The Year in Country Music 2018: Entertainer of the Year Keith Urban is "Never Comin Down" from his surprise CMA triumph

ABC/Image Group LAWith Garth Brooks not touring in 2018 -- and therefore not nominated for CMA Entertainer of the Year -- the question loomed: who would take home the title after Garth’s two consecutive triumphs??

The odds were on either Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean. Before Garth’s recent reign, Luke had taken home the trophy the two previous times. While Jason has never won the CMA honor, he’s clinched the equivalent Academy of Country Music title for the last three consecutive years. Kenny Chesney and Chris Stapleton were strong contenders as well.

But 2018 proved to be the year that Keith Urban, who hadn't won the award since 20005, would clinch the title again. Backstage with his trophy, the Aussie superstar recalled being asked if he did any campaigning. His answer: “I just played every night.”

And play he did. In January, he surprised fans with a pop-up show at Nashville’s Exit/In, announcing he’d be hittign the road in June on his Graffiti U World Tour with Kelsea Ballerini.

At radio, Keith started the year with the empowerment anthem, “Female,” a song written in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  The song, featuring Keith's wife Nicole Kidman on backing vocals,  broke his string of number ones, peaking at #10 in late February.

But by the time the Graffiti U album arrived on April 27, the tireless guitar slinger was well on his way to helping the late Merle Haggard land his first #1 since 1987. With the permission of Merle’s family, Keith used the signature guitar lick from “Mama Tried” on the song “Coming Home,” thereby giving the country legend a writing credit on a number one hit.

In October, Keith helped Blake Shelton’s team in the battle rounds on The Voice. Shortly afterwards, Keith traveled Down Under to host the ARIAs, the Australian equivalent of the Grammys.

Following his November 14th triumph, on December 31, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year heads into 2019 by appearing live from Nashville’s Music City Midnight celebration on NBC’s New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, the third single from Graffiti U, “Never Comin’ Down,” is on track to become his first big hit of the new year.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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