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American Country Countdown Awards 2016: 10 Best and Worst Moments

From classy speeches to soft-rock bros

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood's performance of "Church Bells" was a highlight of the American Country Countdown Awards.

Jerod Harris/WireImage

The American Country Countdown Awards, held last night in Los Angeles, will forever be faced with the challenge of validating its existence. After all, there is no shortage of country-music awards shows and these carry the least weight in the genre's trophy derby. Fortunately for the ACCAs, the telecast boasted more high points (like Carrie Underwood's all-class performance and acceptance speech) than low. Here's the 10 best and worst things we witnessed. 

Watch highlights from the American Country Countdown Awards.

Kelsea Ballerini

Jerod Harris/WireImage

Worst Buzzkill: Knowing the Winners

Of all the predictable shows in the saturated music awards market, the ACCAs took the cake: Even the winners knew they won. Oftentimes, the victor's name wasn't included in the list of nominees, with the presenters instead revealing the champ as they tossed to the live performance: "And the winner is . . . Kelsea Ballerini!" While the music may be the biggest audience draw, the winners' — and especially the losers' — reactions are our awards-show guilty pleasures. Where are all the pageant-worthy smiles when someone loses to Miranda Lambert, or the Taylor Swift surprise-face disciples who spent all day practicing astonishment in front of a mirror? Plus, with rehearsed acceptance speeches, there are no tears, no awkward babbling, no bleeped swear words. When it comes to its winner revelations, the ACCAs were one big buzzkill, before even catching a buzz.

Carrie Underwood

INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 01: Carrie Underwood performs at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards at The Forum on May 1, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

Jerod Harris/WireImage

Best Class Act: Carrie Underwood

Stop the presses: The best female vocalist in country music actually won the award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She'd never say it, of course, but Carrie Underwood has been getting the shaft at awards shows for years, often getting overlooked in favor of Miranda Lambert and her irresistibly sassy ways. That's not to knock Lambert's talent — she's earned every one of her awards — but it was nice to see Underwood get the win. She then proceeded to show exactly how deserving of the honor she was, testifying like a one-woman choir on her new single "Church Bells." But as soon as she slipped back down to earth, Underwood focused again on the heavens, offering a heartfelt shout-out to Isley Thibodeaux, a 10-year-old fan who was killed in a car accident returning home from one of the singer's recent concerts. Talk about knowing what really matters in life.

Cole Swindell

INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 01: Cole Swindell performs at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards at The Forum on May 1, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

Jerod Harris/WireImage

Worst Variety: Same Ol’ Song and Dance

The ACCAs took place less than a month after this year's ACMs, and there was more than a little bit of overlap. In fact, it was pretty much the same lineup of stars, and pretty much the same playlist, too. Sam Hunt's "Make You Miss Me," Cole Swindell's "You Should Be Here," Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man" — all of this just happened in Vegas. Hell, Luke Bryan even kicked off both shows with "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Everyday." He and his band delivered the exact same performance, right down to the shoulder-to-shoulder, guitar-chopping finish. There also seemed to be a lot more energy at the ACMs, with a lot more going on onstage. Granted, the ACMs have a way bigger budget, but all fans got last night were some laser lights, smoke machines and run-of-the-mill video screens. Yee-haw? More like, ho-hum.

Brooks and Dunn

INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 01: Brooks and Dunn on stage at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards at The Forum on May 1, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

Jerod Harris/WireImage

Worst Nepotism: Brooks & Dunn’s NASH Icon Award

Not since Taylor Swift won BMI's first-ever Taylor Swift Award has an accolade so completely boggled the mind. How did Brooks & Dunn win the
 ACCA's NASH Icon Award? Not to suggest the 30-million-album-selling duo — who reunited last year — isn't deserving, but given Kix Brooks' 10-year distinction as host of the American Country Countdown With Kix Brooks radio show, one can't help but wonder if he didn't have a slight advantage here. "This is beyond humbling, it's almost embarrassing," Brooks said in his acceptance speech. He concurred with bandmate Ronnie Dunn, who joked that tomorrow he'd wake up in a whiskey haze, saying to himself, "You ain't no Johnny Cash, no George Jones, no Merle Haggard. You got a long way to go, skinny boy with a record deal." While Cash, Possum and the Hag have still yet to posthumously win any NASH Icon trophies, Brooks & Dunn celebrated their own resurrection with a spirited performance of their 2003 single "Red Dirt Road."

Michael Ray

INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 01: Singer Michael Ray poses in the press room at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards at The Forum on May 01, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Best Spotlight Stealers: New Artists

With two dazzling performance slots in the first 30 minutes, country newcomer Cam was to the ACCAs what superstar household name Blake Shelton was to April's ACMs. Here, we give credit to the ACCA producers for shining much of its spotlight on new talent — a big step in differentiating this show from its country music counterparts. Dan + Shay got to strut their harmonizing stuff for an entire song, instead of the new-artist norm of one verse/one chorus, while Google searches for Chase Bryant and Michael Ray likely increased a zillion percent after their presenting slots. And, sure, maybe the bigger stars were 140 miles inland at Stagecoach — or on their tour buses watching Game of Thrones — but seeing fresh faces on a country awards show alongside the Carries and Lukes of the genre was (we hope) reflective of what this show is all about: country radio's past, present and, most importantly, future.

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