CeCe Winans and Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to the church on Sunday. The gospel legend and country superstar have teamed up for a top-notch, powerful performance that was the highlight of the show.
Underwood played songs from her latest gospel anthem album, “My Savior,” and she and Winans mixed their voices like angels on stage. Underwood started the performance with “Amazing Grace” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” then Winans joined in and matched her strong vocal performance.
Collaborative moments were a topic during the award ceremony.
The most decorated artist in ACM Awards history, Miranda Lambert kicked off the show with rock-pop singer Elle King for a fun, energetic performance of her new duet. Lambert and King wore matching outfits – an all black, pink fringed ensemble on Lambert’s leather jacket and blue on King’s – and sang the anthem track “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee .
The performance, like many that aired Sunday night, was taped in various locations in Nashville, including the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe, in front of a small audience composed of medical professionals and health care workers.
Lambert, who founded the non-profit animal shelter MuttNation, appeared alongside Chris Stapleton for “Maggie’s Song,” a tribute to Stapleton’s dog, who died in 2019. Her third appearance was with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.
Dierks Bentley was unforgettable on stage too, singing U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with The War and Treaty, the extremely talented couple.
Another couple took to the stage on Sunday: Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd performed and ended with a kiss. Morris later won song of the year for her Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” which topped the country charts for months last year.
“When I wrote (‘The Bones’) I was with my current husband and it was just a song to him. And sometimes I have the feeling that songs know you better than you did back then. And I have the feeling that this song has revealed so many new things to me, ”said a tear-eyed Morris on stage. “And that was just a hell of a good year and hopefully country music and maybe even this song has brought some peace to you and your family and friends.”
But not everything went smoothly. Grammy-winning duo Dan + Shay performed their latest hit, “Glad You Exist,” but the pre-recorded moment was out of sync.
“Apparently there was an audio / video sync issue on the TV show,” the duo tweeted. “We’re amazed by this, but it happens, especially when there are gigs in multiple locations.”
Another mishap occurred when Martina McBride announced the winner of the single of the year. McBride correctly said “I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Carly Pearce and Lee Brice won, even though “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett appears on the TV screen.
“We wrote this song about my history and I think it resonated with everyone,” said Pearce on stage, also thanking Busbee, who produced the song and who died in late 2019. “This is the last song my producer worked on.”
Lambert, who has won 35 ACMs, has been nominated for five honors and still has a chance to extend her record. She is not competing for the show’s grand prize, Entertainer of the Year, where all nominees are male artists. Entertainer of the Year nominations include Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church and Thomas Rhett, who won the honor in a duel with Underwood last year.
Bryan, who was scheduled to appear at the awards, stepped down from the event because he recently tested positive for the coronavirus. All other Entertainer of the Year nominees will perform.
Another big name in country music is also missing from the show: Morgan Wallen. The singer, whose latest album and singles hit both the country and pop charts, was declared ineligible by the ACMs after he was caught on camera with a racist slur earlier this year.
Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet will also not be on the show as he recently tested positive for COVID-19 and his band will perform without him.
Stapleton and Morris are the top nominees with six each. Stapleton’s nominations included album, song, and male artist of the year. Morris’ nominations included Single and Artist of the Year. She also landed a group of the year member of the highwomen – the supergroup with Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby – but lost to Old Dominion.
The award was presented by Blanco Brown, who made his first public appearance on Sunday after seriously injuring himself in a head-on collision last year.
Full list of winners
Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan
Artist of the year: Maren Morris
Male Artist of the Year: Thomas Rhett
Duo of the year: Dan + Shay
Group of the Year: Old Dominion
New Artist of the Year: Gabby Barrett
New Male Artist of the Year: Jimmie Allen
Album of the year: “Starting Over” by Chris Stapleton
Single of the year: “I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Carly Pearce and Lee Brice
Song of the year: “The Bones” by Maren Morris
Video of the year: “Worldwide Beautiful” by Kane Brown
Music Event of the Year: “Hope You’re Happy Now” by Carly Pearce and Lee Brice