Is bigger necessarily better?
There was no doubting the Academy of Country Music's answer to that question Sunday night, when the Encino-based trade group threw its 50th annual awards show at the cavernous AT&T Stadium near Dallas.
With an in-person audience of approximately 70,000 -- so huge "we just made the Guinness Book of World Records," according to co-host Blake Shelton – the 3½-hour ceremony, broadcast live on CBS, flaunted its size as a way to stand out in the increasingly crowded awards-show scene. And, indeed, you had to admit that all those sweeping crane shots made a strong visual impact as they took in the massive crowd – images far more memorable than any from, say, last month's iHeartRadio Music Awards.
But an event of this scale requires big moments to fill it up, and the ACM Awards didn't always provide them. At points the show made you miss the relatively cozy confines of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where the ACMs are usually held.
One person surely happy about the larger platform was
Other winners included Miranda Lambert, who took home awards for female vocalist of the year, album of the year and song of the year; Jason Aldean, named male vocalist of the year; and Little Big Town, whose victory as vocal group of the year all but certified its takeover from the flailing Lady Antebellum.
Of course, viewers aren't tuning into awards shows because of the awards; they're watching for the performances, which is why the ACMs front-loaded the show with a couple of powerful ones.
Lambert put across a similar degree of confidence in her punky mash-up of “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Little Red Wagon,” as did Garth Brooks in “All-American Kid,” his salute to soldiers that was introduced by Taya Kyle, the widow of “American Sniper” subject Chris Kyle. More patriotism, albeit of a subtler variety, came from
Some acts met the demands of Sunday's gig with jittery intensity, including Sam Hunt in a head-turning "Take Your Time" and Nick Jonas, the former kiddie-pop star who turned up at the ACMs to perform his hit "Chains" with help from the heavily man-scaped pop-country duo Dan + Shay.
Why exactly was Jonas there? It wasn’t clear. Perhaps he’d been drafted to fill the slot once occupied by
Those were high points. Yet the ACMs felt equally packed with less effective moments, such as
And then there was the grinding, chemistry-free duet between Rascal Flatts and