2021 ACM Awards: Luke Bryan takes home top award as Keith Urban declares 'Nashville is back’

luke-bryan” target=”_blank”>Luke Bryan<. The “American Idol” judge was named entertainer of the year at the award show, which kicked off with a powerful duet between songstress miranda-lambert” target=”_blank”>Miranda Lambert< and Mickey Guyton took to the stage to welcome viewers. Urban, 53, excitedly told fans that “Nashville is back” upon appearing.

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Next came a performance of “Famous Friends” by Chris Young and Kane Brown.

Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

After bouncing back from a dangerous accident, country newcomer Blanco Brown presented the first award of the evening for group of the year, which went to Old Dominion. In their speech, the group expressed pride in being nominated alongside “such bada—-.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Rhett sang a medley of tunes including “What’s Your Country Song.” Lambert then took the stage once more — this time at the Bluebird Café — to sing with Chris Stapleton after the star’s wife had to skip out on the performance reportedly due to a “prior doula commitment.”

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Dierks Bentley was also memorable onstage, singing U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with The War and Treaty, the extremely talented husband-and-wife duo.

Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay performing for the 2021 ACMS. The duo's pre-taped moment aired out of sync. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/ACMA2021/Getty Images for ACM)

Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay performing for the 2021 ACMS. The duo’s pre-taped moment aired out of sync. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/ACMA2021/Getty Images for ACM)

2021 ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS RED CARPET FASHION

Collaborative moments were a theme during the awards show.

Another duet was Ryan Hurd and Maren Morris. The couple sang “Chasing After You,” and sweetly shared a kiss after.

Carrie Underwood wowed viewers, singing a medley of faith songs. Underwood was introduced virtually by Dolly Parton, who noted that the pair shared their faith.

Underwood, who dazzled on-stage, was then joined by CeCe Winans for a powerful duet. 

Miranda Lambert and Elle King perform onstage at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on April 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

Miranda Lambert and Elle King perform onstage at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on April 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

Underwood performed songs from her recent gospel hymns album “My Savior,” and she and Winans blended their voices like angels onstage. Underwood kicked off the performance with “Amazing Grace” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” then Winans joined in, matching her strong vocal performance.

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Host Urban also rocked the stage with a performance of “Tumbleweed.”

But not everything went smoothly. The Grammy-winning duo Dan + Shay performed their latest hit, “Glad You Exist,” but the pre-taped moment aired out of sync.

Blake Shelton performed his first-ever No. 1 hit 'Austin' 20 years later. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

Blake Shelton performed his first-ever No. 1 hit ‘Austin’ 20 years later. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)

“Apparently there was an audio/video sync issue on the television broadcast,” the duo tweeted. “We’re bummed about it, but it happens, especially when performances are happening in multiple locations.”

Another mishap occurred when Martina McBride announced the winner of single of the year. McBride correctly said “I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Carly Pearce and Lee Brice won, though “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett appeared on the TV screen.

As far as top nominees, Stapleton and Morris led with six nods each. Stapleton’s nominations included album, song and male artist of the year. Morris’ nominations included single and female artist of the year. She also landed a group of the year nod as a member of the Highwomen, the supergroup also featuring Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby.

Luke Bryan appears virtually after winning entertainer of the year at the 2021 ACMs. (Photo by Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images)

Luke Bryan appears virtually after winning entertainer of the year at the 2021 ACMs. (Photo by Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images)

As Morris accepted the song of the year award for her Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” which topped the country music charts for months last year, the star got teary-eyed. 

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“When I wrote (‘The Bones’) I was dating my now-husband and it was just a song to him. And I feel sometimes, like, 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,” she said. “And this is just been a hell of a year and hopefully country music and maybe even this song brought you and your family and friends some peace.”

Carrie Underwood and CeCe Winans wow viewers with their duet. (Photo by Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images)

Carrie Underwood and CeCe Winans wow viewers with their duet. (Photo by Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images)

Of his entertainer of the year award, Bryan told reporters via a virtual press room: “What an honor. What a surprise and I mean, totally, totally, totally surprised and shocked.”

Some of the ACM winners were pre-announced, including Gabby Barrett (new female artist), Jimmie Allen (new male artist) and Kane Brown (video of the year). Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s platinum hit “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” co-written by Luke Combs, won music event of the year.

Other performances included Kenny Chesney for the In Memoriam segment and Blake Shelton, who sang “Austin,” his first No. 1 hit.

Urban closed out the show by declaring that “we want to tour as soon as we can please” before Brothers Osbourne took the stage with one final performance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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