The 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards (ACM) aired Wednesday night from Nashville, Tenn. And on a surprising turn, the two nominees won the top award for the Entertainer of the Year category.
“We have a tie. This is the first time in ACM history,” Keith Urban said before announcing the award.
Thomas Rhett was the first to declare winning accolades. Reet along with his fans thanked Prabhu, his wife and his family. Urban took the stage once again to announce the second award, which was given to Carrie Underwood.
“2020 man,” Underwood said before accepting the award. “I’m more than happy to share it with Thomas Rhett,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, Underwood and Ratett, along with a series of performances, enlisted their fellow nominees for Entertainer of the Year, singing for empty seats from music venues around the city to kick off the show.
Luke Bryan opened one of the biggest nights of country music by singing his song “Rain is a Good Thing”, before Eric Church threw it in and then Luke Combs took over as Thomas Reth. Underwood closed the opening act by opening “Before Hate Cheats”.
After the performance, Urban stepped on stage, talking for a moment about 2020 and how it had been “an unpredictable and uncertain year for all”.
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After the wildfires reported on the West Coast, hurricanes to the south, Urban said the country was struggling with two epidemics: COVID-19 and social injustice.
“Many people have lost their lives by now,” he said. “But essential activists, with the examples set by our first responders, have echoed around the world and right here in our country community, with voices crying for equality in all walks of life.”
To honor at least ‘daughters’ in the 7th year, several awards were performed in their first country.
“Country music is many things to many people, but at its center, at its core, in my heart, I believe it is about the community,” he continued. “Songs, stories and the artists who tell them bring us healing, comfort and hope. We are sure we can use something from now on.”
After Urban Introduction, Jimmy Allen performed at the Bluebird Cafe before sweetly singing his greatest hits by Old Dominion.
The first on-air award went to Dan + She for the pair of the year, while Song of the Year went to Old Dominion for “One Man Band”.
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Later on the show, Blake Shelton won a single of the year for his hit “God’s Country”. He thanked God and girlfriend, Gwen Stefani “for being my inspiration … for encouraging me.”
The pair performed their hit duo “Happy Anywhere” at the green-screened Bluebird Cafe. Meanwhile, Miranda Lambert, who was previously married to Shelton, previously featured an acoustic version of her hit “Bluebird” at the actual venue in Nashville on the show.
Elsewhere during the ACMs, Underwood once again took the stage to perform one of the songs from some of the country’s most iconic women in music.
The 37-year-old musician covered Dolly Parton’s “Why You Come in Here Lookin ‘”, for example, Patty Cline’s “Crazy,” Reba McIntire’s “The Night the Lights Out in Georgia,” Loretta Lynn’s “You Ant” No. Women Enough, “Barbara Mandrell’s” I Was Country When Country Was Country Cool Not “and Martina McBride’s” A Broken Wing “.
Another performer on the show was Ken Brown, who performed “Worldwide Beautiful”. Urban introduces Brown, stating that the 26-year-old song represents “positive change and hopes for a better future”.
Before singing his tune, Brown said, “I want everyone to love everyone and this is the song I wrote for it.”
Taylor Swift took the stage to perform her song “Betty”, which marked her first return to the ACM stage in seven years. Unlike her extravagant trips and other award appearances, Swift kept it simple with just a pair of floodlights on stage and a harmonica player for accompaniment, but her smile shone as she sang and sang the song.
Luke Coombs took home album of the year for his record, “What You See Is What You Get.” Blake Shelton earned praise once a year for his hit “God’s Country”.
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Trisha Yearwood also paid a moving memorial tribute.
The 55th annual ACM Awards, held in Las Vegas in April, were delayed this year and moved to Nashville for the first time.
A mix of performances and segments, pre-tapped and live numbers, between three historically significant stages – Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Cafe and Ryan Auditorium – was open to country music history, but none to fans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report