2023 ACM Awards
May 11, 2023
Ford Center at The Star
by Brooks Burris
Frisco, Texas’ Ford Center saw a different type of Cowboy ascend on America’s team practice facility on Thursday night as it hosted the 58th Annual American Country Music Awards. Returning host Dolly Parton teamed up with our favorite “Friend in Low Places” Garth Brooks to MC the evening which was kickstarted by a visually beautiful performance from country music veteran Keith Urban who tore through the track “Texas Time” from his 2018 LP Graffiti U. After a live goat (since he called her the G.O.A.T.) was rolled out on stage and Dolly damn near made Garth blush with an unprecedented threesome joke; the show was officially streaming away for only the second time after migrating from Network television in 2022.
Country star Cole Swindell claimed the first award of the night for his Jo Dee Messina inspired song “She Had me at Heads Carolina” immediately after performing the song as a duet with Messina herself. The careful balance of teaming up today’s country talent with 90s country greats continued with a Trisha Yearwood/Carly Pearce medley, that included Yearwood’s “Wrong Side of Memphis,” transitioning into her No.1 hit “XXX’s and OOO’s” eventually rounding out the performance with crowd favorite “She’s in Love With the Boy.”
Next up, the Award for Duo of the Year was claimed by Maryland natives, Brothers Osborne who beat out country music icons Brooks & Dunn and others to add another ACMA to the dozen others they have picked up over the years. After an interestingly high energy performance from newcomer Hardy, the show kept a quick pace, bouncing from backstage with Bobby Bones who interviewed nominees, back to live performances and award presentations until the show came to a reverent halt during an a cappella hymn from Parton to honor those who passed since last year’s ceremony.
Notable MIA country stars included Morgan Wallen who is on vocal rest for the next six weeks and 2022 ACMA Performer and 16-time ACM winner Carrie Underwood. Oddly enough, Wallen ended up winning Male Vocalist of the Year. With Brooks saying “To tell you the truth, we all know what it takes to win this award.” “To not be here to get it must be killing him, so let’s all celebrate for Morgan Wallen.”
32-year-old pop star Ed Sheeran added a different element to this years show performing his song “Life Goes On” as a duet with Luke Combs. Sheeran recently revealed that he would “love to transition into country,” saying that he speaks to his wife about the idea “all the time”. “I love the culture of it, I just love the songwriting. It’s just like brilliant songs,” Sheeran stated. Sheeran and Combs hit another friendship milestone when Combs taught the British singer an American drinking practice of shotgunning a beer.
One of our favorite performances of the night was Cody Johnson singing Willie Nelson’s “Mamas Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” after Dolly and Garth facetimed Nelson. Willie thanked Dolly for his birthday flowers then jokingly called out Brooks saying “Garth, I guess your birthday gift is still on the way?” Garth replied that he must have “left the tracking number in his other pants.” Austin’s Nelson just turned 90 with a big bash at the iconic Hollywood Bowl, received a prestigious award this week from the LBJ Foundation at UT, and will be on the road again soon. Plus, he’s finally getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The night’s biggest winner went to Lainey Wilson who won Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year. It’s her first wins for ACM Female Artist of the Year, ACM Album of the Year, ACM Music Event of the Year, and ACM Visual Media of the Year. Her four wins tonight tie her for the most-awarded artist of the evening and bring her total ACM Awards count to seven.“I’m up here because of y’all, because of people like Dolly Parton, pavin’ the way,” Wilson stated in one of her acceptance speeches. “For the little girls watching this, it stands for hard work. If you’re gonna be a dreamer, you better be a doer.”
Check out some photos from the evening on Austin 101 Magazine.
Other winners of the night included Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, Kelsea Ballerini, Carly Pearce, Jordan Davis, Brooks & Dunn, Hardy, Dan & Shay and more. See the full winner and nominees list at ACM.
The big prize of the night, Entertainer of the year, went to Chris Stapleton (his first time) who has stayed true to the traditional country sound while seamlessly evolving with the current state of country music without selling his soul. This win qualifies him for the coveted ACM Triple Crown Award, celebrating artists who have won New Female/Male Artist of the Year, Female/Male Artist of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. His win tonight brings his total ACM Awards count to 15. When receiving the 2023 Entertainer of the year award, Stapleton seemed shocked and extremely humbled to win. “I never thought of myself as somebody who’d win this award.” Stapleton said almost bashfully. Ford Center staff even reported spotting Stapleton on the stadium floor helping to clean up well after most had left to attend afterparties.
Check out the Spotify Playlist for the ACM Award winners’ songs.
Dolly literally set the stage on fire to close out the show, premiering her new song “World on Fire” from her upcoming rock album. Parton showered the crowd with confetti and put on a foot-stomping performance that included black clad backup dancers twirling to her haunting lyrics “Liar Liar, the World’s on fire/whatcha gonna do when it all burns down/ Fire Fire burning higher/ Still got time to turn it all around.” On Dolly’s website she said “This is a song I felt very inspired to write. I think it speaks about everything and to everyone in this day and time.” she went on to say “I hope it is something that will touch you and maybe touch enough people to want to change for the better.”
The show was live on Prime Video for free and can still be watched on demand.
See the full winner and nominees list at ACM.
Check out all our music coverage on Austin 101 Magazine.