COVID protocols."
Joked Rucker: "And for your safety, I just want everybody to know that I've had Morgan Wallen quarantine in my dressing room for two weeks now."
Reba McEntire and boyfriend Rex Linn made their red carpet debut at the CMA Awards. Linn got a special shout-out during McEntire’s intro. (ABC via Getty Images)
"I don't think you're going to get your deposit back on that dressing room," quipped McEntire.
Before any awards were handed out, the show kicked off with a tribute to the late "Devil Went Down to Georgia" performer Charlie Daniels, which featured a handful of artists like Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osbourne, Ashley McBryde and Jason Aldean all performing to pay tribute to Daniels, who died in July.
Carrie Underwood was part of a joke in Rucker and McEntire’s intro. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMA)
The first award, single of the year, went to Maren Morris for "The Bones." "I just had a baby eight months ago, so just being out is a win for itself," joked Morris, 30. She also won song of the year for the hit.
Wallen, who took home the best new artist award, performed "More Than My Hometown" and Gabby Barrett, joined by Charlie Puth, performed, "I Hope."
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Dan + Shay was joined by Justin Bieber at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl for a performance of "10,000 Hours." Urban was in Australia, where he performed “God Whispered Your Name.”
Justin Bieber performing ‘10,000 Hours.’ (ABC/CMA via Getty Images)
Other performances included: Lambert, Combs, Old Dominion and Carly Pearce.
The late Joe Diffie was also honored with a performance by Jon Pardi and Little Big Town paid tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, while the lifetime achievement award went to Charley Pride. He was introduced by Jimmie Allen.
Pride found major success in the industry beginning in the 1960s. His hits include "Mountain of Love," "Roll on Mississippi" and "Kiss and Angel Good Mornin'."
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Maren Morris took home the award show’s first two on-air awards. (ABC via Getty Images)
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Female vocalist of the year went to Morris and male vocalist of the year went to Luke Combs.
The CMAs were filmed in Nashville, Tenn., but the extravaganza didn't broadcast from its regular home at Bridgestone Arena, and instead, relocated across the street to the more intimate Music City Center.
Fox News’ Nate Day contributed to this report
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