The 51st annual CMA Awards had a tough row to hoe Wednesday night, forced to find a balance among politics, press, tragedy and Donald Trump, all while celebrating country music.
Luckily, the show had veteran hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — now in their 10th year of MC duties — to lead the way and deliver a show both moving and mildly critical of the president.
Here's a look at five of the evening's best moments.
Underwood and Paisley's 'Before He Tweets'
Things were solemn as the show began, with Paisley and Underwood calling for unity in a year that had seen so much division, including the tragic shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas last month.
But the pair quickly transitioned to poking fun at the president with a gentle send-up of his Twitter habits, set to the tune of Underwood's hit "Before He Cheats."
Underwood's 'Softly and Tenderly' in Memoriam
In addition to her hosting duties, Underwood also sang the hymn "Softly and Tenderly" for the ceremony's in memoriam segment.
Always moving, the segment carried additional weight with the inclusion of the Las Vegas victims.
Underwood's vocals were ethereal, but the emotion proved too much for her by the song’s end and she fell silent momentarily.
A raucous Troy Gentry tribute
A rollicking tribute to Troy Gentry, the Montgomery Gentry co-founder who died in a helicopter crash in September, saluted another of country's fallen heroes this year.
Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts, alongside Eddie Montgomery — Gentry's musical partner in crime — sang Montgomery Gentry's "Our Town." The performance turned into a full-blown singalong, with many country music stars fighting back tears.
A Sugarland reunion?!
It has been seven years since Sugarland released an album and five years since the band performed together. But is all of that about to change?
The duo featuring Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush graced the stage Wednesday to present the award for vocal duo of the year, which they won for five consecutive years. The award went to Brothers Osborne.
Shortly after the ceremony, the band posted an intriguing photo that suggests a comeback may be imminent.
Sturgill Simpson doesn't mince his words
Perhaps the most shocking statement of the evening came from outside of Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, where Sturgill Simpson, who won the 2017 Grammy for country album of the year, was busking.
With his Grammy in his guitar case, Simpson streamed on Facebook Live and donated all money raised to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Next to his case was a sign that read, "I don’t take requests, but I take questions about anything you want to talk about because fascism sucks."
Simpson has never been fully embraced by mainstream country music and doesn't shy away from talking politics.
Asked by a fan to give a mock CMA acceptance speech, Simpson delivered quite a doozy:
"Nobody needs a machine gun, and that’s comin’ from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck," he said. "Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. Hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tenn. Thank you very much."