The 2018 ACM Awards are in the books. Last night (April 15), Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena was a who’s who of Nashville royalty, but a handful of stars hogged the biggest headlines. A country legend MC’d, a growing legend broke an all-time ACM record, and an artist who wasn’t even on hand had perhaps the greatest night of them all.
Here are 10 moments to remember:
Reba’s Return to Hosting
— ACM Awards (@ACMawards) April 16, 2018
25 years? Pssh!
The Big Duet
Reba McEntire spent the night hosting, but she saved the best for last. In the show’s final minutes leading up to the last award, the living legend joined Kelly Clarkson for a memorable, well-executed rendition of the 1993 classic “Does He Love You.” Seconds after introducing Reba as one of her “musical heroes,” Clarkson walked onto the big stage, and went toe-to-toe with her muse/mother-in-law, singing Linda Davis‘ part in the 25-year-old love triangle ballad.
Carrie Underwood’s Tears of Joy
The song Underwood performed was only four days old, but the country star delivered its heartfelt vocals with the same sort of panache. Silver tears painted beneath her eyes, Underwood gave “Cry Pretty” its first prime time performance with her versatile voice in peak form. Last November, a bad fall forced Underwood to undergo serious facial surgery, and this televised triumph was a resounding return to the spotlight.
Home Cookin’ From Urban and Michaels
Another new single that got a strong intro at the ACMs was “Coming Home,” Keith Urban’s recent collaboration with pop star/songwriter Julia Michaels. The Merle Haggard-sampling song arrived in a blaze of guitar licks and glory, with Keith and Julia’s chemistry exuding past the studio and onto the big stage. “Coming Home” is off Urban’s upcoming LP Graffiti U, due April 27.
Newer Faces Leave Lasting Impression
Another collab we couldn’t forget was from Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina. Their Hot Country Singles No. 1 hit “What Ifs” came to life in a rousing performance, where both artists visibly fed off each other’s energy.
Get to Know Midland
In addition to winning new vocal duo/group of the year, we got this killer performance from the Big Machine-signed up-and-comers.
Maren Morris Strikes it Rich
The 2017 breakout star’s performance of her recent single “Rich” was a big winner from early in the show. Morris exuded swaggering confidence as she sauntered through the reggae-tinged country pop song. Props to her bassist for filling in the “ka-ching, ka-ching” vocal solo with extra flair. Maren dropped in some humor herself before the show got going:
— MAREN MORRIS (@MarenMorris) April 14, 2018
Jason Aldean Wins the Final Prize
We’d be remiss not to mention the winner of the night’s final trophy. With Stapleton, Luke Bryan, and others in the running for entertainer of the year, the show-closing prize went to Jason Aldean, recognizing the dominance of his recent singles and his They Don’t Know tour. His latest LP Rearview Town arrived last Friday, so he’ll have a fighting chance to defend his title next year, too.
Chris Stapleton Takes Home ACMs…And Twins
What a night for Chris Stapleton. By now, the renowned country songwriter is no stranger to strong award show showings, but he’ll surely remember the evening of the 2018 ACMs for the rest of his life. That’s because he wasn’t at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but with his wife Morgane, who’d just given birth to twin baby boys. McEntire broke the news to the Vegas crowd as he was awarded the prize for album of the year: “We just found out those little rascals came a little bit early!”
He led all artists with eight nominations and won two of them (album and male vocalist). It was also his birthday. Chris Stapleton wins, at life in general.
Miranda’s Record-Breaking Night
On a normal ACMs night, Stapleton would have had the headliner spotlight to himself, but Miranda Lambert’s incredible evening demanded that kind of attention, too. When Lambert’s “Tin Man” won song of the year, the singer-songwriter claimed her 30th ACM award, passing Brooks & Dunn as the all-time winningest country artist. She also won female vocalist of the year, and wowed the Vegas crowd with one of the night’s most impeccable performances. Another Weight of These Wings standout, “Keeper of the Flame,” came to life in all its shining glory, with Lambert performing on a guitar autographed by Loretta Lynn.