The 2021 CMT Music Awards started out with a bang: a performance from superstar country trio Lady A. The group delivered a performance of their newest single, “Like a Lady" -- but they didn’t do it alone.

Rather, Lady A were backed up by an all-women band, making the performance an embodiment of the spirit of "Like a Lady," which trio member Hillary Scott has previously described as a female empowerment anthem for the empowerment of women. Carly Pearce and Lindsay Ell were billed as collaborators ahead of the 2021 CMT Music Awards, but the group also included, per Rolling Stone, rising country star Catie Offerman on fiddle, Loving Mary member Rebecca Lynn Howard on bass, drummer Elizabeth Chan and guitarist Juno.

Harmony vocals, meanwhile, came courtesy of the Shindellas, the Nashville-based trio of Tamara Chauniece, Kasi Jones and Stacy Johnson. Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony — songwriters and producers who are together known as Louis York — first brought the three artists together. Chauniece, Jones and Johnson's diverse backgrounds include experience singing in church choirs and for commercial jingles; Chauniece event spent some time on NBC's The Voice.

The Shindellas pulled double duty on Wednesday night (June 9): They left the 2021 CMT Music Awards stage and headed straight to the popular Nashville venue Exit/In for their first headlining show.

The inclusion of the Shindellas and several other not-specifically-country acts at the 2021 CMT Music Awards was part of a larger overall effort by CMT to make the show more inclusive. In addition to performances from Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton and Breland, plus an appearance from Blanco Brown — all country artists of color — the event also featured performances from Gladys Knight, and H.E.R., and actor Anthony Mackie served as a presenter.

Linda Martell, meanwhile, earned the 2021 CMT Equal Play Award, in recognition of her career as a Black woman in country music in the 1970s. All in all, the show was one of the most diverse country music events in recent history.

See the Best Dressed at the 2021 CMT Awards

The 2021 CMT Awards red carpet was white hot! Stars like Carly Pearce, Niko Moon and Tenille Arts dressed in their summer best, but others like Kelsea Ballerini and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town would not be undone. In fact, everyone from LBT looked great and it looks like Philip Sweet is fully recovered after a bout of COVID-19 in April. 

See some of our favorite looks below, including Thomas Rhett, Kane Brown and his wife Katelyn and Mickey Guyton. Who do you think looked best on the 2021 CMT Awards red carpet?

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