COVID-19 can cancel award shows, concerts, sporting events, and all other social gatherings, but it cannot cancel music. On a night that was supposed to honor country music’s biggest stars became one that was even more memorable; the Academy of Country Music postponed the 55th Annual ACM Awards and instead premiered ACM Presents: Our Country in its place. The two-hour television special, hosted by Gayle King, featured performances from our favorite musical acts in the genre from the safety of their homes to help us heal through the power of music.
Before the show aired on CBS at 8 pm, fans could watch several performances from other country artists on the ACM’s live stream. The pre-show featured Riley Green, Ingrid Andress, Jake Owen, Lindsay Ell, Caylee Hammack, Blanco Brown, Lauren Alaina, Ashley McBryde, Mickey Guyton, and others. Moments that stood out to us were Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s duet performance of “I Hope You’re Happy Now” from separate houses, Gabby Barrett displaying her powerful vocals on “I Hope” with her husband, Cade Foehner on guitar, and Chris Young singing the late Joe Diffie’s “Pickup Man”. You can watch the entire pre-show on ACM’s Facebook page.
Reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year Keith Urban was supposed to host the award show last night. Instead, he began Our Country with his hit song “Wasted Time”. Lady Antebellum was next. They sang “You Know What I’m Leaving For” from their newest record, Ocean and Hilary Scott dedicated this song to the healthcare workers and first responders. “This song is about walking out of your house and leaving your family to go do what you’re called to do and sometimes that is not an easy thing,” Scott admired. The screen split into three; one for each member of the group. Dave Haywood’s video kept cutting in and out as he switched instruments throughout the song. Haywood’s and Charles Kelley’s sons made appearances as well, making this performance a family affair.
At each commercial break, they showed flashbacks from past ACM award shows, including Brooks and Dunn signing “Brand New Man” with Luke Combs last year, to Shania Twain singing “No One Needs To Know” in 1996. Other moments included Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler performing “Walk This Way”, and Florida Georgia Line singing “Everybody” with the Backstreet Boys.
Underwood was next. She sang her most recent single and a very fitting song for the time, “Drinking Alone”. Little Big Town harmonized a song off their new record, Nightfall called “Next To You”. Another track that is very fitting as it discusses how even when times are bad, just being together with the person you love will make it all better.
Separated by four different screens, Tim McGraw performed his hit song “Humble and Kind” with his bandmates. Kelsea Ballerini then sang a snippet of the lead single off her brand new album kelsea, “homecoming queen?”
Shania Twain, stationed in a stable with her horse and golden retriever, performed a melody of two songs off her 1997 album Come On Over, “Honey I’m Home” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”. The most nominated group at the 2020 ACM Awards, Old Dominion was next. Front-man Matt Ramsey went to Trevor Rosen’s house to perform “Some People Do”. Rosen played piano six feet away from Ramsey.
Eric Church, at home, not donning his signature aviator shades, debuted a new song for the viewers called “Never Break Heart”. Read more about the song here.
Good friends, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker performed two of their hits together via FaceTime; Paisley’s “Mud on the Tires” and Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel”. The two came back later in the show to give tribute to country music legend, the late Kenny Rodgers, performing hits of his such as “Lucille” and “The Gambler”.
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani performed country music’s greatest love song right now “Nobody But You” from their house in Oklahoma. Thomas Rhett then sang a new song he debuted for us last Monday called “Be A Light”. Read more about that here.
From her “out of tune, grandma piano built-in 1900”, Brandi Carlile performed a piece of her song, “The Joke”. Luke Bryan sang “Most People Are Good” and also dedicated it to all the medical professionals and people on the front lines. There’s a line in that song that speaks volumes during times like these. “I believe, if you just go by the nightly news / your faith in all mankind would be the first thing you lose.” One should know what’s going on in the world, however, sometimes the news provides us with negativity and sorrow that we just don’t need right now. Remaining hopeful is important for our mental and emotional health. Another Luke — Luke Combs was up next, singing “Beautiful Crazy”.
Miranda Lambert sang her current single, “Bluebird” from her front porch. She joked that her husband was supposed to film her performance, but he was at the pond fishing and “for a New York City boy, he better learn how to fish”. She went on to say “I want to remind everyone to lean into your music, lean into your guitars, your pianos, your voices and let that heal you because music is medicine.”
Dierks Bentley sang “I Hold On” for all the people “holding on for dear life” during this crisis. “It seems like the country music community always comes together for each other,” he praises.
Kane Brown, joined by 11-time Grammy winner John Legend performed their new song “Last Time I Say Sorry” together over FaceTime. It was the first live performance of their heart-wrenching ballad.
The men of Florida Georgia Line, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard brought their families together and performed a snippet of their most recent single, “Blessings” from the Kelley’s living room. This song reminds us to not forget what’s really important in our lives, and that is our loved ones. Sheryl Crow had the last original performance of the night; she sang her inspirational track, “I Shall Believe.”
After Rucker and Paisley’s Kenny Rodgers tribute performance, Bryan came back on to sing Rodgers’ “Coward of the Country.” The show ended with a clip from the 2012 ACM Awards when Lionel Richie joined Rodgers on stage to perform their hit song “Lady”. “Not only did we have a hit record, but I found one of the greatest friends I ever had in my whole life,” Richie recalled.
The Academy of Country Music and the artists who performed on this special gave us a night more memorable than we could have imagined. If there is one takeaway from last night, it is that even in the worst of times, we can look to music as a way of healing and a reminder that if you stay positive, keep your faith and do your part, together we can overcome any obstacle.
The ACM launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund called ACM Lifting Lives. It was created to assist individuals working in the country music industry who are suffering a financial crisis as a result of the pandemic. For those interested in donating or learning more, head to their website.
The 2020 ACM Awards will air on CBS Wednesday, September 16th with Keith Urban hosting. To see a full list of the nominees, click here!
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