The Academy of Country Music awards were held last night (April 7) in Las Vegas and the star-studded night was a big one for country duo Dan + Shay, who took home three awards, and Keith Urban, who took home the trophy for Entertainer of the Year just months after earning the same honor at the CMA awards. The award ceremony provided more than a few jaw-dropping moments, including Miranda Lambert's full throttle medley, Ashley McBryde's star-making performance and some nostalgia-inducing trips back to '90s and early aughts country radio.
Below, read a list of the best and worst moments from the 54th annual ACM awards.
Best: Reba Reminds Us Why She Rules
Hot off the release of her stellar new album Stronger Than the Truth, Reba McEntire returned to the ACM stage as host for the second consecutive year (and 16th year in total) with an important reminder: "My name is Reba McEntire and I haven't been tired in 53 years! I'm a woman in the music business and we don't have time for tired!" But there's one thing McEntire is tired of, and that's women entertainers being shut out of nominations. No women were nominated for the Entertainer of the Year award (for the second year in a row), a fact that Reba didn't let go unchecked.
"Do you know it snowed in Las Vegas just a few weeks ago? It was so cold, it froze us women out of Entertainer of the Year," she quipped. McEntire then turned her attention to ACM Album of the Year nominee (and winner) Kacey Musgraves, noting the "Space Cowboy" singer's Grammy sweep: "That didn't bother Kacey Musgraves because she's been too busy carrying all her Grammys around," the country legend quipped. It was a blistering reminder that even massive success won't always get you recognition in the country music boys club.
In addition to her hosting gig, McEntire took the stage to bring the house down with her brand new single "Freedom." All hail the queen.
Worst: The Opening Performance Turned Shameless Plug
Given the Academy of Country Music's recent decision to create a task force to address barriers and biases against women and underrepresented groups in country music, giving the opening slot to Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line felt a little lackluster, as did the performance of "Can't Hide Red," a song from Florida Georgia Line's recently released Can't Say I Ain't Country. But perhaps the strangest part was what happened at the end of the performance; Ever the businessmen, Florida Georgia Line took the opportunity to plug their whiskey brand, Old Camp Whiskey. We'll pass on that one, boys.
Best: Collaborations Were the Star of the Show
The best part of award shows is seeing artists work with their heroes and peers. And the 2019 ACM awards had great collaborations in spades. Brooks and Dunn and Luke Combs took us back to the '90s with "Brand New Man," George Strait and Miranda Lambert delivered a gorgeous duet with "Run," Brothers Osborne joined Maren Morris for a rousing performance of "All My Favorite People," Eric Church and Ashley McBryde stunned with their chilling "The Snake" and Kane Brown and R&B singer-songwriter Khalid teamed up for "Saturday Nights." By the time Dierks Bentley and Brandi Carlile took the stage for their phenomenal "Travelin' Light," we had already been treated to an embarrassment of riches. And seeing (and hearing) Carlile get her well-deserved moment on a major country award show was one of many highlights of the night.
Worst: The Absence of a Kacey Musgraves Performance
Kacey Musgraves got some camera time for her two well-deserved wins for Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year, but the question remains: why didn't she perform at least once on the three-hour award show? She's had a hell of a year and not recognizing that with a performance slot seems like a missed opportunity. We're not sure if she wasn't asked or if Musgraves just felt like sitting it out this year. Either way, we missed her songs. At least she got to share an important message after her win for Female Vocalist of the Year: "This award goes out to any woman, or girl -- or anybody, really -- that is maybe being told that her perspective or her style is too different to work."
Best: Little Big Town Sings One For the Daughters
Written by Karen Fairchild, Sean McConnell and Ashley Ray, Little Big Town's "Daughters" is destined to be a standout song of 2019. The striking song, which explores sexism and double standards, captures feelings of both desperation and defiance and recalls Mary Chapin Carpenter's 1994 hit "He Thinks He'll Keep Her."
"Girl, shoulders back and stand up straight/ Girl, watch your mouth and watch your weight/ Mind your manners, smile for the camera/ And pose like a trophy on a shelf/ Dream for everyone but not yourself/ I've heard of God the Son and God the Father/ I'm still looking for a God for the daughters," the quartet sings.
Best: Miranda Lambert Shows Everybody How It's Done
Miranda Lambert took her victory lap at this year's ACM awards. The most awarded artist in ACM history, Lambert owned the stage with a selection of her biggest hits. As mentioned above, no female artists were nominated in the ACM Entertainer of the Year category and Lambert's powerhouse performance makes that inexplicable fact somehow more bizarre. In other words, how in the hell was this woman not nominated for Entertainer of the Year? By the time she set the stage on fire (and set rumor mills in motion) with "Little Red Wagon," it was clear: no one can surpass the 'Kerosene' queen.
Best: Ashley McBryde Arrives
You know how you sometimes daydream about proving all your past doubters wrong by living your dreams in the most epic way possible? Well, Ashley McBryde actually did that. McBryde took the stage at the ACM awards and performed a song inspired by her high school teacher, who told her she'd never make it as a singer-songwriter. Though it was short, McBryde's moving performance of "Girl Goin' Nowhere" cemented the ACM New Female Vocalist as a bona fide country star. It was clear that this was her moment. We're not sure if McBryde's former teacher was at home watching, but it's safe to say that thousands of little girls were -- and the message rang clear.
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