LAS VEGAS (AP) – Sunday is a day Chris Stapleton will always remember: His wife gave birth to twin boys, he celebrated his 40th birthday and he won album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Stapleton didn’t attend the show in Las Vegas, but host Reba McEntire announced the birth of the boys when his album, “From a Room: Volume 1,” was named album of the year.
Stapleton, who released two top-selling albums last year, is the top nominee with eight. This year marks his first nomination for entertainer of the year, where he will battle Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, who has won the honor the last two years.
Lambert also made history Sunday: Her win for song of the year helped her surpass Brooks and Dunn as the most decorated act in ACM history.
“Thank you, guys, so much for sharing my broken heart with me,” Lambert said onstage, standing with “Tin Man” co-writers Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.
Lambert is the current record holder for most consecutive wins for female vocalist of the year; this year her competition in the category includes Carrie Underwood, McEntire, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Lambert helped the country music community, returning to Vegas six months after a massive shooting in the city, remember the victims not in song, but with words to open the ACM Awards.
Lambert said the world can be “united through the healing power of music,” while Bryan said “music helps us remember what really matters in life.” At the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Morris said music “makes us stronger” and Thomas Rhett said music gives us “a chance to rejoice.”
Aldean closed the emotional moment, saying in respect to the victims and music fans, “we celebrate the music tonight. America, this is your ACM Awards.”
The 2018 awards show, airing on CBS, comes six months after a lone gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival in Sin City in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The ACMs, however, is typically known as the genre’s biggest party of the year.
Aldean, who was onstage when the shooting started at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last October, will perform Sunday. McEntire will also perform and is hosting the show, a year after Bryan and Dierks Bentley hosted.
“It takes one woman to do the job of two men,” she said, earning a rousing applause.
Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard wore an all-red ensemble and Brian Kelley was in all-white when they hit the stage with pop singer Bebe Rexha to perform the massive hit “Meant to Be,” which is spending its 19th week on top of Billboard’s Hot country songs chart. It ties Leroy Van Dyke’s “Walk On By” as the third longest-running song of all-time on the chart.
Other pop stars will invade the country awards show, including Kelly Clarkson and Julia Michaels.
Other performers include Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Urban, Little Big Town and Rhett.
Underwood, who will perform her new song “Cry Pretty,” will give her first television appearance after injuring her face and wrist last year due to a fall at her home.
Rhett earned six nominations, Urban and songwriter-producer Shane McAnally are up for five awards, and Lambert and Morris will each compete for four honors.
Little Big Town, Midland and Sam Hunt, whose “Body Like a Back Road” is the longest-running No. 1 song of all-time on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart, all have three nominations each. “Body Like a Back Road” is nominated for song of the year and single record of the year.
Other performers include Bentley, Ballerini, Lauren Alaina, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Midland, Jon Pardi, Darius Rucker, Brett Young and Chris Young. Ashton Kutcher, Cam, Drew Brees and Eve will present awards.
By MESFIN FEKADU
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