The 49th Annual ACM Awards were held Sunday night in Las Vegas, where George Strait took home Entertainer of the Year, Miranda Lambert earned her fifth consecutive Female Vocalist title, and Darius Rucker stole the show. Here are a few more honors from the telecast. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
Best reminder that the ACMs are held in Vegas (except next year, when they head to Dallas’ AT&T Stadium for the 50th anniversary), while the CMAs are held in Nashville: Co-host Blake Shelton’s opening monologue zinger about all the performances on the telecast: “If you don’t like live music, then you need to go down the block and see Britney Spears.”
Worst reminder that the ACMs are held in Vegas, while the CMAs are held in Nashville: Brad Paisley performing “River Bank” at a pool.
Best decision of the night: Garth Brooks asking the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to 77-year-old Merle Haggard as he walked to the stage to accept the Crystal Milestone Award. It got me misty. (Also, didn’t Lambert sound better on Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” than she did on her own song, “Automatic”?)
Worst decision of the night: This would be a tie between the director letting Tim McGraw sit for his performance of “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” featuring wife Faith Hill (selfishly, I prefer him standing for the shots from behind) and allowing Vocal Group of the Year The Band Perry to blow a serious amount of confetti into the crowd during their show-opener “Chainsaw.” As co-host Luke Bryan noted, “There’s $20 million in hairdos down here, and it all has confetti in it. This is not a Head & Shoulders commercial, everybody.”
You could still see the confetti on the ground when George Strait — the only artist to have a Top 10 hit every year for 30 years — accepted his much-deserved Entertainer of the Year award three hours later. (Also worth noting in the video below, Strait accidentally left Lambert hanging on a high-five at 0:43, but she made a nice save, and the “Bubba” that he thanks is his songwriter son, George Strait Jr.)
Here’s George performing his current single, “I Got a Car,” and getting a standing ovation.
Best camerawork: I was going to say the crowd shots during Darius Rucker’s performance of “Wagon Wheel” with Lady Antebellum. But that’s too easy, isn’t it? (Taylor Swift dances at 1:25 and 2:22. And hey, Angie Harmon and Vince Neil!)
So let’s go with Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” — not for those arty shots behind the tumbleweed, but for the restraint shown. Unlike at the CMAs, where Church debuted “The Outsiders,” the intensity of the song was allowed to speak for itself here without frenetic cuts. (And in a sea of fairly forgettable, interchangeable mid-tempo performances, this one was the best — and the only one I rewound.)
Worst camerawork: The director should’ve reined it in during Keith Urban’s “Even the Stars Fall 4 U”: All the movement gave me a headache. You don’t need it for someone as magnetic as Urban. (Where it works, if you must, is on a more sedentary performer like Toby Keith, who sang “Shut Up and Hold On.”)
Best surprise during an in-the-round performance: Lady A’s Charles Kelley played air guitar during their post-“Golden” duet of “Rhiannon” with their CMT Crossroads partner Stevie Nicks. (How cute were Nicks and Hillary Scott holding hands at the start?)
Worst surprise during an in-the-round performance: I realize “I Drive Your Truck,” the eventual winner for Song of the Year, isn’t a current chart-topper, but you have Lee Brice doing a moving, stripped-down version and we only get one verse? And then you trot out Guy Fieri, wearing a gray camouflage suit jacket, to plug his new Vegas restaurant? Boo!
For me, this year’s set list didn’t pack enough of an emotional punch. At least Hunter Hayes got to perform the hell out of “Invisible.” Whether or not you loved his vocals, you had to appreciate his passion.
Best head-scratcher: Shelton and Shakira’s “Medicine” duet. It took me a while to decide, but I think I liked it in the end? (Still not sure about her wearing those boots with that dress though.)
Runner-up: Did Olivia Munn feel out of place showing so much cleavage?
At least until Jewel showed up.
Worst head-scratcher: Did Rascal Flatts lip sync “Rewind”? Was there an audio error on CBS’ end? Look for an answer on Monday.
Runner-up: Not being 100 percent sure how to read the same sex marriage joke in the opening monologue — or rather, the audience’s reaction after the set-up (at 3:00 in the first video in the post). The hosts were listing things that have changed since they emcee’d the show in 2013.
Luke: This year, all you hear about is same sex marriage over, and over, and over again. That’s all you hear about.
Blake: A year ago, same sex marriage just meant once you got married, you had the same sex over, and over, and over again, man.
Miranda: [Mouthing from audience] Thanks.
Their current affairs material also touched on marijuana legalization:
Blake: Last year, to get some, you had to go to an official marijuana dispensary.
Luke: We call it Eric Church’s dressing room.
Best chance for an on-stage injury: Vocal Duo of the Year Florida Georgia Line had BMX tricks happening behind them on ramps during “This is How We Roll” with Bryan.
Worst mention of an off-stage injury: How did I totally miss that Jake Owen had part of a finger amputated last August after a go-kart accident?
Blake: Another change: Last year, Jake Owen had all 10 of his fingers.
Luke: Did y’all hear about it? It was horrible. Jake lost a finger in a go-kart accident.
Blake: You know where they found it? On Miley Cyrus’ tour bus. It was takin’ a selfie and smokin’ a doobie.
Luke: Jake may only have nine fingers left, but I’m pretty sure he’s giving you one of ‘em right now.