Shania Twain to Be Honored as Artist of a Lifetime at CMT Artists of the Year

By Danielle Anderson
October 4, 2016

Shania Twain will be the first female to receive the prestigious “Artist of a Lifetime” award at the 2016 CMT Artists of the Year event, PEOPLE announces exclusively.

Twain, 51, is a five-time GRAMMY and has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide. She remains the top-selling female country artist of all time. Her 1997 release Come On Over has sold more than 15.65 million copies making it the No. 1 top-selling country album, the No. 1 top-selling album (all genre) by a female, and the No. 2 best-selling album overall in Soundscan history.

“There have definitely been a lot of conversations over the last year surrounding female artists,” Leslie Fram – SVP Music Strategy and Talent, CMT, tells PEOPLE. “CMT wanted to honor a living legend who is not only the biggest selling female artist in the history of our format, but one of the best-selling artists of all time. She is and continues to be an inspiration to artists across generations and genres.”

Previous recipients of the honor were legendary artists Kenny Rogers and Merle Haggard, who were awarded in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

The annual special, airing on CMT, honors artists who have dominated country radio and CMT’s platforms, as well as ruled the charts and sold out arenas.

The artists on top this year — this year it’s Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett — will be celebrated at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center for the special premiering on CMT on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. ET. The celebration will include performances, surprise tributes and celebrity toasts.

Bryan now holds the distinction of being one of two artists (the other is Jason Aldean) with the most wins with five consecutive years (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), and joins fellow veterans Underwood (2010, 2012, 2016), Florida Georgia Line (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), as well as first-time recipients Stapleton, who received a nod last year as breakthrough artist, and Thomas Rhett.

This year’s breakthrough artist goes to Kelsea Ballerini, who just scored her third No. 1 hit in a row with “Peter Pan” and became the only female artist in country music history to hit the top spot with her first three consecutive singles from a debut album.