Morgan Wallen won album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards on Monday night for ‘Dangerous: The Double Album,’ a year after being dropped from the ACM ballot after being filmed using a racial slur.
Wallen made no direct reference to the incident or his absence from recent award shows when accepting the trophy at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but may have dropped a hint about it.
“For my son, this award will mean his father was a fighter,” Wallen said, ending his speech by enthusiastically thanking the fans in attendance.
Miranda Lambert won the night’s top award, Entertainer of the Year, for the first time after losing five previous years, but was not in Las Vegas to accept it.
“I can’t believe I’m not here to celebrate,” Lambert said in a video message from London, “this is the first time I’ve missed the ACMs in 17 years. I’ve been waiting a long time for this”
Carly Pearce won Best Female Artist and Chris Stapleton won Best Male Artist against Wallen, who didn’t win any other awards on Monday night after being nominated for three.
Wallen was among the few winners who did not star on the show.
Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood won single of the year for their duet “If I Didn’t Love You”, while Lainey Wilson won song of the year for “Things a Man Oughta Know”. The artists then performed the songs live in a performance-laden show.
The show, which streamed live on Amazon Prime Video, attempted to evoke a celebratory atmosphere while paying homage to both global and local tragedies.
As Old Dominion took to the stage to win their fifth straight ACM Award for Best Group, lead singer Matthew Ramsey said he was glad host Dolly Parton opened the show by dedicating the night to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
“I felt a little strange because we’re in this beautiful bubble,” Ramsey said. “Everyone here has fought for their dreams, but there are people who are fighting for their lives.”
Aldean, who was performing at a nearby music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017 when a 64-year-old man opened fire and killed 60 people, said he still couldn’t believe the moment s was produced when he presented Stapleton.
Stapleton performed his angry song about the shooting, “Watch You Burn”.
“Only a coward would pick up a gun and shoot a crowd trying to have fun,” Stapleton sang.
Otherwise, the show did its best to be fun and lighthearted.
Parton opened the show by taking the indoor stadium stage in a jumpsuit that appeared to be covered in sparkling shards of glass.
“A disco ball just fell on me,” Parton said. “I just hope nothing pierces me.”
Then came the first of several long performance blocks – including one lasting 35 minutes – in a ceremony that seeks to emphasize music and a concert atmosphere.
Parton’s co-hosts Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett celebrated the show’s return to its usual hometown after two years in Nashville. They sang the classic “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley and “Let’s Go to Vegas” by Faith Hill.
They were followed by medleys from Eric Church and Walker Hayes, who began his performance deep in the stadium stands, dressed as casually as the people in the cheap seats as he sang his viral hit about a date at Applebee’s, “Fancy Like”.
The Osborne Brothers snapped a Dan + Shay three-fight winning streak to win Best Pair, the first trophy presented at the show.
Luke Bryan sang his ballad “Up,” then performed his hit duet “Buy Dirt” with Jordan Davis and performance of his ballad “Up.” Other artists included Kane Brown, Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett, Blanco Brown, Brooke Eden, Ashley McBryde and BRELAND.
As the show drew to a close, Kelly Clarkson performed “I Will Always Love You”, first written and recorded by Parton, as a tribute to the host.
“I love you Dolly Parton!” Clarkson shouted as Parton came out to present the Entertainer of the Year award.
After reading Lambert’s name, Parton said, “I’ve always loved her.” She also said she thought the late Whitney Houston, who brought the song renewed fame in the 1990s, would approve of Clarkson’s soaring rendition.
The Osborne brothers and Brittney Spencer closed the show with a performance of “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra.
Attracted by the ACM’s reputation for having a fun, inviting and inclusive atmosphere, Amazon has sought to go beyond the live sporting events it has previously broadcast to connect this with a large audience of fans from countries that listen to Amazon Music.
The show attempted to have a sporty look, with three stages, aerial spider cameras, non-stop action, and lots of graphics.
It was billed as ad-free, but there were breaks to promote Amazon original movies and TV series.
In a moment of promotional synergy, author James Patterson featured a performance by Parton and Kelsea Ballerini.
Patterson and Parton co-wrote a novel, “Run, Rose, Run,” which debuted for sale on Amazon Monday. Parton and Ballerini performed a duet from the companion album, available on Amazon Music, while Ballerini performs the role of the title character in the audiobook on Amazon’s Audible.com.