The rich history of the esteemed Academy of Country Music Awards and the enormity and grandeur of Texas were prevailing themes of last night’s 50th anniversary ACM Awards. Hosted at the AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, the star-studded evening clocked in at over three hours but didn’t run short in run-time or performances. With 23 acts performing over the course of the mega event, the awards show brought down the house in a record-breaking, super-sized evening of fun and stomping. This ain’t your grandma’s country music!
Our resident country music fans, Meg Quinn and Tania Hussain waited all year for this event and watched it together. The two now share their commentary with readers from last night’s ceremonies, highlighting some of their favorite performances, wins, stars, and moments from evening’s glamorous and historical event.
Miranda Lambert singing “Mama’s Broken Heart” / “Little Red Wagon”
Miranda just absolutely rocks every time I see her perform and I loved how these two songs fit together. Sometimes medleys can be a little funky on awards shows but she fit these two together like they were always suppose to be that way.
Little Big Town singing “Girl Crush”
This is my current favorite country song and it was a killer performance. Such clever lyrics and Karen Fairchild sang them with even more desperation than she sings on the recorded version, backed up with the always gorgeous harmonies the group provides.
Alan Jackson singing “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”
Arguably the most emotional song performed last night, every time I see Alan Jackson sing this song I can’t help but get a little choked up. It’s only 14 years old but it’s a country music classic and in a night with a lot of rocking, loud performances it stuck out.
Luke Bryan singing “I See You”
This man is a natural born performer. I absolutely loved his performance of “I See You” (one of my favorite tracks from Crash My Party) because it seriously got the whole crowd moving and grooving. What’s remarkable about this Georgia native’s music is that while it’s extremely fun and the crowds always love it, you can tell he’s having such a great time on stage performing for everyone and that’s what makes every Luke Bryan performance special. He is a powerhouse. Also, we all got tickets to the gun show early this year because, wowza—those bronzed biceps are the closest thing I’ve seen to heaven.
Lady Antebellum singing “Long Stretch of Love”
These three are so much fun. I love these guys and their record, “747” was one of my favorites from last year. Sad that they lost to Little Big Town for Best Vocal Group, but you can tell this trio just loves having fun on stage together. They really mesh so well and I’m always excited to see a performance of theirs. This was another great one!
George Strait singing “All My Exes Live in Texas / Let It Go”
There is no better way to kick off an awards show in Texas than have the reigning King of Country perform “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.” Gosh, I loved this performance. Sure it’s a 1987 track and I was only two years old when it released, but it’s a great tune, so funny too, and proves that 62 year-old Strait’s still got it going on. He launched into his latest track “Let It Go” which is not a country version of a Disney song. Just making that clear…
Eric Church and Keith Urban singing “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag / Raise ‘Em Up”
What a show opener! I knew from the tone that these two set that we were in for a great night. Normally I find myself forgetting many of the earlier performances during award shows but this one stuck in my head throughout the entire night—it was awesome.
Nick Jonas and Dan + Shay singing “Jealous / Chains”
I’m actually not a huge fan of either, but I liked how Nick Jonas put a little country twist in his step when performing his pop track, “Jealous” with country duo Dan + Shay. I thought that was really interesting and commented on how music is so open to interpretation and sound. You don’t have to be a country fan to enjoy country music. You just have to be appreciative of music in general, and that’s what I love about country music.
Biggest Upset (and Who Should Have Won):
Male Vocalist of the Year going to Jason Aldean over Eric Church (or any of the other nominees if I am being very honest). This was the one award of the night that I was really scratching my head over. I know that Aldean has won it the past two years but with so many of the other nominees doing great work this year I thought he’d end his streak. Not so, says the people who vote for these awards. I just didn’t get it.
I would have loved to see Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe’s “Lonely Tonight” win for Vocal Event of the Year as opposed to Florida Georgia Line with Luke Bryan winning for “This is How We Roll.” The track by Shelton and Monroe is one of my favorite songs from the past year and just resonates with me. It’s such a sweet and relatable track about two people longing for each other just one more time—I think it’s beautiful. If you haven’t heard it already, go give it a listen.
Star of the Night:
Jesus Christ: Okay, so he didn’t win or present any awards. He actually wasn’t even physically there—but counting the number of times he was mentioned he was certainly there in spirit. Many of the artists thanked Jesus when they won their awards, making him the Star of the Night from my estimation.
Andrea Swift: I really loved when Andrea Swift came out to a standing ovation and gave her daughter, Taylor the Milestone Award. Not only was it a beautiful montage, but in lieu of recent news, it was a beautiful moment and very reflective of the country community’s regard for family. Taylor’s speech proved that and was charmingly sweet, while Andrea credited the country community for basically raising her daughter and allowing her to be the artist she is today. All that aside, you can tell Taylor is a very genuine, down-to-earth individual and that’s thanks to her strong-willed mother too.
Best (Non-Award and Non-Performance Related) Show Highlight:
“Do I face this way? Which way should I face?” While holding the 50th anniversary awards in a stadium broke a Guinness world record and really did give the feeling that we were watching a 3 1/2 hour concert, it provided a lot of confusion for almost everybody who won an award. Nobody knew which way to face when they got to the winner’s circle stage! It was a completely unintentional but pretty funny running gag all night.
Between Christina Aguilera’s glowing George Hamilton tan which was hitting all levels of realness and the “Where do I face?” debacle, I thought the hosts, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan did an awesome job. This was their third time hosting and third time was certainly a charm. They were so playful, their back-and-forth banter was exceptionally helpful to the three-and-a-half-hour long show, and their bromance was definitely showing. I could have exploded, it was so adorable. Perhaps their best moment of the night was their “Bucket List” list moment to catch footballs with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo. Bryan brought his “sticky gloves” and after tossing one, Shelton couldn’t help him but ask Romo, “Is this one of those deflated balls?” to which Romo replies, “We’re the Dallas Cowboys. We have real balls.” As a huge football fan, I thought that reference to “Deflategate” was hilarious! I also loved when the two took a selfie. It might not have hit Ellen’s selfie-Oscar record, but it did reach number one on social media last night.
Best Red Carpet Look:
Reese Witherspoon: She might not be a country artist, but she’s a Southern gal who attends these award shows a lot, always looking fabulous. Tonight was no exception—I loved her short and sparkly dress and her pretty, wavy hair.
Caroline Boyer-Bryan: I loved this dress. I thought it complemented her beautiful bronze skin tone and well, blue is my favorite color too so I love seeing women wearing different shades and styles. Caroline was sexy and I just loved the jewel detailing on it. Very pretty. A close second (because it’s blue) was Taylor Swift‘s blue Reem Acra gown. So dreamy and ethereal.
Favorite Album & Artist of 2015:
The Outsiders by Eric Church: It’s a real shame that he hasn’t gotten much award recognition for his album The Outsiders because it is an incredible album and is front-to-back one of the best country music records I’ve heard recently. Considering another one of my favorite artists (Miranda Lambert) has been the one winning many of the awards over him, it has been really tough to be upset—are you sure they couldn’t have tied?—but it bums me out that he went home empty handed last night. Church is a truly incredible artist and out of everyone there last night, I’ve listened to his music the most this past year. The only other person coming close? Miranda Lambert and her album Platinum, go figure.
Platinum by Miranda Lambert: Like Meg mentioned earlier, there’s a reason why Miranda Lambert picked up the most awards out of every artist at the awards last night—it’s because she produced a stellar album last year. She’s a no-nonsense kind of chick, and that album was one of her all-time bests. She co-wrote most of it, worked with a lot of female producers and songwriters, and actually, she was pretty funny on the record too. She’s cheeky and in an industry with so many male country singers, Lambert’s record was refreshing and definitely chimed into the country music culture. Well deserved wins, Miss Lambert.
Favorite Single/Record of 2015:
From the songs that were nominated tonight I loved “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice and was ecstatic that he won Record of the Year. There were a lot of heavy hitters in that category—including Miranda Lambert, who I was sure was going to win—so when his name was called I might have (definitely did) let out a happy yell. And might have (most certainly did) break into a round of applause.
I would have really wanted Miranda to win for “Platinum” because it’s pure swagger. I’ve never heard Lee Brice’s music but I definitely will after this. From what I heard in the clip, it sounds like a fun song and I’m all for that.
Favorite Award Winner:
Miranda Lambert: She picked up the most awards out of every artist there tonight and they were well deserved. Miranda is one of my favorite artists out of any genre and I am always happy to see her get recognition that matches the play count on my iTunes.
Luke Bryan: I always love when Luke Bryan wins something because he is so charming and down-to-earth—I absolutely love that about him. He’s a great guy all-around and seeing him perform and get rewarded for what he loves is an inspiring thing. Let’s also credit Luke’s win to me because I voted like, six times in the last few moments before the “Entertainer of the Year” category shut down to the public’s input. Jokes aside, great to see him go home with that acclaim because like mentioned earlier, he is a natural-born performer. He is the epitome of an “Entertainer” and embodies what it means to be a true performer. From any single performance of his, you can see how being up there for others is so second skin to him.
When it was announced during last year’s ACM Awards that the ceremony would be held at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas in celebration of the 50th year of the ceremony, I did not think of it as anything but a venue change. Normally held in Las Vegas, I just assumed they were going back to Texas to go back to their “roots” but I was very wrong. From the first seconds of the awards it was obvious that this was going to be a different kind of show, and a true celebration for 50 great years of the ACMs. The feeling never wavered—with the extra milestone awards that were presented, the number of medley’s that the artist’s performed, and the many-more-than-usual shots of the audience—this year’s ACMs came across as more of a celebration concert featuring awards than a typical award show featuring performances. The show was 3 1/2 hours long but not once did I feel it’s length, something that is hard to accomplish (how long did the Grammy’s feel this year? How about the Oscars?). No matter how many times the stars asked which camera they should be looking at, I really have to give credit to the producers of the ACMs for pulling off an incredible celebration that translated effectively through our screens—it’s not easy to do and they really did it!
This was a stellar awards show that felt like a giant concert and it was amazing. For such a milestone and celebrating a 50th anniversary, the country music world certainly knows how to go big. Over the years, I’ve noticed country music awards are actually way more fun that traditional awards shows and that might be because the genre is so diverse in itself that it calls for creative ways of showcasing all that talent. It never feels crammed nor rushed. This was a lot of fun. If viewers noticed, there actually weren’t a lot of nominees but the show was packed with an array of performances. That’s something you don’t often see, and it certainly raised the bar in how awards shows should be—celebrating the music that brings us all together. The ACM Awards brought out duets you never imagined seeing, performances were top-quality, and like my fellow writer mentioned they broke the Guinness World Record of the largest attendance of a live TV awards show. How many awards shows can do that?
What were your some of your favorite highlights of the evening? Share with us in the comments below.
About the Authors
Meg Quinn is a Staff Writer for “The Hudsucker.” After going through high school thinking she “didn’t like to write,” she found her love for it her freshman year at college and it’s only deepened since then. Upon graduating from Rutgers University with a BA in Communication in 2013, she began working in online marketing for the hospitality industry. She currently splits her time between NYC, where she works, and NJ, where she lives—but hopes that one day she’ll be able to live & work in the same state (that’s the dream). Follow her on Twitter as @msmegquinn.
Tania Hussain is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief here at “The Hudsucker,” and a freelance journalist at the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), an organization dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists around the world. Currently attending Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and studying Journalism, she is a life long learner who enjoys traveling and meeting new people. In addition to being an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley, and baseball fan, she is a lover of pancakes, fine cheeses, film, and music. The Hoosier at heart has a passionate wanderlust for travel and road-tripping. Follow her on Twitter as @westlifebunny.