ACM Awards: The Night’s Most Empowering Moments

Emotional Tributes, Carrie Underwood's Comeback, 1993 and Birth Announcements Enliven 2018 Ceremony

Host Reba McEntire promised a night of unforgettable moments leading up to Sunday’s (April 15) 53rd annual ACM Awards. And they delivered. Below are a few of our favorite unforgettable moments from the Las Vegas ceremony.

Maren Morris’ million-dollar “Rich”

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You mean head-to-toe fabulous, honey. Dressed in a metallic, plunging dress complete with a mane of massive curly hair fit for a Vegas diva, Morris’ performance of her infectious new single hit all the right notes, musical and otherwise. She’s rich, alright: in talent, soul and sass. Cha-ching, baby, cha-ching,

Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s angelic “Meant To Be”

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You know it’s serious business when a choir shows up! Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard and their pop-star collaborator Bebe Rexha put some super smooth and sweet harmonies on their smash hit “Meant To Be.” These guys are the kings of the crossover collaboration, and we’ve gotta hand it to them: they know how to pick their partners.

Chris Stapleton is a big winner … at home

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Sure, he took home the awards for album of the year with From A Room, Vol. 1 and male vocalist of the year. But the news of the arrival of his twin boys with wife Morgane Stapleton stole the show. While accepting the award on his behalf, McEntire announced their birthdays were a little early; making him a quintuple winner of the night if you think about it.

Jon Pardi and Alan Jackson head to the “Chattahoochee.”

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And just like that, we were back in 1993, in our cutoff jeans and sunscreen down by the famous Georgia river, singing along with Alan Jackson and McEntire’s “Fringe Twin” Jon Pardi, who sounds like he was born to sing the iconic summer anthem. Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman looked like she wanted to cry happy tears watching these two, and honestly, we were right there with her.

Dierks Bentley salute to womankind

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Oh, Dierks, you’re one of the good ones. When he knelt and bowed down during his powerful performance of “Woman, Amen,” he wholly and emotionally honored women all over the world. And just when you thought the moment couldn’t get any sweeter, he went down into the audience and kissed his wife, Cassidy. And everyone lost it, including Luke Bryan, who tried to get in on that personal moment. But alas he was rebuffed in the most comical fashion.

Blake Shelton’s emotional “I Lived It”

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Gwen Stefani singing along to her boyfriend’s song (and then jumping to her feet at the end of the performance with the biggest grin) was everything we needed to believe in love. She’s sold on Shelton and country music. You can just tell. Come on to Nashville, girl; the water’s just fine.

Kelsea Ballerini’s floating pink heart

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Ballerini channeled her inner Taylor Swift with her performance. Her dramatic entrance from the ceiling, sitting on a neon heart-shaped swing, and her costume change from ball gown to sassy pants, embodied one of her favorites. With all that personality, beauty and talent, this girl is on her way.

Miranda Lambert lights a fire.

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Last year, Lambert dazzled audiences with her acoustic solo performance of “Tin Man,” which won song of the year. This year, she saluted her heroes and the ones who paved the way with her driving and powerful “Keeper of the Flame,” proving once again, that all a girl needs are her guitar and a fire in her heart.

Little Big Town takes us to space.

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Donning their intergalactic finest, Little Big Town brought the audience to their feet as they launched into “Rocketman,” their contribution to the recent Elton John and Bernie Taupin tribute album, Revamp and Restoration: Reimagining the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Their impeccable harmonies sent all of us to the moon. What can’t they do, y’all?

Toby Keith and Blake Shelton’s salute to the “Cowboy”

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We may never get over this performance with these two knuckleheads. Is there anything else to say about this standout duet of Keith’s iconic 1993 breakout hit, “Shoulda Been A Cowboy?” Well, maybe “the horns were an amazing addition.” Honestly, it’s just pure perfection.

Carrie Underwood’s raw emotion on “Cry Pretty”

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With that gorgeous blonde hair cascading down to her waist and glittery eye makeup streaming down like tears, the reigning diva of country delivered what will be a forever anthem in her catalog, her newest comeback single “Cry Pretty.” The audience was on their feet, and Underwood herself appeared to be fighting back tears in her first public performance since her accident back in November of 2017. She let them flow when she took home the ACM for vocal event of the year with Keith Urban. We were fighting back tears, too.

Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson enliven “Does He Love You”

The final throwback performance of the night couldn’t have been more perfect, with McEntire and Grammy-winner Kelly Clarkson absolutely slaying what may be one of the greatest country female duets of all time, “Does He Love You.” That was the original red dress from 1993, by the way. Keith Urban was hooked, and Luke Bryan couldn’t help but sing along, too.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.