The 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards (“ACMs”) was a show that people were anticipating would far exceed expectations set in the previous forty-nine years. Never did anybody imagine though that the three-hour plus live event would set records, set emotions in motion, and set stage fire to the Arlington, Texas rain (which included tornado warnings).
The ACMs started with a bang when Eric Church and Keith Urban pledged allegiance to the “Hag” (Merle Haggard) and barely faltered from that spectacular opening. Barely. Of course, like with any other awards show, there were highs, there were lows, and there were those neutral moments that still have you undecided a day later.
Here are some of Country Music #CMchat’s choice ups, downs, and all arounds from the 2015 ACM Awards:
The Highs (in alphabetical order)
Alan Jackson. A true country music icon (putting aside the whole “Chattahoochie” thing), there are few artists who could come on stage to perform a subdued song and command the amount of attention and respect that Jackson does. Paying tribute to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing (which occurred twenty years ago yesterday, April 19th), Jackson moved onlookers to tears as he asked “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”
Brooks & Dunn. It was like seeing your divorced parents get back together. Though they reunited to the tune of “My Maria” (“Neon Moon” is always the way to go, guys), it was a reunion for the ages. Thank goodness the days of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are coming to an end and we can once again connect them with an ampersand.
Garth Brooks. The most powerful performance of the night belonged to Garth Brooks who sang “All-American Kid” off his Man Against Machine album in honor of Chris Kyle and the United States troops. Carrying a red, white, and blue guitar and turning the entire AT&T stadium into a patriotic statement, Brooks passionately sang his song as servicemen and women filled the aisles.
George Strait. He is the King of Country Music and he toyed with our emotions, proclaiming it was time to ride away. However, he rode back into our lives last night, premiering his new single “Let It Go.”
Miranda Lambert. Lambert is the reigning Female Vocalist of the Year and could fill a “Little Red Wagon” with trophies from last night’s show. While she put on a stellar performance, the highlight she gave us is in her acceptances. She constantly expresses appreciation and gratitude to those around her, while remaining exceptionally humble throughout all the glory. If you are going to take any page out of Lambert’s book, let it be that one.
Reba McEntire. But first, it must be said that the introduction to Reba helped make this moment one of the highest highs. Reba’s longtime “idol”-izer, friend, and now daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson, did the honors of welcoming the fanciest artist of all to the ACMs stage. In true Clarkson fashion, she got tongue tied, laughed at herself, and told the entire country music world to “suck it.” Oh, and then there was Red herself who blew the roof off the place with a short medley of her hits, followed by current sassy single “Going Out Like That.”
Taylor Swift’s Mom. Andrea Swift presented her music history-making daughter with the Milestone Award, putting all other presentations to shame. With the most heartfelt and absolutely gracious introduction that has ever graced any awards show stage, Mama Swift silenced the 70,000+ people at AT&T Stadium, as well as every at-home viewer. To say it was a beautiful sentiment to the youngest ACM Entertainer of the Year of all time is an understatement.
The Lows (in alphabetical order)
Absences. This is not a true “low,” as the show is obviously on time constraints, but give us an inch, we want miles and miles! Carrie Underwood was a notable absence, but Blake Shelton already eased our troubles by announcing she will be a performer at next year’s ACM Lifting Lives event. It also would have been pretty interesting to have Steven Tyler perform, rather than present a performer, considering he is one of country music’s newest signees.
Directional Challenges. Did you also turn the question of “Where do I look?” into a drinking game? Almost every time an artist walked to the stage to accept an award, he/she/they confusingly spun around, unsure where the camera was and where they should direct the acceptance speech. In fact, the words “Where do I look?” were statistically uttered more than the phrase “I’d like to thank…”
Red Carpet. Wow, did the ACMs make it ever-so-difficult for those at home to watch red carpet footage. While we ultimately made do and tuned in on ACMBackstage.com, it was slightly inconvenient to try and support the event from computers while having to juggle Internet windows and browsers. The general consensus across social media is that a televised red carpet is preferred.
Sound. We hear it every awards show, but a vast majority of at-home viewers complained of sound issues during the broadcast. Eventually technology will right this wrong; until then, we shall continue to whine.
The In Betweens (in alphabetical order)
Bluke. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are amazing together and are a perfect hosting pair. However, last night their script was bare and the expected joking and roasting was virtually nonexistent. While these two could never be classified as a “low,” their roles at the ACMs were sadly bleak.
Christina Aguilera. Christina (Xtina) teamed up with Rascal Flatts for a performance that I, personally, could not wait to see. While it was wonderful and an Aguilera vocal assist on “Riot” was perfection, the overall performance itself was forgettable for one so anticipated.
Cole Swindell. We love Swindell at Country Music’s #CMchat, and the “in between” has nothing to do with his New Artist win. It has to do with his short clip of “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.” It’s a Number 1 song, ACMs. Let the man perform it!
Dallas. The best place for this is “in between” because it was a high high and a low low. The ACMs are typically in Las Vegas, and for three days, country music doesn’t sleep. While Texas has the venue for Guinness Book of World Records-breaking attendance, the most famous NFL cheerleaders, and is the proud home state of many of our favorite artists, it also has horrific traffic, tornado warnings, and lacks the amount of sin those visiting from Nashville may crave one weekend a year.
Luke Bryan. Again, this has nothing to do with his Entertainer of the Year win. Contrarily, the big victory is what made this an “in between” instead of a “low.” Bryan won the most coveted award of the evening and before he could get the two words “thank you” out of his mouth, the music was running him off stage. While this is most certainly a timing issue on production’s part, it is upsetting to see someone announced as the Entertainer of the Year, only to be quickly superseded by credits.
Nick Jonas. There is no denying that baby Jonas has an insanely impeccable voice, but, similar to the Aguilera/Flatts performance, Jonas’ collaboration with duo Dan + Shay was middle of the line and couldn’t compare to the sensational throw backs to the 1990’s.
All in all, the ACM Awards did not disappoint and gave us many hours of pure entertainment. What were your personal highs, lows, and in betweens of the 2015 ACM Awards? Let us know by tweeting us @CMchatLIVE.
For a complete list of ACM Awards winners, click here.