It was tough to live up to the hype surrounding the 50th annual CMA Awards, but the Nov. 2 broadcast came close. Fans who've been screaming for more legendary artists! to be included had a very good night. Blake Shelton fans did not.

For the first time in several years, the CMAs felt tangibly different. The pace was faster — see Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood's monologue — but the show jumped around. Vocally, many singers struggled, but in almost every case beautiful choreography or sets, plus the magic of the moment, made bad notes an afterthought.

Here are five key thoughts from the 2016 CMA Awards as the Taste of Country editorial staff reflects on this show and the future of country music awards shows.

5. They Kept It Country

Everyone was talking about Beyonce the next morning, but aside from her and Elle King (who was part of a big country hit), the 50th annual CMA Awards kept it country. Vince Gill started the show with a Merle Haggard cover that turned into an all-star classic country medley. That would be one of three such medleys on this night — Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood also honored classic duets and a number of stars (including the genre-less Pentatonix) paid tribute to Dolly Parton.

There's no doubt younger fans found themselves asking "Who's that?" on occasion (for the record, that was Roy Clark with Paisley early on), but that's fine. Aside from one big pop superstar, this historic night was truly a night to celebrate country.

4. Speaking of Country, Where Was Blake?

Blake Shelton's absence was noticeable and awkward. All former Male and Female Vocalist of the Year winners were invited to the 2016 CMAs, and they sat in the first five rows. Shelton chose not to attend, however, for reasons that remain unknown (according to his Twitter page, he was hunting).

The other missing star was Shania Twain, although her relationship with the industry has always been strange.

3. What's Next for the Dixie Chicks?

Rick Diamond, Getty Images

They were indeed a "Long Time Gone," and while the Dixie Chicks' return came with a superstar pop singer, it did come. Maines herself admitted that she'd said she'd never play the CMAs again, yet here we are.

So what now? Has the ice melted? The inner circle of the country music community is by and large very supportive of the Dixie Chicks, with the younger generation especially appreciative of what the trio has accomplished. Inside the Bridgestone Arena, fans gave them a hardy ovation, even if fans on social media were considerably less enthusiastic. A sign that relations are improving would be if Maines appears on a mainstream country album as a collaborator. An Eric Church / Natalie Maines duet? We'd buy it!

2. Can We Always Mix in Old Footage?

Most years, the show works in a straight line, celebrating hit after hit from today before a quick pit stop to recognize a legend. This year's flow bounced back and forth. Producers used old CMAs footage to root the show, and that made more pop-friendly performances tolerable for the traditionalist. A perfect example is the transition to Kelsea Ballerini's "Peter Pan" — a clip of Jeannie C. Riley singing "Harper Valley PTA" set it up nicely.

The five large screens with each nominee's face on them were also nice production touches. For the first time in a few years, the CMAs truly innovated. Keep it up, Robert Deaton!

1. There Was Some Major Girl Power Happening

Women ruled the 2016 CMA Awards. No, Carrie Underwood didn't win Entertainer of the Year, but her all-female band during "Dirty Laundry" made quite a statement. Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks were the big surprise guests. Maren Morris gave one of the night's highlight performances. Dolly Parton was recognized for blazing a trail in country music. Little Big Town and Taylor Swift are suddenly besties ... it was a great, great night for women in country music.

See the Top 5 Moments of the 2016 CMA Awards

See the Best Dressed from the 2016 CMA Awards