A look at the top moments from Sunday’s 51st annual Academy of Country Music Awards, held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
CHRIS STAPLETON IS A COUNTRY STAPLE
There is no stopping Chris Stapleton.
The singer-songwriter won six of seven ACMs on Sunday night, including album of the year for “Traveller” and song of the year for “Nobody to Blame,” besting Little Big Town’s ubiquitous “Girl Crush.”
He won so many awards that Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town, winners of vocal group of the year, told the audience: “And thank you Chris Stapleton for not being a group!”
Stapleton’s other wins included male vocalist and new male vocalist of the year. For album and song of the year, he won twice as the artist and songwriter-producer.
“Thank you for being so kind to me,” Stapleton said onstage.
The wins come after taking home his first pair of Grammy Awards in February (best country album, country solo performance) and three-for-three wins at last year’s Country Music Association Awards.
FINALLY! JASON ALDEAN WINS ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Call Jason Aldean the Leonardo DiCaprio of country music.
With his fifth nomination for entertainer of the year, Aldean finally won the top prize and beat out Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church and last year’s winner, Luke Bryan.
Bryan showed his excitement by picking up and hugging Aldean onstage.
“I was just starting to think this one wasn’t in the cards for me,” said Aldean, who has released platinum albums and sold-out stadiums around the country.
DiCaprio won the Academy Award for best actor in February.
WOMEN FIND SMALL BREAKTHROUGH
Though women have struggled to find success on country radio and at awards shows in the last few years like their male counterparts, at the ACMs, there marked a breakthrough.
The stage featured a small amount of female performers, but acts like Kelsea Ballerini and Cam, who was nominated for six awards, shined onstage. Ballerini performed and won new female vocalist of the year and Cam — best known for her Grammy-nominated hit “Burning House” — earned a rousing applause when she performed her popular song.
“I love to see here tonight a bunch of new country girls up here shining and singing their great songs that they wrote themselves,” Lambert said when she won her seventh consecutive female vocalist of the year. “I’m really excited for women in country music, and I’m glad to be here as one of them.”
Other female performers included Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton.
COLLABORATION IS KEY
The iHeartRadio Music Awards also took place Sunday and featured Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, but Katy Perry traded her pop star peers to honor Parton at the ACMs.
It was sort of a swap with Brad Paisley, who performed with Demi Lovato at the iHeartRadio Awards instead of attending the ACMs.
Parton and Perry performed “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors.” Perry wore a bright pink and yellow country-flavored get-up, and Parton sported a 2016 sparkly version of the famous coat she said “represents a very special time in my life.” She took home the Tex Ritter Award — for films that honor country music — for last year’s NBC TV-movie about her childhood, “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.”
Lambert was a firecracker during her performance with assists from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Keith Urban, who both rocked out on guitar. Little Big Town performed with multi-instrumentalist Trombone Shorty, and Ballerini’s performance featured pop singer Nick Jonas, who sang and played guitar.
Bryan, who hosted the show, was joined by former co-host Blake Shelton to open the ACMs.
The ACMs weren’t all about country music: Eric Church showed his rock roots by honoring late performers such as David Bowie, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland.
Tim McGraw’s performance featured a diverse group of people onstage, from children to adults of every race.
Sam Hunt, in an all-white ensemble, slowed things down by playing piano while singing “Make You Miss Me.” And Stapleton was a vocal powerhouse when he performed “Fire Away.” Though he was joined by Justin Timberlake at last year’s CMAs, his wife, Morgane, sang with Stapleton during the ACMs. They kissed at the end of it.
Though country music’s top acts attended the ACMs, actors got dibs on presenting some big awards.
Kiefer Sutherland, who is working on a country album, presented female vocalist of the year. And Tom Hiddleston, the British actor who portrays Hank Williams in biopic, “I Saw the Light,” presented entertainer of the year at the end of the three-hour show, which aired on CBS.