2022 ACM Awards: Top 10 Performances Of the Night

For the first time this year, the ACM Awards streamed on Prime Video instead of on a major TV network, and were commercial-free. That, plus the strong focus on live music over awards, with presenters announcing more than one category to run through the acceptance speeches faster, meant a lot of time for live music. Keep reading for 10 of our favorite performances of the night.

10. Luke Bryan and Jordan Davis, “Buy Dirt”

Luke Bryan began the performance by singing his own hit single, “Up,” before welcoming Jordan Davis  to the stage to sing their ACM Awards-nominated, recent No. 1 hit, “Buy Dirt.” Both singers were so genuinely happy, and sang so effortlessly, it set the bar high for the rest of the night.


9. Breland and Thomas Rhett

Breland debuted a new song at the 2022 ACM Awards, which features Thomas Rhett. Backed by a dancing choir, Rhett was a surprise addition halfway through the song. Breland, quite literally, never stopped moving throughout the entire song, giving fans an early hint of his potential superstar status.


8. Lady A, “What A Song Can Do”

Lady A named their entire tour after this song, and with good reason. “What A Song Can Do” embodies the power of country music, celebrating why artists and songwriters do what they do. Now veterans in the country music industry, the trio kept their live performance as fresh and exciting as if it was their first time.


7. Lainey Wilson, “Things a Man Oughta Know”

Lainey Wilson walked away from the ACM Awards with two trophies, for New Female Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year, the latter for her debut single, which she performed. After the way Wilson captivated the audience with her stripped-down performance, no one needs to worry if she has what it takes to make it in country music. She more than proved her abilities in one performance.


6. Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett, “Let’s Go to Vegas” and “Vive Las Vegas”

Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett not only hosted the show, alongside Dolly Parton, but they also performed. Barrett sang “Let’s Go to Vegas” before Allen joined her to sing “Viva Las Vegas.” The two rising stars hosted well together, but apparently they also sing well together.


5. Chris Stapleton, “Watch You Burn”

Chris Stapleton wrote “Watch You Burn,” which he included on his 2020 Starting Over album, after the tragic Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting that took place in 2017. Stapleton, who also won the ACM Award for Male Artist of the Year, told The Tennessean that writing that song became a “self-therapy session.”


4. Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl”

Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde won Music Event of the Year for their “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” collaboration, but they showed off a new, stripped-down version of the song for the ACM Awards. Pearce previously said they wanted viewers to be able to focus on the lyric of the song, a goal they accomplished well.


3.  Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood, “If I Didn’t Love You”

Both Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood announced they were performing at the ACM Awards, but they kept what they were performing a secret. It seemed at the beginning of the “If I Didn’t Love You” that Aldean would be singing by himself, after he sang the first chorus alone, until Underwood descended from above on a seat to join him on the second verse. The pair, who won the ACM Award for Single of the Year, not only deserve praise for their vocal performances, but also for the theatrical aspect of their song as well.


2. Dolly Parton and Kelsea Ballerini, “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans”

Parton was joined by Kelsea Ballerini to sing “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans,” from the Run, Rose, Run album, which goes along with the novel of the same name that Parton wrote with James Patterson. Parton was, of course, flawless, with Ballerini beaming the entire time that she was singing with the country music icon. But this isn’t the first time the two singers have collaborated on a project together. Ballerini also narrates the audio version of the book, out now.


1. Kelly Clarkson, “I Will Always Love You”

If there is anyone who can come close to matching Parton’s vocal talent, it’s Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson paid tribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame member by singing “I Will Always Love You,” a song Parton wrote as a message to Porter Wagoner, and later became a mega-hit for the late Whitney Houston for the 1992 film, The Bodyguard. The entire ACM Awards ceremony was filled with amazing talent, but if there is one stand-out performance of the night, it’s Clarkson’s.