Entertainment

Carrie Underwood leads a moving gospel performance at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards


The biggest stars in country music assembled on Sunday night to mark the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee.

The long-running country music awards are being hosted by musicians from different generations, including rising star Mickey Guyton, who’s nominated for New Female Artist of the Year, and Keith Urban, who has two separate nominations for Music Event of the Year. 

Carrie Underwood led a show-stopping sacred performance as one of the highlights of the ceremony. 

Stunning: Carrie Underwood appeared against a completely black stage to give a moving a capella performance of Amazing Grace at the 56 Academy of Country Music Awards in Nashville on Sunday

Country legend Dolly Parton appeared in a pre-taped segment to introduce and serenade Carrie Underwood.

The former American Idol winner previously tied for the top prize, Entertainer of the Year, at least year’s show.

She appeared against a completely black stage to give a moving a capella performance of Amazing Grace, which transitioned into a medley of religious numbers once other musicians joined her on stage, including CeCe Winans.

She was performing songs from her gospel-themed album My Savior. 

Extra firepower: It transitioned into a medley of religious numbers once other musicians joined her on stage, including CeCe Winans

Extra firepower: It transitioned into a medley of religious numbers once other musicians joined her on stage, including CeCe Winans

Religious: A stained-glass backdrop appeared to add to the Christian religious theme

Religious: A stained-glass backdrop appeared to add to the Christian religious theme

Maren Morris was one of the early winners at the ceremony for Song of the Year for her track The Bones. 

She was competing against a stacked category with Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde, Old Dominion and Chris Stapleton.

Morris was clearly emotional as she accept her award while bemoaning the fact that her cowriters Jimmy Robinson and Laura Veltz couldn’t join her to accept it.

Honored: Maren Morris was one of the early winners at the ceremony for Song of the Year for her track The Bones

Honored: Maren Morris was one of the early winners at the ceremony for Song of the Year for her track The Bones

Setting the stage: Darius Rucker announced Song of the Year before calling out Morris' name

Setting the stage: Darius Rucker announced Song of the Year before calling out Morris’ name

She said she wrote the song while she was dating her ‘now-husband’ Ryan Hurd, who performed a duet with her earlier in the broadcast.

‘I feel sometimes like songs know you better than you know them at the time. And I feel like this song has revealed so many new things to me that I didn’t know were possible the day I wrote it,’ she said from the stage. 

She concluded by hoping that country music, and possibly her song, had brought listeners some peace in a tumultuous 2020. 

Memories: Morris said she co-wrote the song while she was dating her future husband Ryan Hurd. She bemoaned the fact that her cowriters couldn't accept the award

Memories: Morris said she co-wrote the song while she was dating her future husband Ryan Hurd. She bemoaned the fact that her cowriters couldn’t accept the award

Emotional: Morris wiped her tears as she accepted her award

Emotional: Morris wiped her tears as she accepted her award

Guyton is among four other Black artists to be nominated this, the most of any ACM ceremony to date.

Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton lead the field with six nominations each, while superstar Miranda Lambert is close behind with five nominations.

Ashley McBryde and Thomas Rhett round out the most-nominated artists with four nods each. 

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event was split up among three venues throughout Nashville, Tennessee, including the iconic Grand Ole Opry House, the Bluebird Cafe and the Station Inn.

The show kicked off with a high-energy performance by Miranda Lambert and Elle King.

The two singers rocked edgy black leather biker jackets, though they added some sparkle and color with studs and pink and blue fringed sleeves.

Star power: The long-running country music awards is being hosted by musicians from different generations, including rising star Mickey Guyton, who's nominated for New Female Artist of the Year, and Keith Urban

Star power: The long-running country music awards is being hosted by musicians from different generations, including rising star Mickey Guyton, who’s nominated for New Female Artist of the Year, and Keith Urban

Divas: The show kicked off with a high-energy performance by Miranda Lambert and Elle King

Divas: The show kicked off with a high-energy performance by Miranda Lambert and Elle King

Splash of color: The singers rocked edgy studded leather biker jackets enlivened with pink and blue fringe on the sleeves

Splash of color: The singers rocked edgy studded leather biker jackets enlivened with pink and blue fringe on the sleeves

Baby on board: King announced she was pregnant in March, but she debuted her baby bump on the red carpet and even gave her tummy a pat while on stage

Baby on board: King announced she was pregnant in March, but she debuted her baby bump on the red carpet and even gave her tummy a pat while on stage

King announced she was pregnant in March, but she debuted her baby bump on the red carpet and even gave her tummy a pat while on stage. 

Urban and Guyton were hosting from the Grand Ole Opry stage, where he looked casual–cool with a navy blazer and black jeans, while she looked angelic in a white feathered dress. 

‘We’ve been through so much,’ Urban said of Nashville and the country music industry, before Guyton revealed that the socially distanced and vaccinated audience was made up of masked healthcare workers from Vanderbilt health.

‘This would not be possible without you,’ she said, after mentioning that her sister was a nurse. 

The hosts quickly got into a second performance of Famous Friends from Chris Young with Kane Brown joining on vocals from the Ryman Auditorium.

Next up, Urban introduced Blanco Brown, who had recovered from a devastating motorcycle accident the year before.

He presented the award for Group of the Year, which went to Old Dominion. 

Thomas Rhett, who tied for Entertainer of the Year with Carrie Underwood at the 2020 ceremony, returned for an acoustic performance of Country Again, before the full band joined in later.

Triumphant return: Next up, Urban introduced Blanco Brown, who had recovered from a devastating motorcycle accident the year before

Triumphant return: Next up, Urban introduced Blanco Brown, who had recovered from a devastating motorcycle accident the year before

First winner: He presented the award for Group of the Year, which went to Old Dominion

First winner: He presented the award for Group of the Year, which went to Old Dominion

Back at it: Thomas Rhett returned for an acoustic performance of Country Again, before the full band joined in later

Back at it: Thomas Rhett returned for an acoustic performance of Country Again, before the full band joined in later

Returning champ: He tied for Entertainer of the Year with Carrie Underwood at the 2020 ceremony

Returning champ: He tied for Entertainer of the Year with Carrie Underwood at the 2020 ceremony

The top nominees Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton collaborated for an intimate duet in a bar setting at the Bluebird Cafe.

She was exclusively on vocals, while Stapleton also played guitar.

Miranda was taking over for Stapleton’s wife Morgane, who was originally going to duet on Maggie’s Song, a tribute to their late dog, but she couldn’t attend due to a ‘prior doula commitment.’ 

Superstars: The top nominees Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton collaborated for an intimate duet in a bar setting at the Bluebird Cafe.

Superstars: The top nominees Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton collaborated for an intimate duet in a bar setting at the Bluebird Cafe.

Filling in: Miranda was taking over for Stapleton's wife Morgane, who was originally going to duet on Maggie's Song, a tribute to their late dog, but she couldn't attend due to a 'prior doula commitment'

Filling in: Miranda was taking over for Stapleton’s wife Morgane, who was originally going to duet on Maggie’s Song, a tribute to their late dog, but she couldn’t attend due to a ‘prior doula commitment’

Maren Morris and her husband Ryan Hurd kept up the duets with their performance of Chasing After You, their first-ever duet.

They were on a set designed like a church set with tall arched windows. 

The renamed Lady A followed them up with their song Like A Lady.

Sweet: Maren Morris and her husband Ryan Hurd kept up the duets with their performance of Chasing After You, their first-ever duet

Sweet: Maren Morris and her husband Ryan Hurd kept up the duets with their performance of Chasing After You, their first-ever duet

Take it to church: They were on a set designed like a church set with tall arched wi

Take it to church: They were on a set designed like a church set with tall arched windows

New band name: The renamed Lady A followed them up with their song Like A Lady

New band name: The renamed Lady A followed them up with their song Like A Lady

Gabby Barrett, who won the award for New Female Artist of the Year, put on a small-scale performance at the Bluebird Cafe of her song The Good Ones.

Eric Church helped pick up the energy after Carrie Underwood’s religious performance with a rocking out with his new song Bunch Of Nothing.

He looked ultra cool in a leather jacket and aviator sunglasses. 

Back at the Bluebird Cafe, Dan + Shay slowed things down again for their sweet duet Glad You Exist.

The singers were competing later in the ceremony against heavy hitters Brooks & Dunn, the Brothers Osborn, Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae for Duo of the Year.

Rising star: Gabby Barrett, who won the award for New Female Artist of the Year, put on a small-scale performance at the Bluebird Cafe of her song The Good Ones

Rising star: Gabby Barrett, who won the award for New Female Artist of the Year, put on a small-scale performance at the Bluebird Cafe of her song The Good Ones

Rocking out: Eric Church helped pick up the energy after Carrie Underwood's religious performance with a rocking out with his new song Bunch Of Nothing

Rocking out: Eric Church helped pick up the energy after Carrie Underwood’s religious performance with a rocking out with his new song Bunch Of Nothing

Too cool for school: He looked ultra cool in a leather jacket and aviator sunglasses

Too cool for school: He looked ultra cool in a leather jacket and aviator sunglasses

Taking their time: Back at the Bluebird Cafe, Dan + Shay slowed things down again for their sweet duet Glad You Exist

Taking their time: Back at the Bluebird Cafe, Dan + Shay slowed things down again for their sweet duet Glad You Exist

Stiff competition: The singers were competing later in the ceremony against heavy hitters Brooks & Dunn, the Brothers Osborn, Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae for Duo of the Year

Stiff competition: The singers were competing later in the ceremony against heavy hitters Brooks & Dunn, the Brothers Osborn, Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae for Duo of the Year

Luke Combs looked stylish in a suit as he belted out an emotional version of his song Forever After All, following a spot about his charitable activities for veterans. 

Mickey Guyton returned after to talk up her friend Miranda Lambert, whom she mentioned was the ‘most-awarded artist in ACM history’ to thunderous applause from the tiny audience.

Miranda was joined on stage by Jack Ingram and Jon Randall to perform In His Arms, the lead track on their trio album The Marfa Tapes. 

All three wore wide-brimmed cowboy hats, with two out of three rocking double denim. 

Dapper: Luke Combs looked stylish in a suit as he belted out an emotional version of his song Forever After All

Dapper: Luke Combs looked stylish in a suit as he belted out an emotional version of his song Forever After All

For a cause: He showed off his charitable work with veterans before the performance

For a cause: He showed off his charitable work with veterans before the performance

Brad Paisley played a trick on his duet partner Jimmie Allen when they performed their song Freedom Was A Highway.

Allen was led to think Paisley was out of town, so he’d have to sing solo, but just as it was time for Paisley’s verse to start he stepped out onto stage and surprised his duet partner. 

Martina McBride sparkled in a black dress with crisscrossing silver stripes to present the award for Single of the Year.

Having a laugh: Brad Paisley played a trick on his duet partner Jimmie Allen when they performed their song Freedom Was A Highway

Having a laugh: Brad Paisley played a trick on his duet partner Jimmie Allen when they performed their song Freedom Was A Highway

Shocked: Allen was led to think Paisley was out of town, so he'd have to sing solo, but just as it was time for Paisley's verse to start he stepped out onto stage and surprised his duet partner

Shocked: Allen was led to think Paisley was out of town, so he’d have to sing solo, but just as it was time for Paisley’s verse to start he stepped out onto stage and surprised his duet partner

Big night: Martina McBride sparkled in a black dress with crisscrossing silver stripes to present the award for Single of the Year

Big night: Martina McBride sparkled in a black dress with crisscrossing silver stripes to present the award for Single of the Year

She mentioned that this was the first year in which every nominee was a woman.

Carly Pearce and Lee Brice were the winners for I Hope You’re Happy Now. 

They previously won the award for Event of the Year for the same track. 

Four-time Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney followed their win up with a performance of his hit song Knowing You. 

Overjoyed: Carly Pearce and Lee Brice were the winners for I Hope You're Happy Now. They previously won the award for Event of the Year for the same track

Overjoyed: Carly Pearce and Lee Brice were the winners for I Hope You’re Happy Now. They previously won the award for Event of the Year for the same track

Country star: Four-time Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney followed their win up with a performance of his hit song Knowing You

Country star: Four-time Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney followed their win up with a performance of his hit song Knowing You

After the break, Ashley McBride launched into a rocking performance of her single Martha Divine.

She looked sleek in a black shirt covered with an intricate gold design and black slacks while strumming her electric Fender guitar. 

Country music fixture Alan Jackson turned down the volume afterward to play his classic song Drive (For Daddy Gene). 

Outdoors: After the break, Ashley McBride launched into a rocking performance of her single Martha Divine

Outdoors: After the break, Ashley McBride launched into a rocking performance of her single Martha Divine

Back in black: She looked sleek in a black shirt covered with an intricate gold design and black slacks while strumming her electric Fender guitar

Back in black: She looked sleek in a black shirt covered with an intricate gold design and black slacks while strumming her electric Fender guitar

Old school: Country music fixture Alan Jackson turned down the volume afterward to play his classic song Drive (For Daddy Gene)

Old school: Country music fixture Alan Jackson turned down the volume afterward to play his classic song Drive (For Daddy Gene)

Six-time ACM winner Blake Shelton took a journey through the past rather than playing his new songs with his 2001 track Austin.

The Voice coach was surrounded by backup musicians on the  blue-drenched stage of the Ryman Auditorium.

He performed with his fiancée Gwen Stefani at last year’s ceremony, though she wasn’t featured this year.

After the song concluded, he segued into his new song Minimum Wage. 

Blast from the past: Six-time ACM winner Blake Shelton took a journey through the past rather than playing his new songs with his 2001 track Austin

Blast from the past: Six-time ACM winner Blake Shelton took a journey through the past rather than playing his new songs with his 2001 track Austin

New material: After the song concluded, he segued into his new song Minimum Wage

New material: After the song concluded, he segued into his new song Minimum Wage

Will & Grace actor Leslie Jordan looked fabulous in a lustrous yellow suit with special embroidery.

He was overjoyed to be introduced by Dolly Parton, before presenting the award for Duo of the Year.

Dan + Shay emerged triumphant and accepted their award from the Bluebird Cafe, where they performed earlier. 

TV star: Will & Grace actor Leslie Jordan looked fabulous in a lustrous yellow suit with special embroidery.

TV star: Will & Grace actor Leslie Jordan looked fabulous in a lustrous yellow suit with special embroidery.

Double trouble: He was overjoyed to be introduced by Dolly Parton, before presenting the award for Duo of the Year

Double trouble: He was overjoyed to be introduced by Dolly Parton, before presenting the award for Duo of the Year

Grateful: Dan + Shay emerged triumphant and accepted their award from the Bluebird Cafe, where they performed earlier

Grateful: Dan + Shay emerged triumphant and accepted their award from the Bluebird Cafe, where they performed earlier

2021 ACM AWARDS NOMINEES

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR 

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Luke Combs

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton

ALBUM OF THE YEAR 

Born Here Live Here Die Here – Luke Bryan

Mixtape Vol. 1 – Kane Brown

Never Will – Ashley McBryde

Skeletons – Brothers Osborne

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton

FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Ashley McBryde

Maren Morris

Carly Pearce

MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR 

Dierks Bentley

Eric Church

Luke Combs

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton

GROUP OF THE YEAR

Old Dominion (WINNER)

Lady A

Little Big Town

The Cadillac Three

The Highwomen

DUO OF THE YEAR 

Brooks & Dunn

Brothers Osborne

Dan + Shay

Florida Georgia Line

Maddie & Tae

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

The Bones – Maren Morris (WINNER)

Bluebird – Miranda Lambert

I Hope – Gabby Barrett

I Hope You’re Happy Now – Carly Pearce and Lee Brice

More Hearts Than Mine – Ingrid Andress 

SONG OF THE YEAR 

Bluebird – Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby

One Night Standards – Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally

Some People Do – Jesse Frasure, Matt Ramsey, Thomas Rhett, Shane McAnally

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton, Mike Henderson

The Bones – Jimmy Robbins, Maren Morris, Laura Veltz

NEW FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Gabby Barrett (WINNER)

Ingrid Andress

Tenille Arts

Mickey Guyton

Caylee Hammack

NEW MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR 

Jimmie Allen (WINNER)

Travis Denning

HARDY

Cody Johnson

Parker McCollum

SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR

Ashley Gorley

Michael Hardy

Hillary Lindsey

Shane McAnally

Josh Osborne

VIDEO OF THE YEAR 

Worldwide Beautiful – Kane Brown (WINNER) 

Better Than We Found It – Maren Morris

Bluebird – Miranda Lambert

Gone – Dierks Bentley

Hallelujah – Carrie Underwood and John Legend 

MUSIC EVENT OF THE YEAR

I Hope You’re Happy Now – Carly Pearce and Lee Brice (WINNER)

Be a Light – Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin and Keith Urban

Does to Me – Luke Combs and Eric Church

Nobody but You – Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani

One Beer – HARDY, Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson

One Too Many – Keith Urban and P!nk



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