Okay, let’s just say it right from the start: 2020 hasn’t been a great year. In fact, for many of us, it’s been one of the worst years in recent memory, if not the very worst. And while most of us won’t be too sorry to say goodbye and put 2020 in the rearview mirror, there were actually more heartwarming, fun, uplifting moments to celebrate in 2020 than you might remember, especially if you’re a fan of country music.
2020 has been a year to see that country stars really are just like the rest of us. With all of our favorite artists off the road and mostly isolating at home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they’ve had to turn to online from-home performances and communicating with fans via social media as their primary outreach, and the results have been great for fans and artists.
We’ve gotten to see inside our favorite county singers’ homes and real lives more than ever in this crazy year, witnessing special times with family, new and unreleased tracks that sprang directly from time spent in isolation, personal triumphs and more.
Read on to see the brightest spots of the past year, and remind yourself that as bad as it’s been … well, 2020 might not have been all bad, after all.
12. Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman’s Rescue Cat
Most of us are having a difficult year compared to almost any other normal year, but for Louis the cat, it’s the exact opposite. The fortunate feline went from not having a home of his own, to living in the lap of luxury with Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.
Kidman turned to social media on Sept. 21 to introduce her fans to their new family member, posting the adorable picture above and writing, “Meet the newest member of our fur-family, Louis!” Kidman added a heart emoji and the hashtag #rescuecat.
11. The Return of Blake Shelton’s Mullet
Blake Shelton didn’t just take the pandemic lying down. The superstar stepped up to help his fellow man (and woman), selflessly taking on the task of growing his once-famous mullet back so that others might bask in its renewed glory.
“I am growing the mullet back as a symbol of hope or some s–t like that,” he tweeted on March 17, as the pandemic was beginning to take hold in earnest. “Anyway it’s coming back! For real. Stay tuned.”
This story would have placed higher on the list if Shelton’s mullet had returned to its full luster, but sadly, it was not to be. It just didn’t look the same, and the singer later abandoned the project.
10. The Toddler Challenge
One of the very best things about everyone’s time in quarantine has been seeing people appreciate the lives and families that they have more, and one of the most heartwarming ways they’ve shown it is with an online challenge called the Toddler Challenge. The concept is simple: Place a tasty treat in front of your toddler, tell them you’ve got to leave the room for a minute and not to touch the scrumptious snack, but they can have it as soon as you get back. Then you record them while you’re out of the room, making for some adorable scenes of kids being good even when nobody is watching.
Country stars and their spouses got in on the fun, with Thomas Rhett, Tyler Hubbard and Jason Aldean‘s kids all demonstrating that they could be on their best behavior even when their parents weren’t there to correct them.
9. Clint Black’s Daughter Makes Opry Debut
Clint Black must be one proud papa. The country icon’s 19-year-old daughter with wife Lisa Hartman Black, Lily, made her debut on the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 31, giving a performance that was incredibly well-received.
She performed Carrie Underwood‘s “Temporary Home” after a humorous introduction from her famous father, who quipped that most singers experience “no nerves at all when they come out on the Opry for the first time, right? None for you?”
“Absolutely none,” she replied drily.
Watch it at about one hour and 14 minutes in the video above.
8. Dwight Yoakam Welcomes First Child at Age 63
Dwight Yoakam has long been one of country music’s confirmed bachelors, but just about everything in his personal life has changed in the last year. First, the country legend married his longtime fiancee, Emily Joyce, in March, and then he announced that they had welcomed a baby boy named Dalton Loren on Aug. 16.
Yoakam’s team posted to his Instagram to reveal the news on Aug. 21, writing, “Like the lyric from the song “Waterfall” that Dwight wrote for Emily on his 3 Pears album says … Babies get born even in a… Pandemic lock down… With great joy and happiness Dwight & Emily announce the birth this past Sunday of their new baby boy. Dalton Loren Yoakam. Born 8-16-2020 at 9:19am.”
7. Kane Brown’s Daughter’s Adorable Laugh
Kane Brown has every reason to love his life right now. The burgeoning country superstar has been getting to spend a lot of extra time with his wife Katelyn and their daughter, Kingsley, during his downtime after his 2020 tour was canceled due to the pandemic, and he’s been sharing some really sweet footage from home as they settle in as a family.
Two particular posts really stand out from Brown’s family time; in July, he posted a video of Kingsley laughing that went viral for its sheer sweetness, and another adorable clip from October is equally “awwww”-inducing.
6. Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani Get Engaged
Finally! After five years together, during which they’ve become one of country music’s favorite couples, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani made fans happy when they announced their engagement in a post to social media on Oct. 27.
“@blakeshelton yes please,” Stefani wrote in a post to Instagram, showing off her ring in a picture of the couple in a church.
“Hey @gwenstefani thanks for saving my 2020 … And the rest of my life.. I love you. I heard a YES!” Shelton said in his tweet about the news.
The couple have not yet announced a wedding date.
5. Miranda Lambert’s Wedded Bliss
Miranda Lambert has spent her quarantine in what seems to be pure bliss with her husband, Brendan McLoughlin. She scored a No. 1 hit with her recent single, “Bluebird,” and gave a series of from-home performances of the track from their rural Tennessee estate, and the couple also hit the road in an Airstream for part of their alone time. Most recently, McLoughlin appeared in Lambert’s new video for “Settling Down,” playing her love interest in a clip that intersperses footage of their real life together.
4. Luke and Caroline Bryan’s Prank War
Luke Bryan and Caroline Bryan have been a favorite couple of country music fans for years, but they’ve upped their game in 2020. The fun-loving couple have a long-running prank war that’s taken on a new urgency during the pandemic, while they have been locked up together with nothing but time on their hands.
Their good-humored antics have provided several social media highlights over the last nine months, including one in which she scared him so bad he threw his beer and nearly fell. The couple celebrate the Christmas season every year with the 12 Days of Pranksmas, which so far in 2020 has already involved both Tim Tebow and Bryan’s mom, LeClaire.
3. Women Return to the Country Music Charts
2020 has proven to be a great year for women in country music. After years of industry conversation about how women were being shut out of radio airplay and the upper reaches of the singles chart, female artists commanded much more respect in 2020. Gabby Barrett and Maren Morris scored massive multi-week No. 1 hits with “I Hope” and “The Bones,” respectively, while Miranda Lambert scored a No. 1 hit with “Bluebird” and Ingrid Andress delivered a chart-topper with “More Hearts Than Mine.” Carly Pearce also hit No. 1 with “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” a duet with Lee Brice, and Gwen Stefani has had back-to-back No. 1 hits in the form of two duets with Blake Shelton. They scored with “Nobody But You” and “Happy Anywhere.”
2. Carrie Underwood Sings With Her Son
It was a great year for Carrie Underwood fans. Not only did she release her first-ever Christmas album, My Gift, but she also recorded a duet with her son, Isaiah. They teamed for an adorable rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” She later posted some pictures of them singing together in the studio, describing just how seriously he took his role on the song. Take a listen, and see if you don’t say “Awwww” out loud when little Isaiah adorably sings his “Pa wum pum pum pum” part.
1. Dolly Parton Helps Save the World
Leave it to Dolly Parton to shine her light and step forward to help, even during a pandemic. The country icon donated a million dollars to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in April, putting the money toward research for a vaccine for COVID-19. In November, the New England Medical Journal reported that the research Parton’s donation helped to fund assisted the biotechnology company Moderna in developing its new COVID-19 vaccine, which has proven to be 94.5 percent effective against the virus. The FDA is expected to green-light the Moderna vaccine within days, making it the second vaccine that will be rolled out to the American public.