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ACM Awards 2014’s 13 Best and Worst Moments

Counting down the highlights and lowlights from country music’s Vegas extravaganza

Luke Bryan Blake Shelton 49th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards

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If the CMA Awards were Nashville's biggest night, this year's ACMs were as usual pure Vegas, with Brad Paisley performing poolside, Florida Georgia Line playing in front of disconcertingly gigantic fireballs, Shakira dueting with Blake Shelton and Guy Fieri awkwardly attempting to promote his latest venture. Here are 13 of the show's best and, yes, worst moments. By Beville Dunkerley and Nick Murray

justin moore acm awards

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Worst: Out With the Old

Blame the people for a somewhat bizarre win in the New Artist of the Year category. While Album of the Year winner Kacey Musgraves was also in the initial group of eight nominees, fans (and a bunch of music industry interns, we're guessing) shut out the woman who should have been the frontrunner in an online vote that whittled the pool down to Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore and Kip Moore.  New artist? He is a proven hitmaker, sure, but the former Moore's first single came out six years ago. Even he cracked a joke about his win being a bit too long time coming.

Merle Haggard ACM awards

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Best: All Hail the Hag

It's going to be hard to top Merle Haggard's 77th birthday. Among the country legend's gifts: the ACM's Crystal Milestone Award, a serenade by Miranda Lambert and George Strait and thousands of fans singing a "Happy Birthday" led by Garth Brooks. Lambert and Strait's voices blended beautifully on two of the Hag's classics, "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" and "The Bottle Let Me Down," in a seemingly effortless performance made easier by the fact that they've sung those songs a million times.

kacey musgraves acm awards

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Best: Deserving Winners

"I Drive Your Truck" for Best Song, Same Trailer, Different Park for Best Album, Jason Aldean for Best Male Vocalist and Miranda Lambert for Best Female — most of these were fairly obvious, but they were satisfying choices regardless. And while even the hosts could agree that George Strait's night-capping Entertainer of the Year trophy was a legacy award more than anything else — "Our hero won!" Shelton shouted when he returned to the stage — Strait's last album was his best in years, and here the voters' milquetoast deference to tradition was fitting tribute to a man who built his career off a similar stance. (Read more about the night's winners here.)

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