2020 ACM Awards: The Complete Recap

The country community was long overdue for an award show, and finally, after a five-month delay, the ACM Award premiered on CBS. The show was presented a little differently this year. For the first time ever, the ACMs took place in Nashville from three separate iconic country music venues including the Ryman Auditorium, Bluebird Café, and where most of the events were held, the Grand Ole Opry House. Old Dominion and Luke Combs were among the big winners, as well as Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood who shared the most prestigious award of the night, Entertainer of the Year.

The program began with the five Entertainer of the Year nominees performing a snippet of one of their classic songs from one of the three hubs. From the Grand Ole Opry, Luke Bryan sang “Rain is a Good Thing,” and Eric Church performed “Drink in My Hand.” Google Earth then took us to the Bluebird Café, where Luke Combs performed “When It Rains It Pours.” From the Ryman, Thomas Rhett sang “It Goes Like This,” and finally, back at the Opry, Carrie Underwood sang “Before He Cheats.”

At the Grand Ole Opry, host Keith Urban kicked off the show with a moving monologue in front of the empty stands regarding all the wrong that is going on in the world right now, from tropical storms and hurricanes, wildfires, social injustice, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are still in the midst of trying to fight two pandemics, COVID-19 and social injustice—far too many lives have been lost to both,” the defending ACM Entertainer of the Year explained. “But the examples set by our essentials workers and first responders, along with the voices crying out for equality in all walks of life have echoed around the world and right here in our country music community. They inspire us to come together and work together to address these challenges.”

The first full performance was by Jimmie Allen at the Bluebird, singing his hit song, “Make Me Want To.” Old Dominion followed from the Ryman performing a fun melody of all their biggest hits over the years from their three studio albums. Old Dominion had a big night, winning the Song of the Year (for songwriting) with their number one hit, “One Man Band,” and taking home their third straight Group of the Year award. Front-man, Matt Ramsey gave an emotional speech after winning Song of the Year.

“This is not what I thought I’d say but we’re sitting here in this empty room and I can hear Andrew, our friend that passed away, I can hear him saying ‘I know who you are!’ like he used to yell that at us; and I can feel your dad, Josh, smiling; I can feel how proud he is right now. I can feel your brother [pointing at bandmate, Trevor Rosen], I can feel him; I can feel them all and they’re so proud.”

Fittingly so, Miranda Lambert performed an acoustic version of her most recent number one song, “Bluebird” at Bluebird Café with the track’s songwriters, Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby. Lambert, along with her friends, Maren Morris, Tenille Townes, Ashley McBryde, Elle King and Caylee Hammack, took home the award for Vocal Event of Year for their rendition of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” This is Lambert’s 35th ACM award, continuing her streak with the most ACM wins in the awards show history.

Many artists performed happy, feel-good tunes last night to lift the viewers’ spirits during this dark time. These included Luke Bryan, who performed his latest number one hit, “One Margarita” with beach visuals backing him and his band; Kelsea Ballerini, who gave her current pop-country single, “Hole in the Bottle” a classic country twist; Thomas Rhett and Jon Pardi, who showcased their sweet dance moves during their performance of their number one song, “Beer Can’t Fix;” and Florida Georgia Line, who performed their 17th number one single, “I Love My Country.” Tyler Hubbard, who injured his leg in a dirt bike accident last month, was on stage wearing a cast and using his rehabilitation scooter as a mic stand. Urban joked with him after the performance, commenting “FGL! Killing it. Rock n’ Roll, Tyler.” We wish him a full recovery and best of luck to the Hubbard family who are expecting baby number three very shortly!

On the contrary, many artists’ performances pulled at the heartstrings last night, such as Kane Brown’s unifying song, “Worldwide Beautiful.” While he was on stage with his band, singers of all races backed him from the balcony at the Grand Ole Opry, spread out six feet apart, of course. Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani performed their romantic tune, “Happy Anywhere” from a virtual Bluebird Café set and from the actual Bluebird Café, 18-time ACM Award winner, Tim McGraw performed the sentimental single off his new record, Here on Earth, “I Called Mama.” Mickey Guyton sang her eye-opening track, “What Are Gonna Tell Her,” questioning the truth behind women’s equality with Urban on piano, and the 2020 ACM Male Artist of the Year, Luke Combs sang a ballad off his now ACM Award Winning Album, What You See Is What You Get, “Better Together.” Combs partnered with Ford to help war veterans cope with PTSD through music by teaching them guitar. Be a part of this effort by visiting fordproudtohonor.com.

The New Artists of Year, Riley Green and Tenille Townes, got their ACM debuts with performances from the Ryman of “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” and “Somebody’s Daughter,” respectively. Another breakout female star, Gabby Barrett followed Townes, with an acoustic performance of her smash hit, “I Hope.”

Speaking of debuts, 2020 ACM Duo of the Year, Dan + Shay performed their newest song, “I Should Probably Go To Bed” from the Grand Ole Opry; Urban, along with pop-star Pink, performed their brand new song, “One Too Many” together from alternate locations; Eric Church combined Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” with his new and powerful anthem, “Stick That In Your Country Song;” and 2020 ACM Female Artist of the Year, Maren Morris performed her new song, “To Hell & Back.” Morris had this to say upon accepting her award:

“This is so weird talking to no one but I have so many people to thank…this is an award I never thought I would get to win, so thank you to the voters, thank you to my beautiful husband and my new baby boy, Hayes, who is definitely asleep right now; I hope…Oh my God, I have to pee…”

Other special performances included Morgan Wallen, who sang “Whiskey Glasses” from the Grand Ole Opry stage with help from several fans on Zoom behind him; Carrie Underwood who performed a medley of hits from female country icons, including Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Patsy Cline, and Martina McBride; Trisha Yearwood, who sang “I’ll Carry You Home” in honor of all the members of the country community who passed away this year; and Taylor Swift…yes, Taylor Swift who was back at the ACMs for the first time in seven years, performing her latest single, “betty”.

Because it is 2020, anything can happen, including two artists winning Entertainer of the Year at the ACM Awards – Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett. This is Underwood’s third Entertainer of the Year award; first since 2010, and Rhett’s first. This is also the first time the award has been shared by two artists, but it’s safe to say both were very deserving.

Other awards that were given out included Video of the Year to Thomas Rhett and director, TK McKammy for the heart-wrenching “Remember You Young” music video; Songwriter of the Year to Hillary Lindsey; and Single of the Year to Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country”.

As the credits rolled, the show ended with Willie Nelson’s video for “On the Road Again” featuring all the New Artist of the Year nominees.

For a complete list of winners, click here!

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