“Las Vegas. Charlottesville. New York. Sutherland Springs,” began Underwood, referencing cities hit by violent attacks. “Historic storms in Texas, Puerto Rico, and Florida. And the list goes on and on. This has been a year marked by tragedy, impacting countless lives, including so many in our country music family. So tonight, we’re going to do what families do: come together, pray together, cry together, and sing together, too.”
Added Paisley, “The way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music — loud and proud. Our music lifts people up and that’s what we’re here to do tonight. So this year’s show is dedicated to all of those we’ve lost and to all of those who are still healing. We love you and we will never forget you.”
Last month, country music was directly touched by gun violence when a gunman opened fire at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest Festival as Jason Aldean performed onstage, leaving 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Then, the hosts transitioned into a more light-hearted topic: politics. This was tricky, considering Underwood said they were told to stay away from the subject — much to Paisley’s disappointment.
He still found a way to get a couple of musical zingers in at Hillary Clinton and Paul Manafort, but saved the most extensive “diss” track for Donald Trump and his Twitter account. “And it’s fun to watch, that’s for sure, until little Rocketman starts a nuclear war, and then maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets,” concluded the duo in unison.