The Country Music Association Awards almost fully honoured and highlighted the women of country music until two words were uttered when they named its entertainer of the year: Garth Brooks.
Wednesday night's show kicked off with a performance featuring country female acts across generations, included three female hosts and had Maren Morris as its top nominee, but in the final moments, Brooks won the top prize over Carrie Underwood, who many had hoped would be the first female to win entertainer of the year since 2011.
Brooks, who also beat last year's entertainer of the year, Australia's Keith Urban, as well as Eric Church and Chris Stapleton, did highlight female acts during his acceptance speech at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
"If they gave this award for this show tonight, I'd have to give it to Reba McEntire's performance," Brooks said, also praising Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Combs, who won two honours.
Brooks has now won the top gong for a record-extending seventh time.
All eyes seemed to be on Underwood, who had a successful year with her album Cry Pretty and an all-female tour, for an entertainer of the year win.
The last woman to win the prize was Taylor Swift in 2011 and Underwood, who was widely expected to pick up he honour, was this year's sole female nominee.
Underwood hosted the show alongside McEntire and Dolly Parton, though she didn't win any awards.
Morris marked a big night for female country acts by taking home album of the year for GIRL.
GIRL was also nominated for single of the year and song of the year but it lost in both categories (the winners were Blake Shelton's God's Country and Combs' Beautiful Crazy).
Morris also lost musical event of the year to Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus' ubiquitous No.1 hit, Old Town Road.
Kacey Musgraves, who won four Grammys this year, picked up female vocalist of the year and music video of the year for Rainbow.
Other women who won Wednesday included Ashley McBryde, who won new artist of the year and fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, named musician of the year.
Combs, who has dominated the country charts and streaming services with his songs and albums, also won male vocalist of the year, beating out Stapleton, Urban, Thomas Rhett and Dierks Bentley.
Urban, who attended the ceremony with wife Nicole Kidman, performed his single We Were.
"This song is about a first love, fake IDs, leather jackets on the back of a Harley," he told the audience.
"Sneaking into a club to hear a band play a little Pour Some Sugar on Me, thinking it would always last, and not thinking it would ever fade like the stamp on the back of your hand."
The three-hour CMA Awards kicked off with a dose of girl-power: Parton, Underwood and McEntire were joined by Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Crystal Gayle, Sara Evans, Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and more, singing classic country songs across two stages.
CMA AWARDS 2019 WINNERS
* Entertainer of the year: Garth Brooks
* Female vocalist of the year: Kacey Musgraves
* Male vocalist of the year: Luke Combs
* New artist of the year: Ashley McBryde
* Album of the year: GIRL, Maren Morris
* Song of the year: Beautiful Crazy, Luke Combs
* Single of the year: God's Country, Blake Shelton
* Vocal duo of the year: Dan + Shay
* Vocal group of the year: Old Dominion
* Musical event of the year: Old Town Road (Remix), Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
* Music video of the year Rainbow, Kacey Musgraves
* Musician of the year: Jenee Fleenor (fiddle)
Australian Associated Press