Jennifer Hudson Takes the 2021 CMA Awards to Church with Aretha Franklin's 'You Are My Sunshine'

Jennifer Hudson made her CMA Awards debut at Wednesday's show, performing an Aretha Franklin tribute alongside Chris Stapleton

Jennifer Hudson demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T at the 2021 CMA Awards.

At the Nashville award show on Wednesday, the singer, 40, brought down the house when she performed Aretha Franklin's "Nigh Life," followed by "You Are My Sunshine" with Chris Stapleton, in tribute to the late Queen of Soul, whom she recently portrayed in the biopic Respect.

The performance marked Hudson's debut on the award show stage, and her final notes in the song had everyone in the crowd on their feet cheering.

jennifer hudson and chris stapleton
Jennifer Hudson and Chris Stapleton. Emma McIntyre/Getty; Jason Kempin/Getty

RELATED: Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Gabby Barrett Lead Nominations List at 2021 CMA Awards

The duo joined a star-studded roster of performers, which also included Luke Bryan, who is hosting the show, Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Gabby Barrett, Dierks Bentley featuring BRELAND and HARDY, and Zac Brown Band.

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson and Chris Stapleton. ABC

More performances include: Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood, Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert, Old Dominion, Kane Brown and Chris Young, Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton featuring Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards, and Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde.

RELATED VIDEO: 'Nervous' to Meet Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini Reveals She 'Shattered' Wine Glass in Mouth

Check out PEOPLE's full CMA Awards coverage to get the latest news on country's biggest night.

For Stapleton, 43, the performance marked yet another successful night at the award show — tracing back to his explosion in the country music scene in 2015 when he performed a medley of "Tennessee Whiskey" and "Drink You Away" with Justin Timberlake.

For more on the 2021 CMA Awards and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

The most nominated artist at this year's show, Stapleton swept with wins in the single of the year, album of the year and song of the year categories for his album Starting Over and its title track, as well as male vocalist of the year. He was also up for entertainer of the year.

chris stapleton
Chris Stapleton.

RELATED: Chris Stapleton and Wife Morgane Celebrate 14th Anniversary: 'Thank You for Giving Me Everything'

Meanwhile, Hudson has also had a successful year with the release of Respect over the summer. In July, she reflected on how relating to Franklin's life story helped her portray the legend during an interview with InStyle.

"As an actor, you have to go to your own real places," she said at the time. "I don't think I would have been able to dig that deep or connect in a way had I not been through things myself."

The CMA Awards, hosted by Luke Bryan, were broadcast live from Nashville on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Related Articles