Car­rie Underwood, Thomas Rhett tie for top prize at ACMs

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Cecil Whig - - JUMPSTART TV WEEKLY AND - By KRISTIN M. HALL AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer

NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) — In sur­prise twist that fit an un­ex­pected year of firsts, Car­rie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for en­ter­tainer of the year at the Academy of Coun­try Mu­sic Awards, the first time the top prize has been split be­tween two artists.

Underwood and Rhett seemed equally taken aback af­ter host Keith Ur­ban an­nounced the tie at the awards show held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Ten­nessee, on Wed­nes­day.

“Keith, what is hap­pen­ing right now?” Rhett asked, as­tounded, be­fore thank­ing his fam­ily. Underwood ap­peared right af­ter him re­mark­ing, “2020, man?” be­fore adding, “I am more than happy to share this with Thomas Rhett.”

The show on CBS had been de­layed for months be­cause of the pan­demic, moved from Las Ve­gas to Nashville for the first time and held with­out au­di­ences in empty venues. There was a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion for the show, which fea­tured Tay­lor Swift mak­ing her first ap­pear­ance at the ACMs in seven years.

Underwood’s win is her third to­tal in that cat­e­gory and Rhett’s first win. They beat out other nom­i­nees Eric Church, Luke Bryan and Luke Combs. Coin­ci­den­tally, a woman hasn’t won that award since 2011 when Swift last won it. Swift de­liv­ered a sim­ple acous­tic per­for­mance of “betty” from her new al­bum “Folk­lore,” on a dark­ened Opry House stage.

Combs still went home a win­ner by pick­ing up al­bum of the year and male artist of the year. Af­ter amass­ing tremen­dous stream­ing num­bers and nine con­sec­u­tive No. 1 countr y ra­dio hits, Combs thanked fans for their sup­port from the Blue­bird Cafe.

“This is a lot to process right now, I just can’t be­lieve this,” Combs said. “I just want to thank ev­ery­body in my life, my team, my beau­ti­ful wife and the fans. You guys have done ev­ery­thing for me. “

Coun­try group Old Do­min­ion won song of the year and group of the year, and band mem­bers Matthew Ram­sey, Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi earned ad­di­tional in­di­vid­ual awards as song­writ­ers for “One Man Band.”

The awards show aired from empty venues in Nashville with no fans and no ap­plause, even when win­ners got up live to ac­cept their awards. Ram­sey, the lead singer of Old Do­min­ion, said the empty venue and quiet made him think of friends and fam­ily they had lost.

“I can feel them all,” Ram­sey said. “They are so proud, and it’s such an honor to re­ceive this in their pres­ence.”

Ur­ban noted all the changes this year for the show and for the coun­try in gen­eral, say­ing 2020 has been an “un­pre­dictable and un­set­tling year.” Af­ter not­ing wild­fires on the West Coast, hur­ri­canes in the South, Ur­ban said the coun­try is bat­tling two pan­demics: COVID-19 and so­cial in­jus­tice.

“Far too many lives have been lost to both,” he said. “But the ex­am­ples set by es­sen­tial work­ers, our first re­spon­ders, along with the voices cry­ing out for equal­ity in all walks of life, have echoed around the world and right here in our coun­try com­mu­nity.”

Maren Mor­ris, who was a lead­ing nom­i­nee, won two awards, in­clud­ing fe­male artist of the year and mu­sic event of the year, for a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mi­randa Lam­bert, Caylee Ham­mack, Te­nille Townes, Elle King and Ash­ley McBr yde.

“This is so weird talk­ing to no one, but I have so many peo­ple to thank. This is an award that I never ex­pected to win,” said Mor­ris, who thanked her hus­band and baby boy, Hayes, be­fore blurt­ing out “Oh my God, I have to pee!”

Blake Shel­ton and Gwen Ste­fani, weren’t in Nashville, but turned a green screen room into a vir­tual replica of the Blue­bird Cafe for their duet “Happy Any­where.” Shel­ton won sin­gle of the year for his song, “God’s Coun­try.”

Lam­bert per­formed a stripped-down ver­sion of her No. 1 song “Blue­bird,” at the Blue­bird Cafe in a blue fringed shirt and a sparkly belt. Lam­bert’s vo­cals seemed to fill up the space in the tiny song­writ­ers’ club sur­rounded by ta­bles chairs, but no fans.

In awards an­nounced be­fore the show aired, Rhett also won mu­sic video of the year, while Townes won new fe­male artist of the year. Ri­ley Green won new male artist. Duo Dan + Shay won vo­cal duo of the year, their sec­ond win in that cat­e­gory in a row.

Underwood sang a tribute to iconic fe­male Opr y mem­bers, in­clud­ing Patsy Cline, Reba McEn­tire, Martina and

McBride, Bar­bara Man­drell, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Par­ton. She ef­fort­lessly breezed through snip­pets of clas­sics like “Crazy,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That,” and “Fancy.”

“They are some of my he­roes and I am so hon­ored to stand along­side them as a fel­low mem­ber of the Opr y,” said Underwood, who sang her heart out to a venue that flick­ered with lights where peo­ple should have been.

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AP PHO­TOS/MARK HUMPHREY

Old Do­min­ion ac­cepts the group of the year award dur­ing the 55th an­nual Academy of Coun­try Mu­sic Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 16, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.

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