The Academy of Country Music Awards was jam-packed with a little bit of everything, encompassing today’s rock- and pop-inflected sounds, traditional sounds from the genre’s bedrock – and a lot of humor to boot.
George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Kacey Musgraves carried home the best trophies Sunday night in Las Vegas, but Lambert’s husband, Blake Shelton, and his co-host Luke Bryan may have been the biggest winners.
At one point, Shelton joked that the show was their tryout for David Letterman’s job, and they backed it up with some truly funny moments.
So we’ll book-end a six pack of highlights from the 49th annual awards with their best two moments:
- The selfie: At one point, Shelton and Bryan, who have given themselves the celebrity name “Bluke,” suggest they recreate Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie moment from the Academy Awards. They went down the front row rejecting one star after another. They rejected Jason Aldean because he isn’t “big enough” and said of Tim McGraw in sing-song unison, “Boring!” `’Honestly,” Shelton said, “I think we’re the biggest celebrities in the room.”
- Merle Haggard, on hand to receive the ACM’s Crystal Milestone Award, already knew he would receive the star-packed tribute treatment during the show with Lambert and Strait scheduled to sing and Garth Brooks presenting. But Brooks announced to the crowd that it was Haggard’s 77th birthday Sunday and exhorted the crowd – full of the world’s top country stars – to sing “Happy Birthday” to the legend.
- Stevie and Shakira: Sometimes the cross-genre celebrity pairings at these award shows are ... ill-advised. The ACMs pulled off two strong mashups, though, teaming Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks on their songs “Golden” and “Rhiannon” and Blake Shelton and Shakira on their duet “Medicine.” The first performance helped frame what makes Lady A’s high harmony so appealing and the second showed the soft side of the jokester Shelton.
- The Band Perry put on one of the night’s most memorable performances for a couple of reasons. The show-opening performance of “Chainsaw” by the brother-sister trio was among the night’s most energetic. It also was accompanied by so much confetti that it looked like snow was drifting across the first three rows of celebrities. “There’s $20 million in hairdos down here and it all has confetti in it,” Bryan joked. The group also won vocal event of the year, a pretty great bookend to the night.
- ACMs head to Jerry’s World: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones got a mixed reaction when he appeared on the show to help announce the 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards next year at his AT&T stadium in Dallas. He was initially booed by some fans – a day after he was also booed at the NCAA Final Four – and took the brunt of a joke from Bryan about his team’s checkered playoff history. “Is he laughing?” Bryan asked. He will be next year when his stadium will be the centerpiece of what’s already being billed the world’s largest awards show.
- Daft Punks: Bryan and Shelton channeled another pop culture moment brilliantly when they arrived on stage as “Get Lucky” played in the background wearing Daft Punk-style helmets and tuxedos – just like the Pharell Williams-accompanied electronica stars did at the Grammy Awards. After a few seconds to let the effect settle in, the duo ripped off their helmets and pretended to be out of breath. “Man, where the hell is Pharrell at,” Shelton said. “He was supposed to read the nominees.” Bryan responds: “How the hell you supposed to get lucky in that thing. I couldn’t even breathe.”