Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_16288 Mickey Guyton performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday, April 16, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_79264 Carly Pearce performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_41604 Leslie Jordan appears at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_20817 Miranda Lambert, center, performs "In His Arms" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_57466 This combination photo shows Mickey Guyton, from left, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood performing at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show aired on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments. Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Morris won two honors, including song of the year, Lambert performed three times and held onto her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history and Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_91201 Maren Morris accepts the award for female artist of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_94805 Maren Morris accepts the award for female artist of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_01563 Maren Morris is seen in the audience at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_22868 Maren Morris, left, and Ryan Hurd perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_77454 Maren Morris, left, and Ryan Hurd perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_03980 Ingrid Andress presents the award for male artist of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_46887 Carly Pearce accepts the award for single of the year for "I Hope You're Happy Now" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_84635 Lee Brice, left, and Carly Pearce accept the award for single of the year for "I Hope You're Happy Now" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_64210 Mickey Guyton attends the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_95775 Host Mickey Guyton speaks at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_86683 Miranda Lambert, center, performs "In His Arms" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_70687 CeCe Winans performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_58376 Carrie Underwood, left, and CeCe Winans perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_72560 Carrie Underwood, left, and CeCe Winans perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_49357 Carrie Underwood performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_30517 Carrie Underwood performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
Carrie Underwood performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_01717 Luke Combs performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday, April 16, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_70492 Eric Church performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_47971 Luke Combs performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday, April 16, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_67962 Eric Church performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
This combination photo shows, from left, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton, nominees for entertainer of the year at this years ACM Awards.
Carrie Underwood appears at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 2019, left, and CeCe Winans performs during the Dove Awards in Nashville, Tenn. on Oct. 15, 2019. Underwood will sing with gospel legend CeCe Winans on Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards.
FILE - Dan Smyers, left, and Shay Mooney from the band Dan + Shay perform on NBC's Today show in New York on June 28, 2019. The duo will perform at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_08823 Alan Jackson performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_55655 Martina McBride presents the award for single of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_77709 Lee Brice, left, and Carly Pearce accept the award for single of the year for "I Hope You're Happy Now" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_65266 Miranda Lambert, center, performs "In His Arms" at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_29013 Martina McBride, from left, presents Lee Brice and Carly Pearce with the award for single of the year for "I Hope You're Happy Now"at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_43477 Miranda Lambert, left, and Elle King perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_33715 Hosts Keith Urban, left, and Mickey Guyton speak at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_45739 Miranda Lambert, left, and Elle King perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
Miranda Lambert, left, and Elle King perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_79649 Chris Young, left, and Kane Brown perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_07651 Chris Young, left, and Kane Brown perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday April 16, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_37508 Vanderbilt medical workers seat in the audience at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_83003 Blanco Brown presents the award for group of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_88018 Thomas Rhett performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_28851 Blanco Brown appears at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_17841 Matthew Ramsey, second from right, and members of Old Dominion, accept the award for group of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_24840 Thomas Rhett performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_98534 Host Keith Urban speaks at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_81869 Luke Bryan appears on screen accepting the award for entertainer of the year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_19330 John Osborne, left, and T.J. Osborne, of Brothers Osborne, perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_90602 In this video grab provided by CBS, Chris Stapleton accepts the award for album of the year for "Starting Over" during the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tenn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_25076 Ingrid Andress, left, presents the award for male artist of the year to Thomas Rhett at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Te nn.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_17475 Keith Urban performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_02888 Keith Urban performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
2021_Academy_of_Country_Music_Awards_06205 Mickey Guyton performs at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday, April 16, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show airs on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments.
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NEW YORK (AP) — Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Maren Morris won the most awards of the night, including song of the year. Miranda Lambert performed three times and held on to her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history. And Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance.

Though female country stars didn’t compete for the night’s top prize – Luke Bryan was named entertainer of the year – they owned Sunday’s ACM Awards.

Underwood’s performance stood out the most. She was joined by gospel legend CeCe Winans and the dynamic duo blended their voices like angels onstage. Underwood performed songs from her recent gospel hymns album “My Savior,” kicking off the set with “Amazing Grace” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Then Winans joined in, matching her strong vocal performance.

Lambert performed three times, first alongside rock-pop singer Elle King for a fun, energetic performance of their new duet “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).” Lambert, who founded pet shelter nonprofit MuttNation, also performed alongside album of the year winner Chris Stapleton for “Maggie’s Song,” a tribute to Stapleton’s dog who died 2019. Her final performance was with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.

The performances that aired Sunday were pre-taped at various locations in Nashville, Tennessee, including the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe. Winners, wearing masks, accepted awards in real time in front of a small audience made up of medical and health care workers.

Bryan was set to perform Sunday but backed out of the show because he recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m so sorry I could not be there,” he said from Los Angeles. “And to all my fans out there and country radio, we miss touring. We’ve missed being on the road with everybody that makes me an entertainer. My bus drivers, my band, my crew, what a challenging year. But to all the fans and everybody, we’ll be back out on the road doing what we love.”

Morris spoke about the taxing year without live music when she won female artist of the year — one of her three wins.

“Really just happy to be in a category with women that were not able to tour this year, but brought so much heat to the game of country music this year. You’ve inspired me so much to no end, and even in a year where no one’s gotten to play shows, I have heard some of the best music out of all of you this past year. So thank you so much for inspiring me,” she said.

Collaborating onstage was the theme of the awards show, and Morris and hubby Ryan Hurd sang together, ending with a kiss. A teary-eyed Morris won song of the year for her Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” which topped the country music charts for months last year. She won two ACMs for song of the year — one for performing the hit and another for co-writing it, sharing the win with songwriters Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins.

Morris lost single of the year, where all of the nominated songs were performed by female artists. Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s platinum duet, “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” won the prize.

“We wrote this song about my story and I guess it resonated with everybody,” Pearce said onstage, also thanking busbee, who produced the song and died in late 2019. “This is the last song that my producer worked on.”

Another tender moment came when Blanco Brown presented Old Dominion with group of the year. It marked Brown’s first public appearance after suffering significant injuries in a head-on vehicle collision last year.

But the entire three-hour show didn’t go smoothly. The Grammy-winning duo Dan + Shay performed their latest hit, “Glad You Exist,” but the pre-taped moment aired out of sync.

“Apparently there was an audio/video sync issue on the television broadcast,” the duo tweeted. “We’re bummed about it, but it happens, especially when performances are happening in multiple locations.”

Another mishap occurred when Martina McBride announced the winner of single of the year. McBride correctly said “I Hope You’re Happy Now” won though “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett appeared on the TV screen.

Pearce and Brice’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now” also won musical event of the year, while Barrett was named new female artist of the year. Rhett won male artist of the year and Jimmie Allen was named new male artist of the year.

Those acts performed Sunday, as did Alan Jackson, Lady A, Blake Shelton, Ashley McBryde, Brothers Osborne and Guyton, who gave an all-star performance of “Hold On” during the show, which she hosted with Keith Urban. She recently had her first child and became the first Black solo woman nominated for a Grammy in the country category this year.

Little Big Town also performed — but as a threesome. The Grammy winners sang “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” without band member Phillip Sweet since he recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Sweet and Bryan weren’t the only country stars missing from the show. Morgan Wallen, whose latest album and singles have found major success on both the country and pop charts, was declared ineligible by the ACMs after he was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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