There were exactly two big shockeroos at the 48th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Luke Bryan pulled an upset by winning Entertainer of the Year. And, almost as shockingly, Eric Church performed without wearing a ballcap or aviator shades.
Other than that, the ACMs stayed pretty much true to form: lots of pop/country star collaborations among the performance slots, and, when it finally came time to give out a few awards, a tendency to spread the love around rather than overly reward any single performer.
Besides winning the top award, Bryan didn’t win a single other award on-camera, being pushed aside for Jason Aldean in the Male Vocalist category and Church for Album of the Year. (Bryan did win one additional award off-camera, for joining Aldean on a song that won for vocal event of the year.) That puts him squarely in the tradition of past Entertainer of the Year winners like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, who tended to get the top honor without usually scoring in any of the supposedly lesser categories.
Bryan’s cohost, Blake Shelton, was limited to just one trophy. But better half Miranda Lambert continued her unstoppable winning streak, picking up three--for Best Female Vocalist, Best Single, and Best Song…the last one a shared win with Shelton for writing the ballad "Over You."
After letting Shelton do the talking during their joint acceptance speech, Lambert spoke up more on her two subsequent trips to the stage. "I always bawl so I was trying to hold it together" earlier, she said. "As a songwriter, having your songs and lyrics recognized by your peers is pretty much as good as it gets…Thank you for accepting me as a songwriter and not just singer and performer, because that means the world to me."
When it came to her performance slot, though, Lambert sang "Mama’s Broken Heart"--not one of her own compositions, but a song written by Kacey Musgraves, one of her competitors in the Female Artist category. Musgraves had also been a contender in the preliminary voting for Best New Artist, but failed to make the final round, and that fan-voted award went to Florida Georgia Line.
Besides Lambert’s three wins and Bryan’s two, the other multiple winners were Aldean (Male Vocalist, Vocal Event) and Little Big Town (Vocal Group, Video).
Perhaps the real winners of the night were the folks who got more than one performance slot. Paisley was shut out from picking up any trophies but got to sing two numbers from his album that comes out next week: "Outstanding in Our Field," with Hunter Hayes guesting on guitar, and "Beat This Summer," performed as a duet with John Mayer. Shelton also got to make up for his lack of awards by doing separate numbers from his new album, starting with the all-star show opener, "Boys ‘Round Here," and continuing later with an acoustic rendition of "Sure Be Cool If You Did."
A potential watercooler moment was avoided when Lambert presented the Best Album award to Church, with whom she had a very public beef last year. They hugged when Church came onstage, though the cameras quickly cut away for the duration of the embrace, as if the producers expected unseemly fisticuffs to break out.
The full rundown of awards:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Little Big Town
Florida Georgia Line
Chief, Eric Church
"Over You," Miranda Lambert
"Over You," Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
"Tornado," Little Big Town
"The Only Way I Know," Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan, Eric Church