The first-ever People’s Choice Country Awards took place on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee. The two-hour special, hosted by Little Big Town, featured some of the biggest names and rising stars in country music, as well as emotional tributes and unexpected moments.
Blake Shelton Wins the Ultimate Choice Award
The highlight of the night was the presentation of the Ultimate Choice Award to Blake Shelton, the former coach of The Voice and one of the most successful country artists of all time. Shelton received the award from his longtime friend and collaborator, Toby Keith, who praised him for his achievements and influence in the genre.
Shelton thanked his fans, his team, and his fellow country artists for their support and inspiration. He also dedicated the award to his late brother, Richie, who died in a car accident when Shelton was 14 years old. Shelton said that his brother introduced him to country music and that he always carried his memory with him.
Shelton also performed his hit song, “No Body”, which he said was inspired by his brother’s favorite band, The Black Crowes. He brought the house down with his powerful vocals and rock-infused style.
Dan + Shay and Carly Pearce Win Big
Another big winner of the night was the duo Dan + Shay, who took home three awards: Choice Duo, Choice Song for “Glad You Exist”, and Choice Collaboration for “I Should Probably Go To Bed” with Kelly Clarkson. The duo thanked their fans, their families, and Clarkson for their success and said that they were honored to be part of the country music community.
Carly Pearce, who became an Opry member earlier this year, also won three awards: Choice Female Artist, Choice Album for “29”, and Choice Breakthrough Artist. Pearce said that she was overwhelmed by the recognition and that she was grateful for the opportunity to share her story and her music with the world. She also performed her hit single, “Next Girl”, which she co-wrote with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
Wynonna Judd Honors Her Mother with a Moving Tribute
One of the most touching moments of the night was the tribute to Naomi Judd, who announced her retirement from music earlier this year due to health issues. Her daughter, Wynonna Judd, took the stage to honor her mother’s legacy and to sing one of their most iconic songs, “Love Can Build a Bridge”.
Wynonna said that her mother was her hero, her mentor, and her best friend, and that she taught her everything she knew about music and life. She also said that her mother was a trailblazer and a pioneer for women in country music, and that she deserved all the love and respect from the fans and the industry.
As Wynonna sang the emotional ballad, images of Naomi and Wynonna’s career and family flashed on the screen behind her. At the end of the song, Naomi appeared on a video message, thanking her daughter, her fans, and her peers for their support and love. She also said that she was proud of Wynonna and that she loved her more than words could say.
Other Highlights and Performances
The night was also filled with other memorable performances and surprises, such as:
- Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown teaming up for a duet of “Half of My Hometown”, which won the Choice Country Pop Song award.
- Jelly Roll and HARDY rocking the stage with their rap-country crossover, “Sober”.
- Little Big Town hosting the show with their trademark humor and harmony, and also performing their new single, “Over Drinking”.
- Toby Keith surprising the audience with a medley of his classic hits, such as “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, “Beer for My Horses”, and “Red Solo Cup”.
- The show ending with a star-studded rendition of “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, featuring all the performers and presenters of the night.
The People’s Choice Country Awards was a celebration of the diversity, creativity, and talent of country music, and a testament to the power and popularity of the genre. It was also a night of honoring the past, embracing the present, and looking forward to the future of country music.