Gifted with the voice of an angel, Carrie Underwood delivered the night's most somber and emotional performance. Piano peeked through the candles peppering Bridgestone Arena, and as the stage lights rose, chills rippled throughout the audience. Underwood stood solemnly, a feathery gown billowing below her, on a mini-stage planted in the middle of a sea of show-goers. Instead of performing one of her well-known hit singles (or debuting a new inspirational gem), the superstar spun a chilling, timely rendering of the classic hymn "Softly and Tenderly," famously recorded by Anne Murray and others.
Images of late, great country legends, including Glen Campbell and Don Williams, flashed across the jumbo screen behind her, before the footage segued into honoring the 59 victims of the Las Vegas shooting, which took place last month (Oct. 1). As the music swelled to a fevered pitch, Underwood's voice cracked underneath the weight of emotion. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her voice grew thick with renewed pain.
Heading into the evening, Underwood was nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, alongside Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Reba McEntire and Kelsea Ballerini. She also returned as co-host, alongside Brad Paisley, for the landmark 10th year in a row.
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