ACM Awards: Jason Aldean Leads Route 91 Tribute

Reba McEntire Spotlights Lack of Female Artists in the Entertainer of the Year Category

Sunday’s (April 15) 53rd Annual ACM Awards was one incredible party in Las Vegas.

But the before any fun started, country music’s biggest stars had one very important message to share with fans watching from home: a message of love and hope to honor the victims of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1, 2017.

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The awards marked the first time many of the artists had returned to Vegas since the tragic massacre that took place last October, and it was clear that the victims, and their families and friends, were at the forefronts of everyone’s minds all evening long.

Jason Aldean appeared first in a single spotlight, addressing the camera with this heartfelt statement:

“Tonight, we wanted to open the show with something that sums up what it’s like for our country music family to be back in Las Vegas for the first time since October 1st. We thought about starting with a song, but it’s a lot bigger than a single song. It’s everything you’ll hear tonight: the songs that bring us to our feet, make you want to pull someone close or just live in the moment. Nothing can take that away from us.”

Miranda Lambert followed in a black dress, adding, “On this night, our country community, the people here in Las Vegas and all of you at home are united through the healing power of music.”

Then Luke Bryan appeared, saying, “For those of us who have experienced tragedy and unexpected loss, music helps us remember what really matters in life.”

Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett also joined in on the tribute to those we lost, survived and those who are still coping every day with the scars from that tragic night.

Then it was off to the races once the always divine Reba McEntire stepped out onstage to host the evening’s festivities for the her 17th time.

The music icon looked absolutely stunning in a glittering eggplant-colored gown as she welcomed everyone to the main event and even cracked a few jokes about her last appearance as host, quipping, “Not only was Kelsea Ballerini not born, her parents weren’t even dating yet.”

Emma Mcintyre/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM

McEntire returned to host following 2017’s co-hosts Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, adding, “I guess they finally figured out that it only takes one woman to do the job of two men!”

Shelton got on his feet for that one, as did Oscar winner Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban’s wife.

John Shearer/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM

Perhaps the most exciting new addition to this year’s lineup was the celebration of the year 1993, in which artists of today teamed up with the icons of the day to salute a trilogy of hits from 25 years ago.

“Do you remember the biggest thing in 1993?” she asks as she points to hair and cries out, “Jacked up to Jesus!”

But don’t think she wasn’t moving on to the actual awards without a slight burn for the night’s most coveted category, entertainer of the year, which was completely absent of any female nominees.

“Have you seen the entertainer of the year category? Five men, no women. Looks like single’s night at the Holiday Inn.”

And on that note, the mic was officially dropped, and the show moved on to its awards and amazing performances.

Reba, you are a queen of the highest, jacked-up-hair order.

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.