Last Night, April 18th, The 56th Annual ACM Awards show aired live on CBS from Nashville. Hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton, the special show was full of one-of-a-kind moments and epic performances as the country music family honored the highest talents of 2021 celebrating the best of the best in the genre.
Nashville’s brightest stars, and even some real, non-cardboard cutout fans, headed to music city for the special night. Like last year, the show took place over several locations across Nashville including the Station Inn, Bluebird Café, Riverfront Park, Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry. While many received much-deserved honors and recognition throughout the night, it was ultimately Luke Bryan who took home the show’s most prestigious award, Entertainer of the Year for the third time in his career.
The night was full of first-time performances and collaborations. Miranda Lambert and Elle King kicked off the show with their exciting, cross-genre smash, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).”
This was followed by Chris Young and Kane Brown’s chart-climbing hit, “Famous Friends.” Brown’s video for “Worldwide Beautiful” won Video of the Year earlier this week as well. Lambert took the stage again to sing backing vocals for Chris Stapleton on their rendition of his emotional tune, “Maggie’s Song” from his latest album, Starting Over. The record was awarded Album of the Year later in the show.
Right before Thomas Rhett asked fans “What’s Your Country Song?” he debuted his newest track, “Country Again,” off his upcoming record of the same name, due out next Friday, April 30th. Blanco Brown announced the first award of the night, Group of the Year, to Old Dominion, making it their fourth consecutive win in the category.
One of country music’s favorite couples, Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd sang their latest love song “Chasing After You” making for a spectacular duet, giving off Tim McGraw and Faith Hill vibes. Next, Lady A performed their latest female-empowerment anthem, “Like a Lady” at Riverfront Park. Later, Darius Rucker presented Morris with the Song of the Year for “The Bones.” She thanked her co-writers and the person who inspired the song, her husband, Hurd.
Country music wasn’t the only genre represented last night. Dierks Bentley paid tribute to bluegrass music and the late owner of the Station Inn, JT Gray, who passed away last month, with a performance of “Pride (In The Name of Love) alongside The War and Treaty. Carrie Underwood, who honored women in country music at last year’s ACMs with a melody of hits, performed a melody of Christian songs from her latest album, My Savior last night, including “Amazing Grace,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Old Rugged Cross,” and “How Great Thou Art.” She was joined by gospel artist, CeCe Winans.
Lambert took the stage for the third and final time alongside Jack Ingram and Jon Randall to perform “In His Arms,” from their upcoming project, The Marfa Tapes. Jimmie Allen, who earlier this week was awarded Best New Male Artist, was surprised by Brad Paisley who snuck up on him at the Bluebird Café to join him in singing their collaborative track and current single, “Freedom Was A Highway”.
“I Hope Your Happy Now,” which won Musical Event of the Year earlier this week, also won the Single of the Year during the show. Lee Brice and Carly Pearce showed their excitement walking up to the stage. The two displayed their dominant vocals on the number one song later in the show, as well.
Kenny Chesney delivered a powerful performance of his new single, “Knowing You” from the Ryman Auditorium. After the song, members of the country community who lost their lives this past year — Mac Davis, JT Gray, Charley Pride, and many others — were honored on the screen. Chesney later joined Kelsea Ballerini on stage to honor Knoxville, Tennessee in an intimate performance of their song, “Half of My Hometown.”
Country icon, Alan Jackson returned to the ACM stage last night with performances of “Drive” and “Always Be My Baby,” in honor of his daughter’s recent wedding. Another country legend, Blake Shelton sang his debut single “Austin” in honor of its 20thanniversary, then followed it with a performance of his most recent single, “Minimum Wage.” After, Dan + Shay were awarded with another Duo of the Year, making it their third-straight. They performed their touching new single, “Glad You Exist” earlier in the show.
Both hosts got their chance to take the stage – Mickey Guyton sang “Hold On” from the motion picture Breakthrough and Keith Urban displayed his guitar skills during his performance of “Tumbleweed,” from his latest album, THE SPEED OF NOW Part 1.
Reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year, Thomas Rhett took home the Male Artist of the Year, while Maren Morris won Female Artist of the Year. She gave recognition to all the hard-working ladies in the category during her speech.
Before the Entertainer of the Year award was given to Luke Bryan, Little Big Town performed their fun, current single, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” on the streets of Lower Broadway in Nashville. Brothers Osborne, who previously performed “Not For Everyone,” closed out the night with another song from their Skeletons album, “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Other notable performances included Eric Church, who sang a song from his brand-new album, Heart, “Bunch of Nothing;” Luke Combs, who was backed by an entire orchestra sang “Forever After All;” Ashley McBryde gave a fiery performance of her song “Martha Divine;” and Gabby Barrett, who took home New Female Artist of the Year earlier this week, sang her single “The Good Ones.”
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Fans can join our Weekly Round-Up e-newsletter here, for the latest in country music.