The ACMs’ Top 5 Moments: Luke Bryan’s Shock Upset Overshadows Misfiring Comedy, Duets

Chris Willman
Our Country (NEW)

If you like cross-genre duets and hate watching people actually get awards (the first one wasn't given out till 50 minutes in), you may have loved the 48th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Or maybe you didn't, since some of the collaborations misfired, because of either audio problems or lack of star chemistry. Below are five of the show's buzziest moments:

[PHOTOS: the 2013 ACM Awards' red carpet]

Luke Bryan seems even more surprised than the rest of us by his upset for Entertainer of the Year. Would it be Taylor Swift making it a three-peat, or co-host Blake Shelton repeating his win at November’s CMA Awards? Try neither. Bryan dropped to his knees and seemed teary and speechless--and literally took 15 seconds to physically compose himself before he began his acceptance speech--but finally got it together enough to thank "everybody that I’ve opened up for. I just started headlining! Jason Aldean, Kenny, all the people I’ve watched from the side of the stage and tried to become a better entertainer…This is the defining moment of my life." It was up to Shelton to improvise some comic relief: "You won Entertainer of the Year in your first and last year of cohosting the ACM Awards!" Does someone who hasn’t yet headlined arenas or made an artistically impressive album deserve that top honor? Maybe not, but at least it delighted shocked headline-writers everywhere.

Brad Paisley and John Mayer make bluesy magic together, and the sound man doesn’t. Of all the star pairings of the night, the one that brought Paisley and Mayer together for the former’s new "Beat This Summer" fared best. While Paisley switched to slide guitar, Mayer peeled off some major-key blues licks that made the imminent summer months sound even more enticing. But the sound problems that plagued several of the performances reached a nadir when, for a few seconds, the audio portion of the show cut to some other music altogether. Can we get a retry?

Hunter Hayes and Stevie Wonder fail to sign, seal, or deliver a great duet. As well as Paisley and Mayer worked together, that’s how much Hayes and Wonder didn’t belong on the same stage. That’s no disparagement of the young Hayes’s talent--he peeled off a great rock 'n' roll guitar lead on one of Paisley’s songs earlier in the evening--but these two just didn’t click. Ending the telecast with Wonder singing another one of his greatest hits, for no apparent country-related purpose, just raised another big climactic question mark.

Garth Brooks and George Strait: partners in well-earned sentiment. Two titans doing a duet who are both in the field of country--now, there’s a novel concept! Their collaboration was a tribute to late ACMs honcho Dick Clark, so it didn’t take a lot of guessing as to which elegiac songs they’d pull out, with Garth "lookin’ back on the memory of the dance we shared" and Strait informing us that "this is where the cowboy rides away." Clark couldn’t have asked for a better "Happy Trails" sendoff.

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan get into each other’s pants (figuratively). Shelton has talked in the last week about the backlash he got from Taylor Swift fans last year after cracking a joke about her "shocked" awards face. Unfortunately, after last year’s surprisingly edgy opening comedy routine, this year he and first-time cohost Bryan decided not to risk offending a single artist, instead of devoting most of their duo-log to mildly antagonistic jokes about each other’s anatomy. “How about a shoutout to the Sherman Williams company for spray-painting Luke’s jeans on?” asked Shelton. Bryan’s retort: “Blake’s jeans are like buying something on credit. Nothing up-front. I mean, what size are those? Extra empty?” About the only detour they took from their toothless buddy routine was a setup about the conception of Hillary Scott’s child that didn’t even have a punchline. Can we promise to let Bryan keep his Entertainer of the Year title for another year or two if we can ditch the jeans jokes and get Reba back as cohost?