ACMs Spoil Great Night By Splitting Entertainer of the Year
Whenever you regard the ACM Awards, you always have to remind yourself, “It’s only the ACM Awards.” As the bastard cousin of the CMAs and a regular forum for bloc voting and horse trading among labels and booking agencies, they often end up in ridiculous results. You can always run the risk of taking them too seriously.
Nonetheless, their delayed presentation Wednesday evening, September 16th in Nashville incorporating three separate venues in The Bluebird Cafe, The Ryman Auditorium, and The Grand Ole Opry House, and the COVID necessities of stripped-down performances and a more sedate attitude to the presentation, resulted in arguably one of the best country awards shows in modern history. Forgoing choreographed dancers and pyrotechnics, songs and voices took center stage. And more often than not, they rose to the occasion.
We’ll be talking about Carrie Underwood’s medley of country music classics for years to come, where she covered Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Martina McBride. Eric Church found a poignant moment by beginning his performance of “Stick That in Your Country Song” with an extended edition of Johnny Cash’s spoken word “Ragged Old Flag.” Mickey Guyton moved many with her performance of “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” that felt like it made a star. Moments happened, and fans were made, which most modern award shows fumble in their frenetic attempt to cram as many names into a presentation as possible.
The night really underscored how it’s not always the songs or the lack of talent that render today’s country music so repulsive to distinguishing ears and classic country fans. It’s the layers upon layers of production. Some artists still couldn’t do without it, like Old Dominion and Florida Georgia Line. But others shined in the more intimate moments, like Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, and Tim McGraw. Trisha Yearwood performed during the most thorough In Memoriam segment we’ve seen from any country music awards show in years, resulting in many appreciative classic country fans.
But then there were the awards themselves. The love for Old Dominion, who walked away with Song of the Year and Group of the Year was a little strange. Maren Morris and Luke Combs fairly deserved their Male and Female Artist awards respectively. Combs was a pretty obvious pick for Album of the Year as well for What You See Is What You Get. But regardless of what you thought about the nominees, you had to be heartened by the whole package the ACMs were able to put together amid the circumstances … until the end.
When host Keith Urban announced that not one, but two artists had tied for the biggest trophy of the night—Entertainer of the Year—the only way you knew it would work out well is if it was Carrie Underwood, and either Luke Combs or Eric Church. When Thomas Rhett was named as the first recipient, all the positive will the ACMs had built up over the night went out of the room. Anyone but Thomas Rhett would have been a better pick. When Carrie Underwood was named as the 2nd winner, it almost felt like a consolation, no fault of her own.
After the controversy at the CMA last November where Garth Brooks won Entertainer of the Year when so many were expecting Carrie Underwood, or possibly Eric Church—a moment that became so disconcerting Garth has permanently taken himself out of the running for the award—you felt like the ACMs had to get it right. And in one respect, they did by giving Carrie Underwood the accolade, or at least half of it.
Also important to note, Carrie Underwood actually won the ACM Entertainer of the Year in both 2009 and 2010, so this win wasn’t the unprecedented white whale the CMA Entertainer award would have been, which she’s yet to do. But by giving Entertainer to Thomas Rhett as well, you immediately build in speculation and conspiracy theories of how an award voted on by thousands would result in a tie. The immediate thought by many was and will continue to be, “They just gave it to Carrie too to stave off criticism for not supporting women.”
Of course, we don’t have any evidence of that, and never will. But allowing this result forever sullies the award for Carrie, and unfairly. And even though Thomas Rhett has no business winning any Entertainer of the Year award, it also unfairly paints him as spoiler, similar to what happened to Garth Brooks at the 2019 CMA Awards. It’s not their faults they garnered the most votes.
Similar to when you have a football team with two quarterback, what that really means is you have none. That’s not to take away from either Carrie Underwood or Thomas Rhett. But it just renders the whole thing weird and confusing, and ripe to conjecture of how we got here. If it was truly a tie, why wasn’t there a re-vote or a runoff, or more voters brought in, or some other remedy to the log jam? You can’t change votes. But you could craft a fair remedy to a tie. You figured out a way to present an excellent awards show presentation during a pandemic. You could have figured this out too.
Granted, if it was Eric Church or Luke Combs who would have won with Carrie, maybe the glass would be half full right now for more country fans, and there would more forgiveness aside from those loyal to Thomas Rhett. And if Thomas Rhett had won alone, this would definitely be an even worse scenario. If Church or Combs has won on their own, it would be much more understandable.
But regardless of how the ACMs got there, their results are the same: country fans frustrated over the results of the Entertainer of the Year award—just like what happened at the CMAs and ACMs over the last few years, while the woke think piece writers will be quick to condemn the entirety of country music for making Carrie Underwood share her moment with a man. And let’s not forget, Keith Urban was the ACM winner last year. Few were able to square with that either. He also seemed like the worst pick of the entire lot.
The problem with the Entertainer of the Year Awards–CMA or ACM—is that the regularly result in winners that the wide public feels are undeserving. You can’t make everybody happy. But you can find plurality, or consensus. Three of the five nominees would have resulted in that outcome. Fans would have understood more if Luke Bryan would have won—the fifth nominee in the category. Trying to take the easy way out by giving Entertainer of the Year to two artists is no solution. Arguably, it exacerbates the issue, and the confusion of the Entertainer of the Year process, already rendered more confusing as it has morphed into a touring award.
But just remember, “It’s only the ACM Awards.” It’s just disappointing that one of their best presentations in perhaps a decade or more—and under difficult circumstances—had to be sullied at the very end by a silly and avoidable decision.
READ: ACMs Spoil Great Night By Splitting Entertainer of the Year Award
September 16, 2020 @ 10:37 pm
That was cheap. And it smells fishy. And does Thomas Rhett not like his daddy? I didn’t hear him thank his daddy.
September 16, 2020 @ 10:42 pm
New singles just dropped from Carrie and Thomas….
“We Should be Winning Alone”
“Baby, you are, you are the Co-Star of the Show”
Country When Country Wasn't Cool
September 17, 2020 @ 12:53 am
I’m in the minority here…I like Thomas Rhett. But EOTY??? This year??? I thought Luke Combs would win, but OK, maybe it’s a little too soon for him. Next year. So then you would assume Underwood or Church. But it IS the ACMs, and they don’t always make the conventional choices. I don’t know exactly how the voting is tabulated and I’ve never understood ties at award shows..
Assuming it’s a popular vote, why not have a designated committee (3 or 5 members) cast deciding votes in the result of a tie? Though I’m happy Underwood won, it could be worse…Rhett could have earned one more vote. That firestorm would have dwarfed the 2020 election. So yeah, this was a very bizarre result.
September 16, 2020 @ 10:45 pm
As soon as Luke Combs won male vocalist, I knew he wouldn’t win EOTY. It seems to be common that no one wins both vocalist of the year AND EOTY.
Country When Country Wasn't Cool
September 17, 2020 @ 1:21 am
It has happened, just not so much recently. If you count duos and groups as vocalists:
Carrie Underwood 2009
Toby Keith 2004
Dixie Chicks 2003
Brooks & Dunn 2001
Reba McEntire 1995
Garth Brooks 1991, 1992
Alabama 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985
Kenny Rogers 1979
Mickey Gilley 1977
Loretta Lynn 1976
Freddie Hart 1972
Merle Haggard 1971
September 17, 2020 @ 7:24 am
Now do the CMAs!
Country When Country Wasn't Cool
September 17, 2020 @ 9:15 am
Blake Shelton 2012
Taylor Swift 2009
Keith Urban 2005
Alan Jackson 2002, 2003
Dixie Chicks 2000
Brooks & Dunn 1996
Vince Gill 1993, 1994
Reba McEntire 1986
Alabama 1982, 1983
Barbara Mandrell 1981
Ronnie Milsap 1977
Loretta Lynn 1972
Charley Pride 1971
Merle Haggard 1970
Johnny Cash 1969
Glen Campbell 1968
September 17, 2020 @ 9:36 am
Two glaring omissions from that list. And one from the ACM list. As far as winners go, I mean, not like you missed anyone.
Country When Country Wasn't Cool
September 17, 2020 @ 9:48 am
I know. It’s amazing George Strait is missing from both lists, and Garth Brooks from the CMAs. Ironically, they won their EOTY awards in very competitive years for male vocalists.
September 17, 2020 @ 12:09 am
Awards shows…….congratulations to the winners but I am always surprised by some of the winners and some that don’t win. .
Strait Country 81
September 17, 2020 @ 3:04 am
There’s no logic to Thomas co winning EOTY definitely someone was paid off or he’s cheating on his wife with the right person.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:39 am
Big Machine threw their weight behind Thomas Rhett as Entertainer, called in all their favors over the years, hoping to launch him as the next top tier country music superstar, which he’ll never be. There arguably has never been a more manufactured star than Thomas Rhett. At least you can say someone like Keith Urban actually has talent.
September 18, 2020 @ 11:31 pm
Isn’t Thomas already a top tier act based on mainstream popularity???
He’s headlining big shows, has 15+ #1s , and his streaming numbers are huge ( only behind Combs and Wallen)
I’m not a fan but he will be a sales success for years to come. His “crossing over genres” reminds me of Keith Urban. Though he isn’t as talented as Keith….instrumentally speaking
September 19, 2020 @ 7:58 am
I agree Thomas Rhett should be considered a top tier act. However, I think it’s indisputable he is not THE top act in mainstream country at the moment. Neither is Carrie Underwood at the moment, but she is one of the top women. No way you can justify Thomas Rhett winning over Luke Combs, or even Eric Church with what he’s accomplished. Even Luke Bryan works better since at least he has some sort of legacy behind him. Terrible pick, and even worse that he was nominated.
September 17, 2020 @ 3:17 am
Screw the haters. Old Dominion rules. End of.
Strait Country 81
September 17, 2020 @ 4:05 am
I prefer for my Domino’s pizza to be fresh not old.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:05 am
Old Dominion Freight Line is a pretty good trucking company.
September 18, 2020 @ 11:33 pm
Crickey, that’s an Old Dingo
September 17, 2020 @ 5:13 am
The ACMs did a lot of good for themselves and for country music last night. Then they trashed it all in the last five minutes and did a lot of damage to themselves and to Carrie Underwood and to country music in general.
We could be talking about the great performances. We could be talking about how some of the songs we have hated actually sounded good stripped from the god awful studio production. We could be talking about Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton and their inclusion for the first time. We could be talking about Eric Church and Johnny Cash.
But no. Instead we have to talk about how the final performance slot was used to showcase a song that one “artist” stole from another. And we have to talk about the EotY debacle.
The other awards themselves weren’t out of line. Yes, “Wildcard” and “Heartache Medication” were both better records than “What You See is What You Get,” but given that Lambert and Pardi probably split a lot of the vote (and that Morris probably peeled some votes away from Lambert) and the fact that Combs’ record was solid, it was acceptable. Morris may not have been our choice for FAotY, but given Underwood and Musgraves are both between albums and Lambert had her successes this year after the eligibility period, Morris was an understandable choice. Even the Old Dominion awards can be explained. Group of the Year is a weak category (they probably need to combine it with Duo of the Year) and neither Lady A or LBT have had stellar years. Song of the Year was an odd choice, but vote splitting probably played a role and the ACMs have a habit of choosing less commercially successful songs in this category anyway, so again, no ideal but acceptable.
Look, they have had these awards results for months. I am also confused about the timing of presenting. Since some of those performances were pre-taped, it looked like the artists who won everything but EotY knew in advance, because some of the awards were presented ahead of time on location (Shelton’s for sure). So unless they taped an acceptance by every artist for every award, the results were known, right? I mean I guess not EotY, as they were all live in one place last night, but the rest? I mean Shelton taped his stuff on Saturday someone said. Was Combs live last night? And even IF the artists themselves didn’t know (like I said, they could have taped an acceptance by every artist) the ACMs KNEW. They have had plenty of time to do a run off vote.
This is all anyone will remember. Underwood is being destroyed on social media. People are piling on that they “gave” her an award just to say they did. And an even bigger issue (for me at least) is how Thomas Rhett manages to win at all. I suppose if the worthy nominees split the vote it would make sense…but then a tie seems even less plausible.
If the ACMs did this to “do the right thing” by awarding Carrie because she was robbed at the CMAs, they failed. Underwood was a deserving winner back in November of 2019. Her output this year hasn’t been the same and fans could have and would have accepted either Church or Combs winning. Plus, as is pointed out in the article, she has already won at the ACMs twice before. All this has done is hurt her and hurt the credibility of country music. It was a huge mistake. To me, as much as Rhett was the worst possible choice, even a solo win by him would have been better. At least then we wouldn’t have to endure all the “they gave her a gift to keep the liberals happy” nonsense.
I had warm feelings about the ACMs until the last five minutes. Now I am just disgusted.
September 17, 2020 @ 5:53 am
“If the ACMs did this to “do the right thing” by awarding Carrie because she was robbed at the CMAs, they failed. Underwood was a deserving winner back in November of 2019. Her output this year hasn’t been the same and fans could have and would have accepted either Church or Combs winning.”
The eligibility period for the ACMs presented last night was January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019.
“Since some of those performances were pre-taped, it looked like the artists who won everything but EotY knew in advance, because some of the awards were presented ahead of time on location (Shelton’s for sure). So unless they taped an acceptance by every artist for every award, the results were known, right? ”
All the nominees who attended the show were in their tour buses in the parking lot. When it was time for a category they were nominated in, they were moved to a location inside the building. Placeholder trophies were situated nearby in front of a camera in the event that an artist would win at that location to avoid any interaction.
September 17, 2020 @ 6:02 am
Thanks for clarifying. So then only Shelton’s acceptance was pre-taped? Or are the reports that he did all his stuff last week and is hunting with this buddies false?
Also, yes, the eligibility period, you have a point. But Underwood’s great year is further from fans’ minds right now.
September 17, 2020 @ 6:26 am
The people who were not there probably did do an acceptance speech in case they won. Other award shows have done that if it’s not that many people who are unable to make it.
September 17, 2020 @ 8:05 pm
Blake Shelton is doing the Voice. Which is apparently having some pandemic issues cause it is premiering a month late.
And also, California is burning around their brand new really expensive house. And also, 3 kids and remote learning. And also, zombie apocalypse. Not traveling to Nashville seems like a really reasonable decision…
September 17, 2020 @ 9:21 am
It was reported that all artists were there (or available, like Blake) for acceptance. They didn’t know in advance.
September 17, 2020 @ 10:34 am
I have not seen anybody ripping Carrie on social media. All I have seen is her fan club members going crazy in her defense. Acm awards did a tweet about it and I got through the first twenty replies. All it was had been fan club people. It was a terrible look to me anyways.
September 17, 2020 @ 11:01 am
As the day has gone on, I agree that the .ore rabid Underwood fans have lost their minds. I . actually starting to feel sorry for Rhett.
Just can’t help but think how easily all of this could have been avoided.
September 17, 2020 @ 5:29 am
I DVRd it, thankfully. Gotta love the fast forward button. Neither deserved the award. Maren peeing….ugh. Most of the performances sounded nothing close to country. It was boring. I hope the CMA folks took notes.
September 17, 2020 @ 6:29 am
Should’ve given the other EOTY to Rhett’s wife.
Marcus Alan Long
September 17, 2020 @ 6:57 am
How the hell do you have a tie for EOTY?????? This has everything to do with new albums being released. I think the author of this article nailed it by saying “Just remember it is only the ACM’s…Bastard cousin of the CMA’s”. My wife tried to warn me not to watch the ACM’s becuase it is all about what record or releases they are wanting to promote. Rhett should not be in the same conversation as Eric Church. Will not be watching them in the future!
How can their mathematically be a tie???? Just dumbed down all the award shows last night!
September 17, 2020 @ 7:14 am
I still have goose bumps this morning from Mickey Guyton’s performance last night. Just absolutely stunning. And props to Keith Urban who stayed out of the spotlight and allowed Mickey to to have the stage to herself.
September 17, 2020 @ 8:11 am
Glad someone pointed this out.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:16 am
Giving the award to TWO recipients completely invalidates the entire honor in my eyes… it’s Entertainer of the Year, not EntertainerS of the Year
This was cheap, tacky, and stupid. Also, Eric Church should have won, but I would have been fine with literally anyone else except Thomas Rhett winning. Last night he showcased how undeserving he is of the award. Talk about pitchy…
September 17, 2020 @ 7:26 am
So instead of giving one non-country star the award they gave it to two non-country stars.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:27 am
Does Old Dominion still have a basketball team? They used to be in the same conference as JU when I was a kid.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:34 am
Yeah, they do. They are now in C-USA.
September 17, 2020 @ 7:47 am
I don’t know what criteria they have for Entertainer of the Year, but Entertainer of the night goes to Carrie Underwood and Eric Church, they both showed how its done right.
September 17, 2020 @ 8:12 am
Thoughts on the hosting compared to other ACM hosts?
September 17, 2020 @ 9:16 am
Typo… Anyone by Thomas Rhett
The votes are the votes. What could they do? Have a runoff vote? That would be ridiculously awkward.
September 17, 2020 @ 10:07 am
More awkward than a tie?
It’s hard to believe that thousands of people, voting for five separate nominees could produce a tie. It has never happened before – I don’t think it’s ever happened in ANY category before. Is it possible? Yes. But the odds are stacked way against it.
Maybe Trigger is right. Maybe it’s only because it was Carrie and Rhett that I have such a bad taste in my mouth. But I would be skeptical of a tie between any of the other nominees and the lone female.
September 17, 2020 @ 10:21 am
Famous tie – Hepburn and Streisand for best actress oscar. Shit happens.
September 18, 2020 @ 8:17 am
A similar thing happened at the 2019 Grammys where Rhonda Vincent and the Infamous Stringdusters somehow tied and both won Best Bluegrass Album. I don’t understand how it’s possible that Carrie and Thomas tied.
I assume they didn’t receive the EXACT same number of votes but it’d be interesting to know how close the numbers were. If they’re within 50 votes of each other does that produce a tie? Is it 100? It makes no sense.
September 18, 2020 @ 9:05 am
The exact same number of votes – a tie. A third party – Deloitte – does the tabulation. No way that they would call a tie unless the vote counts were equal.
September 17, 2020 @ 9:23 am
Once again I am so glad I didn’t subject myself to this show. It’s been 20 plus years since I’ve watched the ACM’s or the CMA’s I will never watch again and I will never return to mainstream country radio. There is a world of great Texas Red Dirt music out there and independent artists from all over to enjoy to give the Nashvegas machine one second of my attention.
September 17, 2020 @ 10:03 am
Just wondering, now that you regularly praise Eric Church’s performances, singles and albums, have any of your opinions changed regarding his early career output, when you vehemently disliked his music?
On another note, Luke Combs’s music very much mirrors Church’s early career music, besides the more rebellious songs, including some songs with laundry list lyrics but a good heart at the core of them. I look forward to Combs’s music maturing as he does.
September 17, 2020 @ 10:33 am
I’ve always been a Church fan, but ever since Mr. Misunderstood and Desperate Man, he has grown into my favorite mainstream country singer. I think the criticisms Trigger pointed out about Eric Church were justified at the time, and I don’t think he should apologize or change his opinion (unless he truly thinks he was too harsh or something). I think Church is the perfect example of someone finding mainstream success and then leveraging that success for artistic freedom.
September 17, 2020 @ 11:00 am
I’m just curious if his opinion has changed in hindsight.
In my opinion, he was always unique and had his artistic freedom. Early singles like How Bout You, Two Pink Lines, Sinners Like Me, Hell On the Heart and Smoke a Little Smoke really set him apart from the rest of the mainstream from the beginning, and it’s been a natural progression to more mature song choices since.
I believe he was also the last mainstream artist that the Hag sang with on record, besides his collaboration with Willie.
Red Headed Strangler
September 17, 2020 @ 8:06 pm
I can see why Eric Church is liked by so many, but the only thing country about him is that good ol’ boy accent he uses to sing over rock music. He’s judged on a sliding scale against the mainstream, not against the real pillars of country music, who were roots singers, songwriters and musicians. They didn’t perform with massive inflatable Satans. It’s apples and oranges and I’m not sure what’s being “Saved” anymore, but I wish EC and Trig and the rest all the success possible. To say it’s a new day in music is a understatement. The stars ie: Hag & Hoss, aren’t influenced by Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Sr anymore, nor have they been for sometime. I ain’t mad about it, but I don’t have to like it.
September 17, 2020 @ 9:17 pm
For the most part I agree. But Church does have some songs that would classify as more country than rock.
Also the same was said of Waylon and Bocephus back in the day.
Some claim that Hank Sr. made the first rock n roll song. (was it Hey Good Lookin’?)
I’m not comparing EC to those legends, just pointing out some facts.
September 17, 2020 @ 2:32 pm
I think they should get rid of entertainer of the Year and who is ever the artist of year male and female artist in there category They should stop it there that way there will never be a tie or putting male against female for only one spot.
September 17, 2020 @ 6:05 pm
“ACMs Spoil Great Night By Splitting Entertainer of the Year”… Damn Trigger, what’s happened to you? I fully agree with you regarding the choreographed dancers and pyrotechnics, etc, but this show sucked terribly and I heard little to no country music in the offing. It was borderline unwatchable.
As to Carrie’s “Classic Country” performances… I would’ve rather heard Dolly or Loretta or Barbara or Reba or Martina sing their songs themselves! All are still with us & fully capable, and I’m sorry, Carrie is not the be-all end-all. Clearly, the ACM gatekeepers want to put these icons to pasture and let the little hot thang sing all their tunes. If we’re trying to SAVE country music, this ain’t the way to do it.
Perhaps the bar has just been set THAT low for these shows, but this was absolutely uninspiring.
September 17, 2020 @ 6:22 pm
The ACMs were never going to invite 70-something and 80-something-year-old performers to the ACM Awards during COVID-19 since they fall in the high risk category. That was the point of the Carrie Underwood performance, to pay tribute to the legends who couldn’t be there.
If you didn’t like the presentation, that’s understandable. I have to watch them as part of my job. And as a whole, I thought it was one of the best I’ve seen. Perhaps that’s due to the low bar, but that’s my opinion.
September 18, 2020 @ 6:45 pm
Yikes! I don’t think Martina or Reba are 70 or 80 years old quite yet…
And heck, every one of these ladies owns their own venue… they could’ve easily beamed-in a performance from their own spots. Would’ve required minimum crew and fit the format perfectly (ya know, a socially-distanced event where they beamed-in performances from different venues). Anyways, just a shame to see these icons pushed aside, imo.
September 17, 2020 @ 8:16 pm
I gotta give it to Eric Church.. That was pretty alright.. Miranda made a statement as well.. Carrie was great..
September 18, 2020 @ 11:02 am
The ACM’S tried there best due the COVID 19 virus . They had to do something for the Year. They had to get who ever they could to preform. Did you notice the stage crew with there protective masks gloves on. The show wasn’t there best so live with. I don’t agree with the last 5 minutes of the show. Now we sit back and see what the CMA’S learned from this show to present there’s. I hope they don’t have a tie if they do there’s something in the air then. So 2020 comes down to the Year that bites the big one.
September 19, 2020 @ 8:18 pm
FYI everyone, absolutely everyone, gets tested and crew is quarantined before any of these events. My husband works audio for TV sports events and he has been tested like 20 times in 3 months.
September 18, 2020 @ 7:00 pm
After last year and researching how the women in Country music are treated both at awards and on the radio I stopped listening. I make my own playlist with artists I want to hear. When Country stops being the good ole boys club I may come back. Until then I wont spend money on Guys of country.
September 19, 2020 @ 8:23 pm
Yup, I made an all female Pandora station, only problem is once they figure out your basic algorithm they stop adding artists so I get nonstop Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, RaeLynn and Danielle Bradbery, nobody else…. 🙁
September 18, 2020 @ 7:15 pm
Dang, if someone paid for him to win he must be damn good .You go girl, whoever you are.
September 20, 2020 @ 4:45 pm
The CMA’s have the same block voting and horse trading going on.
Just see the bios of Jimmy Bowen and Waylon Jennings.
It is all about the show and promoting new singles, the awards are just what is going on while they are swapping out the gear on the stage for the next performance.
September 21, 2020 @ 9:31 am
Trig – I know not really related to ACMs, but I just heard Taylor Swift’s “The 1.” I cannot get over the similarity of that opening lick to the lick of Eric Church’s “Over When It’s Over.” I had to tell someone haha