1. A Little Co-Host Role Reversal
It’s Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan’s third year as co-hosts, meaning the novelty of their contrasting personalities is in danger of wearing off: We can count on Shelton to roast his peers or tell a pee-pee joke, and Bryan is legally obligated to smile throughout the entire show. To shake things up, what if the pair swapped roles? That would involve Shelton busting out PG-rated hip gyrations and a wisecrackin’, cussin’ Bryan passing out mid-ceremony in a chicken costume -- and we’re into it.
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2. A (Tasteful) Nod to the “Girl Crush” Controversy
Little Big Town’s provocative single, about a woman whose obsession with her ex spills over to his new lover, has sparked protests from listeners who consider it an overt lesbian ballad. (Singer Karen Fairchild’s paraphrased response to that interpretation: “That’s not what it’s about, but who cares even if it were?”) Thanks to the resulting media coverage and support from stars like Kacey Musgraves?, the track is currently sitting at No. 5 on the Hot Country chart -- and ripe for prime-time fodder. Just keep it classy, everyone.?
3, Garth Brooks Not Lip-Syncing
In a surprisingly candid interview with SiriusXM, Garth Brooks revealed that he has pre-taped a performance for the awards show, which he may or may not lip-sync to when he takes the stage. The entertainer of the year nominee explained that he’ll be fresh off a five-concert series in Portland, Ore., and is worried he’ll no longer have a voice come show time; he’s also, of course, fresh off a 14-year hiatus from recording and touring. Garth, listen to us: We don’t care if you’re raspy or rusty -- isn’t taking chances what “The Dance” is all about?
4. Brothers Osborne Winning Big
Among the contenders for vocal duo of the year are chart-frequenting bros Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae, the fastest-rising female act in nearly a decade. And then there’s TJ and John Osborne, whose résumé is relatively sparse: a blip on last summer’s charts with the radio-friendly “Rum,” off their self-titled EP. But the Maryland-born brothers have been quietly collecting fans through their opening slots for Eric Church and Little Big Town, and that simmering momentum is coming to a boil with “Stay a Little Longer.” The new Jay Joyce-produced single, showcasing TJ’s aching baritone and an extended guitar solo courtesy of John, deserves its own ACM hardware.
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5. Extra-Buzzy Performances from the Ladies
Of the 14 announced performers, only two are female: Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire. Both are seasoned pros at the whole awards show thing -- heck, McEntire hosted the ACMs for over a dozen years -- so we’re not worried about them getting lost in the lineup. But to really stand out, one of them needs to drop a Left Shark-caliber surprise in their set. In our wildest dreams, Reba would turn her classic tune “Fancy” into a duet with enigmatic newcomer (and Big Machine labelmate) Who Is Fancy.