The Academy of Country Music handed out their annual slew of awards Sunday night (April 2) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and as always, the CBS telecast proved to be a memorable night for the format. Jason Aldean emerged as the evening’s big winner, winning his second straight Entertainer of the Year award, receiving the prize from Joe Walsh. “One of the Eagles just gave me an award. That’s one of the coolest things that has happened to me ever….I am so thankful. You guys don’t know how much I love getting up and doing what I do every day,” the singer told the crowd.
Miranda Lambert made a little bit of history with an unprecedented eighth straight win in the Female Vocalist field, breaking a tie she held with Reba McEntire with seven wins in the category. “I’m just glad to see females kicking ass these days. I’m proud to be a part of that,” she said in her remarks.
Lambert won her fifth trophy for Album of the Year for The Weight of These Wings. “I just want to thank you for letting me use my heartbreak, and sharing it with me,” said the singer from the stage. Incidentally, the win was her fifth straight for Album, joining previous winners Platinum, Four The Record, Revolution, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as winners in the category.
For Florida Georgia Line, it was a night where they saw their three-year win streak as Vocal Duo of the Year broken by Brothers Osborne, who also won in the New Vocal Duo / Group of the Year category. But, the two didn’t go home without any awards. Earlier in the weekend, the Big Machine superstars won Single of the Year for their chart-topping “H.O.L.Y.,” and also netted the Vocal Event of the Year for “May We All,” their collaboration with Tim McGraw. Thomas Rhett walked away with the Song of the Year prize for his romantic ballad “Die A Happy Man,” which he co-wrote with Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur. He dedicated the song to his wife Lauren, who was visibly pregnant, citing her as the song’s inspiration.
But the night was not over for Rhett, who triumphed over a crowded list in the Male Vocalist field to take home his first win in the category, “Everyone in this category shaped the artist that I am. I try to be the best singer I can,” said a visibly moved Rhett. “Thank you to the Lord for putting me in this situation. This is a very humbling experience.” Jon Pardi and Maren Morris might very well contend for the Vocalist prizes in the years to come, and their wins in the New Male Vocalist and New Female Vocalist categories proved they are on the right track.
One repeat winner was Little Big Town, who took home their third straight win in the Vocal Group category – and fourth in five years. “You give us life,” said the group’s Karen Fairchild from the stage during their acceptance speech.
It’s a rare thing for the ACM to celebrate the CMA, but the video clip for “Forever Country” won the award for Video of the Year. Produced in tandem with the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards this past November, many of the artists represented in the song took to the stage, including Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts, with Little Big Town’s Fairchild being selected to accept the honor.
Performance-wise, some of the major highlights of the night included Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s return to the stage with “Speak To A Girl,” Miranda Lambert’s acoustic performance of “Tin Man,” Reba McEntire and Lauren Daigle’s collaboration of “Back To God,” and Luke Bryan’s simple yet winning delivery of his current single “Fast.” However, next to the McGraw/Hill collaboration, Monday morning water cooler talk for country fans will undoubtedly revolve around Chris Stapleton delivering a long-awaited first single from his upcoming album and Florida Georgia Line’s performance with the Backstreet Boys.
Hosts Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley kept the evening rolling along with some quick wit throughout the evening. Rather than make jokes at their fellow artists’ expense, the two kept the humor pointed toward them – taking viewers on a tour of Sin City that included the two taking part in a David Copperfield magic performance and a stop by the Cirque du Soleil show.