The CMA Awards are one of the biggest nights in country music — and not just for country artists. Every year, it seems like more and more pop performers are looking to break out their best drawl for a performance that will leave both country and pop fans in awe. And since the show seems to be going all out for its 50th anniversary this year — rumor has it Beyoncé might be making an appearance on Wednesday night — it seems only right to look back at all of the unforgettable crossover moments that the CMA Awards have given us over the years.
Beyoncé and The Dixie Chicks: “Daddy Lessons”
For the 50th anniversary of country music’s biggest night, they needed to go all out to celebrate … and go all out they did, by pairing Beyoncé with the Dixie Chicks for an incredible, unforgettable performance of “Daddy Lessons” from Bey’s Lemonade. It was the only thing that anyone could talk about all night, and of course, when the moment arrived, with Beyoncé resplendent in white and the Dixie Chicks at their sassiest, it exceeded every expectation. Before anyone managed to utter their first exclamation of “Texas,” the entire crowd was on their feet and they stayed there, dancing, singing and — in the case of Twitter — sobbing, until the very last note. Good luck topping this for the 60th anniversary!
Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton: “Tennessee Whiskey/Drink You Away”
The 2015 CMAs were a big night for Stapleton, who took home three awards, including Album of the Year for his critically acclaimed debut, Traveller. And to top off his arrival as one of the biggest names in country music, after years of writing for other artists, he teamed up with fellow Memphis native Justin Timberlake for the buzziest performance of the night. Between their smokey-smooth rendition of Stapleton’s hit, “Tennessee Whiskey,” and barn-burning interpretation of Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” the pair effectively brought the house down, and proved why they’re both at the top of their respective genres (as well as convincing the rest of us that JT should give country a shot). “Lawd have mercy,” indeed.
Taylor Swift featuring Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Sam Bush: “Red”
Before she was a full-blown pop-star, but after she started edging away from the country-princess persona of her first few albums, Swift teamed up with some fellow country heavyweights for a gorgeous acoustic rendition of her song, “Red.” Alongside bassist Edgar Meyer and percussionist Eric Darken, the trio transformed the hit into a longing, heartbreaking ballad, along with plenty of soaring harmonies that managed to do the impossible: It made us love “Red” even more than we possibly thought we could.
Little Big Town and Ariana Grande: “Bang Bang”
It sounds weird on paper — a country quartet teaming up with an R&B-inspired pop princess for a take on one of the biggest belting, sassiest pop songs of the year — but somehow, Little Big Town and Grande managed to make their styles blend perfectly for a party-starting performance of “Bang Bang.” With a little help from a drum line, which was on hand after LBT’s performance of their hit, “Day Drinking,” and plenty of day-glow costumes, the fivesome took the song to new heights. Literally: Both Kimberly Schlapman and Grande belted some of the highest notes we’ve ever heard.
Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean: “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
In 2010, Clarkson got in touch with her Texas roots by releasing her first foray into country music: a moving, super high-belting duet with Aldean. And when the pair took to the stage to perform their hit song at the CMA Awards, Clarkson pretty much singlehandedly redefined the word “powerhouse” with her soaring vocals — although Aldean matched her, note for note — and proved that there really isn’t anything on the planet that she can’t sing. (Hey, Kelly? We’re still waiting on that country album …)
Miranda Lambert and Meghan Trainor: “All About That Bass”
Just when you thought that “All About That Bass” couldn’t possibly get any sassier, Trainor took to the CMAs stage in 2014 to perform her smash hit with the biggest badass in country music, Miranda Lambert. The two of them ratcheted up the fun factor to 11, and Trainor tapped into her Nashville roots (she used to be a songwriter for country artists before breaking through on her own) for a body-positive, girl-power anthem that also just happened to bring the entire audience to its feet.