ACM Awards Showcase Old, New Talent

Mallory Kaster, Senior Staff Writer

The 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards started with a bang last Sunday when The Band Perry performed their smash hit “Chainsaw” to begin the night.

Country music’s party of the year was hosted by stars Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, who were hosting together for their second year in a row. Shelton had previously hosted for two years with Reba McEntire.

When Bryan was chosen to co-host with Shelton in 2013, he made a video for the ACM website responding to the selection. “I feel like the ACM’s really knew what they were doing when they chose someone like me,” he said, “someone well-spoken, from the south, someone’s that’s maintained their country roots.”

He also joked during the video, letting his friendship with Shelton shine through. “Someone that will help pick Blake up, keep the show rolling, for when it may be slipping away from him. So good job ACM’s.”

It’s safe to say Shelton and Bryan make the perfect hosts for country music’s biggest night. They even did their own version of a selfie, mimicking Ellen DeGeneres’s selfie made famous when she hosted the Oscars a few weeks earlier.

When selecting who should be in the photo, however, the hosts decided they were the most famous people in the room, and took a picture of just the two of them.

The night was full of performances by Shelton, Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and the big winners of the night, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban.

The two best performances of the night, however, came from Hunter Hayes and Darius Rucker.

You read that right. New kid on the block Hayes wowed with his very personal performance of his newest single, “Invisible.”

The 22-year-old wrote the song based on personal experience. “I was a total geek, I was a total nerd, and you know, I still am, and I’m proud of that,” he acknowledges. “But it took me a while to realize that it’s okay to be proud of that, because in that time and period of my life, if you didn’t fit in, what else was there?”

“Fortunately for me I had incredible parents, I had an incredible support system, musicians around me, and that showed me that there was hope — that there was maybe something else I could look forward to.”

Instead of playing piano or guitar like he usually does during performances, Hayes let his voice and emotion do all the work, and it certainly paid off with a flawless performance.

Rucker had the other unforgettable performance of the evening, singing his version of the Bob Dylan hit “Wagon Wheel” with fellow country stars Lady Antebellum.

The audience didn’t waste any time in getting to their feet, with everyone standing and singing along by the time the song reached the first chorus. Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Taylor Swift are a few of the artists who were filmed getting caught up in the song.

It was a great performance that I’m sure helped relieve some of the stress of members in the audience. According to, Rucker was undoubtedly thrilled to share the stage with the trio, though he admits he’d love to sing the song with another artist on stage someday.

“You know, my dream would be to get up there and sing that song with Ketch [Secor] and Dylan,” he admits. “That would be awesome, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”

Another unforgettable performance was George Strait’s “I Got a Car,” which received a standing ovation from the audience. Strait took home the biggest award of the night, Entertainer of the Year, which is voted on by fans.

“I’ve always said I have the best fans in the world,” Strait told the crowd. “I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case.” The 61-year-old will be retiring from the road after a final concert in Dallas in a few months.

Lambert won three awards, including female vocalist of the year and single record of the year for her smash hit, “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Lambert teamed with Urban to win vocal event of the year for their “We Were Us” collaboration, for which Urban won trophies as producer and performer. Urban won video of the year with Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift for “Highway Don’t Care.”

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers even made an appearance, presenting the Song of the Year award alongside Olivia Munn. The award went to Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck.”

Vocal Duo of the Year went to Florida Georgia Line, whose performance of “This is How We Roll” with Bryan featured BMX bikers and fire.

The night had its good moments, but also its awkward ones.

Rascal Flatts performed their hit “Rewind” which sounded flawless. Unfortunately, it was a little too perfect. The band admitted, although it was pretty obvious, to lip-synching because lead singer Gary Levox was having some vocal issues.

The band took to Facebook and Twitter Monday night to announce the obvious. “After having performed several shows earlier in the week, Gary lost his voice. So instead of canceling our commitment to do the show, we made a last minute decision to lip-sync. We’ve never done it before, and obviously we’re not very good at it. We look forward to singing live again in the very near future!”

This unfortunately came after Bryan and Shelton commented on all the ACM performances being live.  “Everybody in here tonight is ready to listen to some great amazing live music,” Bryan said in the show’s intro. Shelton was quick to follow. “And if you don’t like live music, then you need to go down the block and see Britney Spears.”

Male Vocalist of the Year went to Jason Aldean, who beat out Bryan, Shelton, Urban and Brice. In his speech, Aldean shared that the award was “really unexpected” again this year. “It was a shock last year to win it and even a bigger shock this year,” he stated. It really was a shock for Aldean, whose divorce last year gave him all kinds of publicity he didn’t want, to win.

The night also had its sweet moment when the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to 77-year-old Merle Haggard as he accepted the Crystal Milestone Award.

Overall, the night was full of laughs, great performances, and a lot of twang, which is exactly what country fans hope to see when they tune in to the ACM Awards.


Full list of winners and nominees:

Entertainer of the Year
Luke Bryan
Miranda Lambert
Blake Shelton
George Strait (winner)
Taylor Swift

Male Vocalist of the Year
Jason Aldean (winner)
Lee Brice
Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton
Keith Urban

Female Vocalist of the Year
Sheryl Crow
Miranda Lambert (winner)
Kacey Musgraves
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Vocal Duo of the Year
Big & Rich
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line (winner)
Love and Theft
Thompson Square

Vocal Group of the Year
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
The Band Perry (winner)
Zac Brown Band

New Artist of the Year
Brett Eldredge
Justin Moore (winner)
Kip Moore

Album of the Year
“Based On A True Story…” – Blake Shelton
“Crash My Party” – Luke Bryan
“Here’s To The Good Times” – Florida Georgia Line
“Same Trailer Different Park” – Kacey Musgraves (winner)
“Two Lanes Of Freedom” – Tim McGraw

Single Record of the Year
“Cruise” Florida Georgia Line
“Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw feat.Taylor Swift  and Keith Urban
“I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice
“Mama’s Broken Heart” – Miranda Lambert (winner)
“Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker feat. Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year
“Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” – Gary Allan (Written by Gary Allan, Hillary Lindsey, Matthew Warren)
“I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice (Written by Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Jimmy Yeary) (winner)
“Mama’s Broken Heart “– Miranda Lambert (Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves)
“Mine Would Be You” – Blake Shelton (Written by Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Deric Ruttan)
“Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker feat. Lady Antebellum (Written by Bob Dylan, Ketch Secor)

Video of the Year
“Better Dig Two” – The Band Perry
“Blowin’ Smoke” – Kacey Musgraves
“Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw feat. Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (winner)
“I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice
“Mama’s Broken Heart” – Miranda Lambert
“Two Black Cadillacs” – Carrie Underwood

Vocal Event of the Year
“Boys ‘Round Here” – Blake Shelton feat. Pistol Annies & Friends
“Cruise” (remix) – Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly
“Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw Featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
“Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker Featuring Lady Antebellum
“We Were Us” – Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert (winner)