The 2021 ACM Awards are officially history, with a few surprises, upsets, new winners and more. Keep reading to see who walked home last night with an ACM Award.
Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan
Bryan shared the category with Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton, and accepted the trophy virtually, since he was in Los Angeles, due to American Idol. This was Bryan’s 10th ACM Award, and his third Entertainer of the Year win.
“Y’all got me. I’m amazingly surprised,” a stunned Bryan said. “What an honor. To the ACMs, I’m so sorry I could not be there. I missed certainly being able to do my songs, and to all of the winners tonight, congratulations.”
Female Artist of the Year: Maren Morris
Morris beat out Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce to take home the Female Artist of the Year trophy.
“I feel really, really happy to be in a category with women that we’re not able to tour with this year, but brought so much heat to the game, to country music this year,” Morris said. “You’ve inspired me so much to no end. And even in a year where no one’s got to play shows, I have heard some of the best music out of all of you this past year, so thank you so much for inspiring me. This category is not about who can sing their a** off or entertains the best even. I kind of consider this category to just be who tried their best in a year where it was very weird and no one could really do what they were made to do. But I really appreciate all of my peers for voting for me in this. It means so much.”
This is Morris’ second year in a row to be named the ACM Female Artist of the Year.
Male Artist of the Year: Thomas Rhett
Rhett shared the Male Artist of the Year category with Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Chris Stapleton, and was shocked by his win.
“Man, this is absolutely unbelievable,” Rhett said after taking the trophy. “I just want to say thank you so much to the ACMs. This is absolutely incredible. To my wife and my three baby girls, sitting at home watching this on the TV, I love you all so much. To all the healthcare workers sitting up here, thank you!”
Duo of the Year: Dan + Shay
Dan + Shay won Duo of the Year in category that included Brooks & Dunn, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae. It’s a category they have won for three consecutive years.
“This is absolutely incredible, to be standing on stage here at the Bluebird,” Dan Smyers said after accepting the honor at the Bluebird Cafe, where they also performed. “I remember sitting in this place over ten years ago, before I moved to Nashville with dreams of being a songwriter in this town. Still just as excited every single day to get up and write country music. Thank you to the ACM, everybody who voted for us. To all the other nominees in our category … we love you all. Everybody’s deserving of this award.”
Group of the Year: Old Dominion
The Group of the Year trophy was claimed by Old Dominion, who shared the nomination with Lady A, Little Big Town, The Cadillac Three and The Highwomen.
“Thank you. If we look surprised, it’s because obviously everyone in this category, especially this year — really, really, it could be anyone’s,” lead singer Matt Ramsey said. “We’re just really fortunate to be standing here this year. It’s a crazy year. A lot of silver linings that we have all searched for … Thank you guys, for being amazing groups that inspire us constantly. Now here we are, among such bada**es. Thank you guys for including us in that category.”
New Female Artist of the Year: Gabby Barrett
Both the New Female Artist of the Year and the New Male Artist of the Year winners were announced ahead of the live broadcast of the ACM Awards. Barrett was nominated with Ingrid Andress, Tenille Arts, Mickey Guyton and Caylee Hammack.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Barrett said. “Thank you so much. This is such an honor. Ever since I came into this country music community, everyone has been absolutely wonderful to me, so thank you so much. It’s more than I deserve.”
New Male Artist of the Year: Jimmie Allen
Allen shared the New Male Artist of the Year category with Travis Denning, HARDY, Cody Johnson and Parker McCollum, and was stunned by his win.
“This doesn’t even seem real,” Allen said after finding out he was a winner. “Thank you to everyone who voted for me and huge thank you to everyone that supports my music. Y’all made this happen. Love is Love.”
Album of the Year: Starting Over, Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over album took home the ACM Awards trophy for Album of the Year. Other nominees in the category included Born Here, Live Here, Die Here, Luke Bryan; Mixtape Vol. 1, Kane Brown; Never Will, Ashley McBryde and Skeletons, Brothers Osborne.
“I want to thank everybody for getting this award tonight. We work really hard to make music, and we think a lot about it. I want to thank my wife … it means a lot to us.”
Single of the Year: “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Carly Pearce with Lee Brice
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice were surprised to find out they won Single of the Year category, for “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” The category also included “Bluebird,” Miranda Lambert (Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby); “I Hope,” Gabby Barrett; “More Hearts Than Mine,” Ingrid Andress and “The Bones,” Maren Morris.
“I love country music more than anything in the whole world,” Pearce said. “I want to thank my co-writers: Luke Combs, Randy Montana and Jonathan Singleton. We wrote this song about my story, and I guess it resonated with everybody. Thank you so much for everything with this song.”
“I just want to say thank you. God puts people in our lives, from my management to my wife, who puts up with everything every day, and helps me and supports me.”
Song of the Year: “The Bones,” Maren Morris
Maren Morris won Song of the Year for the first time with “The Bones,” a song she wrote with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz. Other songs nominated were “Bluebird,” Miranda Lambert; “One Night Standards,” Ashley McBryde (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally); “Some People Do (Jesse Frasure, Matt Ramsey, Thomas Rhett, Shane McAnally),” Old Dominion and “Starting Over,” Chris Stapleton (Chris Stapleton, Mike Henderson).
“This is really bittersweet, because I didn’t write this by myself,” a tearful Morris said from stage. “Each time I’ve been so lucky to accept an award for this song, my co-writers Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins have not gotten to say anything. I so wish they could be here, but thank you to the ACMs for keeping us safe. This is so meaningful to me. Song of the Year is something that I’ve dreamt of for so long, and I feel like with this song, with ‘The Bones,’ when I wrote it, I was dating my now-husband, and it was just a song to him.
“I feel like sometimes songs know you better than you know them at the time, and I feel like this song has revealed so many new things to me that I didn’t know were possible the day I wrote it,” she added. “This has been a hell of a year, and hopefully country music and maybe country music, and maybe even this song, brought you and your family some peace.”
Video of the Year: “Worldwide Beautiful,” Kane Brown
Only a few days before the ACM Awards, Kane Brown found out he won an ACM Award for Video of the Year, for “Worldwide Beautiful.” Brown beat out “Better Than We Found It,” Maren Morris (Sarah Kunin, Jennifer Pepke / Gabrielle Woodland); “Bluebird,” Miranda Lambert (Trey Fanjoy / Heather Levenstone); “Gone,” Dierks Bentley (Wes Edwards, Ed Pryor, Travis Nicholson, Running Bear and Sam Siske, with animation by Skylar Wilson / David Garcia) and “Hallelujah,” Carrie Underwood and John Legend (Randee St. Nicholas) in the category.
“I wrote this song with three of my buddies out of Nashville,” Brown told CBS This Morning, where he heard the good news. “We were just like ‘You know, it would be a great day when everybody could just see the beautiful in the world … We’re all a little different, but we’re all just different types of beautiful.’ So we just wrote a song about it. When everything started coming out in the media, we felt like it was time to release it. Our fans were asking for it. I couldn’t ask for it to come out any better than it did.”
Music Event of the Year: “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Carly Pearce and Lee Brice
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice also found out ahead of the live broadcast that they were ACM Award winners, winning for Single of the Year.
“Just to think about how hard I and my team fought to get this song right, and how much your voice led to exactly what I always wanted for it,” Pearce said of her first ACM Awards win.
“Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it,” Brice added. “Thank you so much for letting us be in this category, and now we’re holding it in our hands.”