See a full list of winners at bottom.

The 2024 ACM Awards broadcast Thursday evening (5-16) via Amazon Prime had many pondering the question, is it better for an awards show to be bad for the inadvertent entertainment value as opposed to being so boring and nondescript you want to gouge your eyeballs out?

The 2024 ACMs definitely gave some of the worst award show presentations in country history a run for their money with the monotonous, predictable, and generally lifeless presentation, relegated to an online streaming channel, broadcast from a practice facility as opposed to an actual arena, and cut short by an hour since there just wasn’t enough talent to showcase, including skipping the genre’s most popular stars, Luke Combs, Zach Bryan, and Morgan Wallen, none of whom were in attendance.

Lainey Wilson started off the presentation performing two songs, including “God Blessed Texas,” and her new almost purely rock song “Hang Tight Honey.” It ended up being Lainey’s night as she walked away with Female Artist of the year and the coveted Entertainer of the Year. But even that felt like par, and a punt on the ACM’s part for not wanting to put any attention on who wasn’t there as opposed to who was.

Reba McEntire hosted, and said in her monologue that Lainey Wilson is giving Dolly Parton a “run for her money.” Let’s maybe slow the roll on those pronouncements a little bit. Lainey Wilson is exciting, but she’s got about 55 years of experience to get to Dolly’s level. The comparison went over about as well as Reba’s dumb donkey jokes. The ACM’s austerity measures didn’t just stop at the venue, the performers, or the two-hour run time. They clearly cut their budget for writers.

When Jordan Davis won the first award for Song of the Year, you knew this was going to be a rough night. “Next Thing You Know” isn’t a terrible song, but to say this is the “best” song in country music and pass over the Luke Combs version of “Fast Car” really speaks to how the ACMs are all about who the major labels want to push as opposed to the will of the fans being codified by meaningful accolades.

This was doubled down when Dan + Shay won the second award, Duo of the Year. Not that there was any real competition in that category. Giving it to Brooks & Dunn after butchering the Toby Keith tribute on the CMT Awards earlier this year would have been bad form.

Jelly Roll sang an unreleased song “Liar” in a performance that felt super deflating, and from a guy that usually rises to awards show moments. Why Noah Kahan was on the presentation was a legitimate question. He insists he doesn’t want to be considered country, but there he was singing “Stick Season” with Kelsea Ballerini, double clutch her microphone like Carrie Underwood, but she doesn’t have the voice nor the gams to replace Underwood on these award shows.

There are a few things you can count on in life. The rise and fall of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and Old Dominion winning a country music Group of the Year Award even though 95% of America couldn’t pick them out of a lineup, or name one song from them. The 2024 ACMs didn’t disappoint in this department.

It took 40 minutes into the presentation before we heard a bona fide original country song performed when Cody Johnson decided to deliver “Dirt Cheap” on a stool in a stripped-down presentation. It was a good, sentimental performance, but helped underscore the snooze fest aspect that would prevail for most of the night.

Miranda Lambert’s new song “Wranglers” was supposed to re-introduce her to the country world, and be reminiscent of her “light stuff on fire” era. But it’s just a lot of bark, and very little bite, rendering yet another “mid” moment. Everything just felt like it was going through the motions during the night, but even the motions were weird. Crowd shots showed the audience looking around aloof. Winners didn’t know where to go to exit the stage. Everything felt performative and uninspired.

Ashley McBryde and some Amazon star did have a fun little moment where they sang parodied songs making fun of the Single of the Year nominees, with McBryde singing in a jingle, “the nominees were all guys again.” It strangely was one of the best moments of the night.

Luke Combs ended up winning Single of the Year with “Fast Car,” but of course, just like the rest of country music’s top talent, he was not there to accept.

The War & Treaty introduced Kane Brown to sing “Georgia” in tribute to Ray Charles, but it should have been Kane Brown introducing The War & Treaty to sing “Georgia” in tribute to Ray Charles. Kane turned in a super mid version, while The War & Treaty would have brought the house down.

Thomas Rhett sang a new song that sounds like every single other Thomas Rhett song. It was about a girl, maybe his wife, or something. The reason performers like Zach Bryan and Noah Kahan are doing so well right now because they are everything a performer like Thomas Rhett isn’t.

Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani got in on the action, offering a deflating radio-pushed single with their wilted “Purple Irises.” It surely will get the Stans singing their praises, but had others fishing for the remote, and figuring out how better to spend their Thursday evenings.

The Bobby Bones backstage moments made for the perfect opportunities to punch out. You really have to tip your hat to Bones and his incredible gift at turning any topic or conversation back to being all about him.

Everything felt as perfunctory as Chris Stapleton winning Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year again. Which of course, he did.

Jason Aldean tributing Toby Keith isn’t the kind of tease that would get older, traditional country fans to tune in to an awards show. But his rendition of “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” with just acoustic guitars accompanied by a string quintet was actually one of the best moments of the night. He figured out how to allow the emotion to meet the moment, unlike what happened at the CMTs. Aldean deserves a hat tip for tipping his hat properly to Toby.

On of the most awkward moments of the night was when Reba was introducing Chris Stapleton, and got cut off half way. Then instead of seeing Stapleton, we saw pop star Dua Lipa, who sang a good half of “I Think I’m In Love With You.” No offense to Dua Lipa, but in a presentation already criticized for showcasing so many pop stars instead of country ones, it was yet another pop star put in the mix, while Stapleton’s wife Morgane who normally sings with Chris stood there like a third wheel.

Then Post Malone came out, and unequivocally played the most country song of the night, with a country band of steel guitar and fiddle dressed in Dallas Cowboys uniforms. Then he played his massive new single with Morgan Wallen “I Had Some Help,” sans Morgan Wallen. Because I guess Morgan is still too verboten to put on the ACM Awards stage.

Then Malone and Reba sang a quick, acapella stanza of “Ramblin’ Man” in tribute to Dickey Betts. Once again, it was an interlude that was much better than many of the ultra-produced performances, including Parker McCoullum’s lifeless acoustic version of “Burn It Down,” and the plastic, contrived performance coupling Nate Smith and Avril Levine.

Reba McEntire closed the show out after Lainey won Entertainer of the Year, and everyone stood up, looked left, looked right, and wondered if they couldn’t have spent their time better, including this reporter.

The ACMs used to be the strong #2 awards show to the CMAs. Now they feel like they’re holding on for dear life. Ultimately, Luke Combs, Zach Bryan, Morgan Wallen, and everyone else who skipped it made the right decision. Don’t be surprised if more and more people make that decision with the ACMs as fans suffer from awards fatigue, and the CMT awards on CBS actively look to supplant the ACMs as the #2 awards show in country behind November’s CMAs.

WINNERS:
Entertainer of the Year – Lainey Wilson
Album of the Year – Chris Stapleton – Higher
Female Artist of the Year – Lainey Wilson
Male Artist of the Year – Chris Stapleton
Group of the Year – Old Dominion
Duo of the Year – Dan + Shay
Song of the Year – Jordan Davis – “Next Thing You Know”
Single of the Year – Luke Combs – “Fast Car”
New Female Artist of the Year – Megan Moroney
New Male Artist of the Year – Nate Smith
New Duo or Group of the Year – Tigerlily Gold
Artist-Songwriter of the Year – Chris Stapleton
Music Event of the Year – Jelly Roll & Lainey Wilson – “Save Me”
Visual Media of the Year – Parker McCollum – “Burn It Down”
Songwriter of the Year – Jessie Jo Dillon
Group of the Year – Old Dominion
Duo of the Year – Dan + Shay
Song of the Year – Jordan Davis – “Next Thing You Know”
Single of the Year – Luke Combs – “Fast Car”
New Female Artist of the Year – Megan Moroney
New Male Artist of the Year – Nate Smith
New Duo or Group of the Year – Tigerlily Gold
Artist-Songwriter of the Year – Chris Stapleton
Visual Media of the Year – Parker McCollum – “Burn It Down”
Songwriter of the Year – Jessie Jo Dillon



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