The 55th annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards aired Wednesday night from Nashville, Tennessee – and with a surprising twist, two nominees won the biggest Actor of the Year award.
“We have a draw. This should be the first in the history of ACM,” said host Keith Urban before announcing the award.
Thomas Rhett was the first person to win the award. Rhett thanked God, his wife and his family along with his fans. Urban then took to the stage again to announce the second prize, which was awarded to Carrie Underwood.
“Man of 2020,” Underwood said before accepting the award. “I am more than happy to share this with Thomas Rhett,”
Earlier in the evening, Underwood and Rhett joined their Artist of the Year nominees with numerous performances, singing in vacant seats at the city’s music venues to begin the show.
Luke Brian opened one of the biggest country music nights by singing his song “Rain Is a Good Thing” before throwing it at Eric Church, then at Luke Combs before Thomas Rhett took office. Underwood completed the opening act by issuing Before He Cheated.
After the performances, Urban took the stage, taking some time to talk about 2020 and how it was “an unpredictable and worrying year for everyone.”
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After noting fires on the west coast and hurricanes in the south, Urban said the country was battling two pandemics: COVID-19 and social injustice.
“Too many lives have been lost for both,” he said. “But the examples given by key workers, our first responders, along with the voices calling for equality in all walks of life, resonated around the world and right here in our country’s community.”
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“Country music is a lot of things to a lot of people, but at its core, at its core, at its heart, I believe it’s about community,” he continued. “The songs, the stories, and the artists who tell them bring us healing, comfort, and hope. Surely we could use some of that right now.”
After Urban’s performance, Jimmy Allen continued to perform at Bluebird Café before Old Dominion sang a mix of their biggest hits.
The first prize on air went to Dan + Shay for duet of the year, while the song of the year went to Old Dominion for “One Man Band”.
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Later on the show, Blake Shelton won the single of the year for her hit “God’s Side.” He thanked God and his girlfriend Gwen Stefani “for encouraging me … for being my inspiration.”
The two performed their hit duet “Happy Anywhere” from Bluebird Cafe. Meanwhile, Miranda Lambert, who was previously married to Shelton, had performed an acoustic version of her hit “Bluebird” at the actual location in Nashville earlier in the show.
Elsewhere during the ACM, Underwood took to the stage again to perform a mix of songs from some of the most iconic women in country music.
The 37-year-old musician covers the films of Dolly Parton “Why did you come in here, you look like that”, “Crazy” by Patsy Klein, “The night the lights went out in Georgia” by Reba McInterty, “You are not” by Loretta Lynn Woman enough, “Barbara Mandrell” I Was a Country When the Country Wasn’t Cool “and Martina McBride’s” Broken Wing. “
Another artist on the show was Kane Brown, who performed “Worldwide Beautiful.” Urban introduced Brown, saying the 26-year-old’s song was “a positive change and hope for a better future.”
“I just want everyone to love everyone, and this is the song I wrote for her,” Brown said before singing his tune.
Taylor Swift also took to the stage to perform her song “Betty,” marking her first return to the ACM stage in seven years. Unlike her extravagant tours and other awards, Swift simplified it with just a few stage spotlights and an accompanist harmonica, but her smile glowed as she hummed and sang the heartbreaking song.
Luke Combs took home album of the year for his record “What You See Is What You Get”. Blake Shelton won the single of the year award for his hit “God’s Side”.
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Trisha Yearwood also erected a touching monument.
The 55th annual ACM Awards, which typically take place in April in Las Vegas, were postponed this year and moved to Nashville for the first time.
The performances and segments, a mix of pre-recorded and live performances, swept between three historically important stages – Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Cafe and Ryman Auditorium – in the history of country music, but none were open to fans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report