With the 55th ACM Awards postponed until September, the Academy of Country Music, along with CBS and Dick Clark Productions, filled the original Sunday-night awards-show time slot with two hours of at-home musical performance. Luke Combs, Little Big Town, and Kane Brown with John Legend all sent in prerecorded footage of them singing inspiring songs. It was an outside-the-box concert experience, but it worked. Here are five standout performances.
Carrie Underwood, “Drinking Alone”
There was something oddly familiar about witnessing Carrie Underwood on her couch in her comfies, a glass of red within arm’s reach. She knew it too. “This song actually seems to be striking a chord more than ever with a lot of you these days,” she said, teeing up the instantly appropriate “Drinking Alone.” Without the production of her stage show behind here, she seized the opportunity to show off both her charisma and that voice.
Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird”
If ever there were a pitch-perfect country song for this moment, it’s Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird.” The lovely number from her 2019 album Wildcard dares to find hope even if “the whole wide world stops singing, and all the stars go dark.” Seated on the porch of her farm in Tennessee, Lambert gave an abbreviated acoustic rendition of the song and reiterated its message of singing in spite of the darkness surrounding us. “I want to remind everybody to lean into your music, lean into your guitars, your pianos, your voices, and let that that heal you,” she said, before nailing those perfectly heartbreaking melodies.
Shania Twain, “Honey I’m Home/Man! I Feel Like a Woman”
Injecting the special with a little dose of campy fun, Shania Twain gave the most over-the-top performance of the evening without breaking a sweat. Seated in her barn in Las Vegas, the singer was joined for a medley of “Honey I’m Home” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by her sleeping dog and one curious horse who seemed to be bent on chewing all the scenery. If this were a weekly TV series, we’d dress in our fringed finery and watch it.
Lady Antebellum, “What I’m Leaving For”
With a little musical preproduction from group studio wiz Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum offered a gorgeous rendition of “What I’m Leaving For,” a song that Hillary Scott dedicated to the doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers currently making great sacrifices to treat COVID-19 patients. It was also one of the show’s most disarming performances, thanks to the kids of Charles Kelley and Haywood, who each made cameos. Another slice of welcome normalcy in times that are anything but.
Eric Church, “Never Break Heart”
“The important thing to remember is to not fear, to be brave, and to endure. That’s what this song is about,” said Church, introducing the new “Never Break Heart.” With echoes of both “Monsters” and “Some of It,” the track is Church at his most inspiring, offering words of advice to never let this cruel world shake your faith or break your heart.