The country music world was all over the map in 2018. There were new romances, splits, records set and some truly gut-wrenching moments. Wonderwall.com is looking back at the biggest country music moments of the year, starting with Carrie Underwood's return to the stage nearly five months after she suffered a gruesome fall outside her home in Nashville in late 2017. The singer broke her wrist and had to get more than 40 stitches in her face as a result of the freak accident. Her triumphant return came in April at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas where she performed a moving and emotional rendition of new single "Cry Pretty," the title track from her latest No. 1 album, which came out in September. Carrie got teary-eyed during the song and got a standing ovation afterward.
RELATED: The best looks from ACM Awards past
You wanna talk dominance? If you looked at the top spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at practically any point in 2018, you saw the same single there: "Meant To Be" by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line. The song, which had crossover appeal, debuted at No.1 in late December 2017 and stayed there all year long. In July, it broke the record for the longest reign in the Hot Country Songs Chart's history. In late November, Kane Brown's "Lose It" finally unseated "Meant to Be," which ultimately spent 50 straight weeks at the top of the heap. As if that weren't enough, FGL is doing a limited residency show in Las Vegas in December.
Miranda Lambert's love life sparked scandal in 2018. In February, she began dating musician Evan Felker… who was married at the time (the Turnpike Troubadours frontman filed for divorce from wife Staci the same month; it was finalized over the summer). "He went on tour and he did not come home," a source told Us Weekly. There was also speculation that Miranda was still in a relationship with musician Anderson East when she and Evan, whose band was opening for her on tour, started seeing one another. Evan's estranged wife, Staci, claimed that the musician continued to contact her after their split and then "ghosted" her while she was in the hospital and later implied that Evan and Miranda both wouldn't stop calling her. Miranda's drama-filled new romance didn't last — a source cryptically told People magazine that Evan "broke [Miranda's] rules." In late August, she told The Tennessean that she was "happily single."
RELATED: New celeb couples of 2018
Jason Aldean had a lot of big moments in 2018. He released an album that went to No. 1. He announced that wife Brittany Kerr is pregnant with their second child together, a girl they plan to name Navy Rome. But perhaps the most bittersweet moment of the year for Jason was officially returning to Las Vegas after the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting — which broke out when he was on stage headlining the Route 91 Harvest music festival — that killed 58 and injured 851. Jason went back to Vegas a week after the tragedy to visit with victims and first responders, but he did so in a very low-key manner. In April 2018, he went to Vegas for the Academy of Country Music Awards, where he won the top prize, entertainer of the year. "It's been a rough year," he said in his speech after the win. "I just want to say thanks to everybody who reached out to us, that showed us love and support over the last six months. It meant the world to us. To my Route 91 people, you guys are in our hearts, always. I love you guys. And we love Las Vegas. Vegas strong, baby." Jason again returned to Vegas in September for the iHeartRadio festival, where he proudly performed a full set of hits.
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who had a better year than Keith Urban, and on Nov. 14, the country world recognized that when he was awarded with the CMA entertainer of the year trophy, arguably the most sought-after prize in country music. The win, though, was a surprise, as evidenced by Keith's genuine shock upon hearing his name called. With nine nominations, Keith had never won before this year, and he didn't hide his tears while accepting the award. He then won over the crowd. To open his speech, he looked directly at his wife, Nicole Kidman, telling her, "Baby girl, I love you so much. I am shocked beyond shocked… You make it all worthwhile." He also thanked his daughters. He ended his speech on an emotional note, saying, "I wish my dad was alive to see this, but I think he's watching over me tonight." That's. How. You. Do. It.
Reba McEntire finally showed off her new man! The singing legend stepped out with her new boyfriend, Anthony "Skeeter" Lasuzzo, for the first time at the Grammy Awards in January. The couple had been together for several months but had kept their romance out of the public eye. "Skeeter and I get along really well. We love the mountains. Everything that we have encountered … we love going to plays in New York," Reba told Taste of Country. "He was in the oil and gas business, so being from Oklahoma, I was very familiar with that. As a matter of fact, my very first job other than singing was checking records with an oil lease company! It's so funny."
Maren Morris found her happily ever after with longtime beau Ryan Hurd in March. The couple tied the knot in Nashville. Maren wore a short white dress with a flowing train, a design that was custom-made for her. "[My mom] was a bada– and had this short wedding dress, so I sent it to this designer that I love," Maren told People magazine. "I was like, 'If we can do a modern version of my mom's wedding dress just dreaming something up really cool but still throwback with her vibe, I would love to make that happen.'" Oh, by the way, Maren was also the voice in one of the most infectious earworm songs of the year when she teamed up with DJ Zedd for "The Middle." Bab-ay, why don't you just meet me in the middle!
Radio DJ Bobby Bones is already well-known to country radio fans, but he became a household name in the fall when he participated on Season 27 of "Dancing With the Stars." Before the show began, Bobby said he knew nothing about dancing. "It's way harder than I thought," Bobby told People magazine. "People that do it well make it look easy, and if you just watched me do it, you would see how hard it is because I don't do it well." After all was said and done, Bobby proved himself wrong: He won the Mirrorball trophy with pro partner Sharna Burgess!
This is absolutely heartbreaking. Rising country star Walker Hayes and wife Laney headed to the hospital on June 6 after Laney went into labor with their seventh child. But something went wrong and soon, Laney was in emergency surgery. Then Walker got the news that no one should ever have to hear — his wife delivered a baby girl, but their daughter had died. The heartbroken country star shared the devastating news with fans, tweeting, "Our sweet Oakleigh Klover Hayes was born this morning at the hospital and now is safely in heaven." Laney also almost lost her life due to a uterine rupture. "Laney and I have cried a lot," Walker told People magazine a few months later, "but one thing that makes me the happiest is how much love there has been around us. We've had the most remarkable questions answered and advice given from people around our neighborhood and in meet-and-greet lines. People walk up to me and tell me their life, and it's like, geez, thank you for sharing. I don't even know these people."
In August, Carrie Underwood dropped a bombshell: Her "Cry Pretty" tour wouldn't start until May 2019 because… she's pregnant! "You might be wondering or asking, 'Carrie, why is your tour starting in May?' Well … yay!" she shared in an Instagram video, revealing balloons spelling out "BABY" above her head. "Mike and Isaiah and I are absolutely over the moon and excited to be adding another little fish to our pond." She added, "This has just been a dream come true with album and with baby news and all that stuff. We're just so excited and just so glad you guys can share in this with us and be a part of this with us. Love you guys! We will see you on the road in 2019." What Carrie didn't mention in the reveal was that this pregnancy is very emotional for her. Why? She told CBS News in September that she had three miscarriages between 2017 and early 2018. During the CMA Awards in November, Carrie revealed she's having another boy.
Zac Brown and wife Shelly have gone their separate ways after 12 years of marriage and five children. The former couple announced the news in a lengthy statement in October. "We feel blessed to be on such an incredible journey in life and sometimes the journey begins to lead in different directions. It is with deep love and respect that we announce we are separating as a couple," they said. "We have led a whirlwind life together growing into a beautiful family with five amazing children and while life will be rearranging a bit, our love and commitment to our family will always be there. This was a difficult decision, but we've done plenty of tough things together and this is our next venture — love, mutual respect and care for each other are what we are moving forward with. Family comes in all different forms. We would like to ask that rather than commenting or spending any energy towards this, that you take this moment to send love to your family, in honor of ours."
Welcome back, Sugarland! 2018 marked the first time in eight years that Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush released a new album ("Bigger" came out in June). A March concert in Dublin marked the first time in over five years that they'd played together on stage too. Sugarland, of course, dominated the country scene and won every conceivable duet award there was in the early aughts. The duo got a lot of airplay and press when they released the single "Babe" this year, which was co-written by Taylor Swift. "She was excited we were getting back together and reached out and said, 'Hey, I have a song,'" Jennifer said. "And that is a short list, ladies and gentleman, of people to whom she has said, 'Hey, I have a song. Wanna sing it?' So we said yes." Taylor then starred in the track's music video alongside former "Superman" star Brandon Routh.
Grammy-winning singer Gretchen Wilson was arrested on Aug. 21 after an incident aboard a commercial airliner during a flight from New York to Connecticut. Law enforcement sources said she got into a shoving match with another passenger over the airplane's restroom. TMZ reported that the singer "threw her hands in the air and demanded to be arrested" after seeing law enforcement. A police report indicated that while she was being interviewed by police, she "became belligerent towards the troopers and caused a disturbance." Gretchen was booked into jail for second-degree breach of peace. In late August, Gretchen told the website Taste of Country that some of the reporting wasn't true, but failed to specify what was false. "It's been really frustrating for me not to be able to talk about it because people who know me know that I just want get it straight," she said. "I'm reading all of these headlines and am like, 'Oh gosh, it's so wrong. It's all so wrong!'" Gretchen, who agreed to donate $500 to a fund for injured crime victims, negotiated a deal that will see the charges formally dropped in 2019 if she stays out of trouble.
Can someone ask Luke Bryan for a loan? In August, Forbes reported the Luke was the highest paid country star of the year, pulling in $52 million. Luke's haul came via a combination of touring, his judging gig on "American Idol" and endorsements. Luke also opened a bar this year on Nashville's famous Lower Broadway.
In case you didn't know… Brett Young is off the market. On Nov. 3, the country crooner married longtime girlfriend Taylor Mills in Palm Desert, California. The couple wrote their own vows. "That's definitely the moment that was most difficult to get through and not sound like a big baby," he told People magazine. "I cried writing my vows. When you've been together for 10 years, on and off, it's really overwhelming to sit down and put into few words how you feel about somebody." Several stars performed at the wedding including Luke Combs, Lee Brice and Gavin DeGraw. A few days later, Brett shared a wedding pic on Instagram, captioning it, "So excited to finally be able to say husband and wife!"
George Strait's band was forever changed on Aug. 31 when Mike Kennedy was tragically killed in a car accident. Mike was the drummer in George's Ace in the Hole Band for more than 30 years. A few days after the musician's death, George broke his silence, saying he was heartbroken. "Hard to put into words how much Mike's passing has affected us all," he wrote on Instagram, sharing several pictures of Mike. "Our hearts are broken. It's going to be very strange not being able to look over and see him there in his spot on stage and very emotional as well I'm sure for all of us and also his fans. The band will never be the same. A part of us is gone forever. We all loved Mike and will miss him terribly. He was just as solid a friend to us all as he was a drummer, and that was damn solid. Our hearts and prayers are with his family. The Lord has him now. Rest in Peace my friend."