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Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Chris Stapleton Perform

Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Chris Stapleton Perform

The country music world shared the stage at the 2024 ACM Awards, where Post Malone performed songs from his upcoming country album, Dua Lipa joined Chris Stapleton for a duet, and Avril Lavigne and Noah Kahan partnered with country musicians onstage.

It almost felt like Beyoncé — who recently made history on the country charts with Cowboy Country — might pop up. She didn’t Thursday night, but host Reba McEntire did reference Queen Bey’s historic project during her opening monologue.

We’re here to talk about country music and how everyone is invited and welcome here at country music’s party of the year. From Mother Maybelle to Cowboy Carter, country music is so big in 2024 that there’s room for everybody,” she said. “We all love country [music] and we all are country, and we’re keeping the circle unbroken, but growing it to even bigger and better.”

Beyoncé made history when she became the first Black woman to top the Billboard country albums and songs charts, respectively. Her album will qualify at next year’s ACM Awards.

But it was Lainey Wilson who was in the spotlight at the two-hour event: She earned the top award — entertainer of the year — continuing her winning streak after collecting the same honor at the CMA Awards last November and her first Grammy in February.

The only female nominated for the big award, Wilson beat out acts like Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Jelly Roll, Kane Brown and Cody Johnson. She also won female artist of the year and said the camaraderie among women acts in the genre is special.

“There are so many women in country music who have guided me without even knowing it before I ever even got a chance to shake their hand and get to know them. They have taught me so much,” she said at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. “It is crazy to think that me and Wynonna Judd, we talk every week, and she sends me devotionals, she lifts me up, she encourages me, she gives me advice … and that’s what it’s about right there. It’s about lifting each other up and speaking life over each other, all of us. We got to do that for each other. Iron sharpens iron, and so this one right here is for all those women who do that.”

Wilson also won music event of the year for “Save Me” with Jelly Roll, who earned a standing ovation for his moving speech.

“Seriously, this song saved me. I was in a dark place. I wrote it for my soul. I knew people would connect with it,” he said emotionally. “I wrote it with a high school friend. We never thought we’d be songwriters. I never thought I’d be standing here. I thought I would die and go to jail. And I’m standing here as an ACM Award winner!”

Jelly Roll, who released his debut mixtape two decades ago, has dominated the country charts but also had some success on the rock and rap charts. Malone has mixed genres similarly, and he debuted new music from his country album at the awards show to roaring cheers from the audience.

The 28-year-old performed “Never Love You Again” and a solo version of his Morgan Wallen-assisted single “I Had Some Help,” which was released last week. Malone, who moved to Texas as a pre-teen, strummed his guitar while sporting Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s jersey, blue jeans, boots and an army fatigue cap. His band also wore Cowboy jerseys (his father worked as the concessions manager for the NFL team).

Lipa, who released a new album this month, joined Stapleton for a smoky, bluesy duet of his song “Think I’m In Love With You.” Stapleton went on to win male artist of the year and album of the year for Higher, which he shared with his musician-wife Morgane Stapleton, who co-produced the album and also sang background vocals during his performance.

Lavigne sang onstage with Parker McCollum while Kelsea Ballerini and Noah Kahan performed his hit “Stick Season.” Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton also joined forces to perform “Purple Irises.”

Shelton also honored Toby Keith, who died in February, before introducing a tribute performance by Jason Aldean.

“Toby was a big star in every way. He sold more than 44 million albums with 33 No. 1 hits and 14 ACM awards, including entertainer of the year. But in the end, the mark that Toby left was much more than just that. Toby was a loving husband to his beautiful wife, Trisha, he was a proud father to their three kids, and we’re so honored and moved to have Trisha and the kids all here with us tonight,” Shelton said. “Toby was a great friend to me and he was a real straight shooter who was larger than life.”

Aldean sang Keith’s “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” and strummed his guitar in his seat, while two guitarists behind him did the same. They were joined by two violists, a violinist and a cellist, and photos of Keith were shown on the large screen behind him as audience members sang along.

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“I love you Toby,” Aldean said as Keith’s family, as well as attendees, were in tears.

“I kind of feel like you’re here with us tonight,” McEntire said after the performance.

The ACM Awards also highlighted other country legends during its show, which aired on Prime Video. Charley Pride’s wife and son, Rozene Cohran and Dion Pride, presented an award, and Dion told the audience: “My father said, when he was alive, ‘I think there’s enough room for country music for everybody.’”

Ray Charles, who performed at the ACMs 40 years ago, was also honored when Kane Brown performed his new cover of  “Georgia on My Mind.”

McEntire closed the show with a rousing performance, and she also earned laughs from the audience at the top of the show.

“They were just telling me backstage that I won my very first ACM Awards 40 years ago. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Reba, you’re only 39. How can that possibly be true?’ Quit it,” she said. “But seriously, I have been around for a while. I can remember way back when Jelly Roll was an after-school snack, Luke was one of the Gospels, not half of the guys in country music, and a stagecoach was how I got to work.”

Others who won awards on Thursday included Combs, who earned single of the year for his cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” but missed the show because of his tour; Jordan Davis, who took home song of the year for “Next Thing You Know”; Dan + Shay won duo of the year; and Old Dominion were named group of the year.

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