The 54th ACM Awards, broadcast on CBS Sunday night from the Grand Garden Arena at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, held a few surprises and offered a surfeit of great performances from artists both classic and new.
Vocal duo Dan + Shay were the night’s big victors, taking three awards including Song and Single of the Year for their hit “Tequila” and Duo of the Year. Kacey Musgraves, just over one year since the release of her superlative album Golden Hour, scored two trophies for Female Artist of the Year and Album of the Year, a prize she also took at this year’s Grammys and the 2018 CMA Awards. For the first time, Keith Urban nabbed the night’s top award, Entertainer of the Year, an award he also claimed at the 2018 CMAs.
In addition to solo performances from several artists — including Artist of the Decade winner Jason Aldean, Urban, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan — the ACMs also hosted a series of duets. Some collaborated across genre — including Kane Brown and R&B star Khalid — others across generations — Miranda Lambert teamed with George Strait for a gorgeous take on his “Run,” and Best New Male Artist winner Luke Combs joined Brooks & Dunn for a celebratory rendition of the duo’s “Brand New Man.” Others just teamed up for a good time, including Dierks Bentley and Brandi Carlile zipping through his joyful “Travelin’ Light” and Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne bringing the party (and shouting out Nashville dive bar Santa’s Pub in their set design) for a rip-roaring take on their duet “All My Favorite People” from her new album Girl.
Bentley and Brothers Osborne together won the prize for Musical Event of the Year for “Burning Man” from Bentley’s album The Mountain.
Reba McEntire returned to host for the 16th time, as well as to perform “Freedom” from her terrific new album Stronger Than the Truth. She also got off the night’s best zinger during her monologue. Noting that it had recently snowed in Las Vegas she quipped, “It was so cold it froze us women out of Entertainer of the Year.” (A recent study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative laid bare something many observers of the genre have been saying for years about the lack of female representation in the format.) She also joked that she would be teaming up with Cardi B for a performance and then said she did have something they could do together referencing one of her new tracks: “There’s no ‘u’ in Oklahoma and that’s okurrr with me!”
Here are a few of our favorite moments from the show.
Miranda Lambert slays a medley of some of her biggest hits
The Texas firebrand is the most awarded artist in ACM history — 32 total — and she proceeded to showcase why with a medley of some of her fiercest numbers including “Gunpowder & Lead,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “White Liar” and the swaggering “Little Red Wagon.” The look of giddy gratitude on her face later in the evening when she got to sing with King George made her one of the most endearing performers of the night.
Last year, the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter was busy with the birth of his twins so it was good to have his commanding rasp back on the stage and to have his wife Morgane back by his side adding pristine harmonies to the hushed gem “A Simple Song.”
Ashley McBryde arrives
In her song “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” the Arkansas native recounts the words of the many naysayers who tried to quash her dreams, singing “Don’t waste your life behind that guitar/You may get gone, but you won’t get far.” She has proved them all wrong over the last year since the release of her album of the same name, which helped bring her the prize for New Female Artist of the Year and a performance slot that earned her a standing ovation from the crowd in the arena. She later returned to the stage with to help Eric Church perform his evocative song “The Snake.”
This is Us star Chrissy Metz makes her live television singing debut
Singing the emotional anthem “I’m Standing With You” from her new film Breakthrough, the erstwhile Kate Pearson was joined by Underwood, Lauren Alaina, Mickey Guyton, and Maddie & Tae.
Little Big Town shows love for “The Daughters”
In another of the night’s emotional high points, the vocal quartet made the live debut of their new song — a paean to the frustrating expectations often faced by women — with the help of two dozen young female dancers who gracefully moved around the stage as Karen Fairchild became choked up singing “I’ve heard of God the Son and God the Father/And damn I love my son, I love my father/I’m just looking for a God for the daughters.”
- Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay, and Kacey Musgraves lead nominees for 2019 ACM Awards
- Chrissy Metz to perform powerful anthem from her movie Breakthrough at ACMs with Carrie Underwood
- Reba McEntire on her new album Stronger Than the Truth and hosting the ACM Awards
- Little Big Town, Jason Owen, Midland and more pitch in at ACM songwriters event