Airing on Fox Monday and streaming on Hulu Tuesday, the annual show pays tribute to country's finest with one-of-a-kind star performances
You won’t see any envelopes getting opened at the ACM Honors — winners have long been announced — but once again, this year’s edition of the awards show proves there’s always sizzle in store.
The annual event offers the Academy of Country Music the opportunity to honor the overall career accomplishments of artists, as well as celebrate behind-the-scenes musicians, songwriters and industry honchos who have contributed to the genre.
On Monday night, TV viewers will get to enjoy the star performances and appearances when Fox broadcasts the event as a primetime special.
PEOPLE was at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Aug. 23 for the live show, which lasted a leisurely three-and-a-half hours. The televised version has been distilled to two hours, and we’re hoping these are some of the highlights that will make the cut:
McGraw Admits He's a 'Weeper’
Tim McGraw’s acceptance speech, for an ACM Icon Award, is seven minutes of heartfelt gratitude, and the 56-year-old artist warns the packed hall from the start, “I’m gonna try to get through this, but I’m a weeper.”
He fails — especially when he gets around to thanking his wife, fellow superstar Faith Hill, sitting on a front-row pew with two of the couple’s three daughters, Maggie, 25, and Audrey, 21 (and all of whom monochromatically coordinated their couture for the occasion).
Black’s love for lyrics
After Lady A turns in a thrilling version of his 1993 hit, “A Bad Goodbye,” Clint Black takes the stage to savor his ACM Poet’s Award, waggishly noting that Francis Scott Key, Edgar Allan Poe and John Keats have yet to be so honored.
Carpenter’s pure poetry
Trisha Yearwood, 58, offers a three-minute, 21-second workshop on lyric writing, holding the audience spellbound with the story of … a shirt. The song is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1989 album track, “This Shirt,” and Yearwood says she picked it to honor her friend because it “embodies [her] spirit perfectly.” Carpenter isn’t present to accept her ACM Poet’s Award but extends her thanks in a video.
Travis’ bond with Brown
Kane Brown, 29, receives the ACM International Award for his contributions to the growth of country music worldwide, but his presenters, Country Music Hall of Fame member Randy Travis, 64, and his wife, Mary, also honor him for his friendship.
Mary Travis tells the story of the two artists’ unlikely bond after Travis lost the ability to speak and sing from a stroke in 2013. “There’s no silence that music is afraid of,” Mary Travis says before Travis himself softly speaks Brown’s name to bring him onto the stage.
Double the pleasure
He took home ACM songwriter of the year in 2022, and HARDY returns to pick up this year’s award for artist-songwriter. Most recently bestowed with four CMA nominations, the 32-year-old hyphenate delights in his dual honor: “It’s such an appropriate title … because I truly am an artist in the sense that I love singing songs and I truly am a songwriter.”
An admittedly nervous Bailey Zimmerman performs a wistful version of HARDY’s confessional “Signed, Sober Me.”
A songwriting GOAT
He's not a household name, but if you’re a country music fan, you live in Ashley Gorley’s world. The songwriter of the year recipient has so far racked up an astonishing 67 No. 1 singles, a feat unmatched in any genre.
Show host Carly Pearce and Emily Shackleton — Gorley’s co-writers on Pearce’s most recent chart-topper, “What He Didn’t Do” — join forces to offer a stunning acoustic version that Pearce describes as “like the day we first wrote it.”
‘The highest honor’
Keith Urban joins up-and-comer BRELAND for a rowdy performance of their recorded collab, “Throw It Back,” before BRELAND accepts what he calls “truly the highest honor I’ve received in my career”: the inaugural ACM Lift Every Voice Award, presented to a member of the country music community who plays a pivotal role in elevating underrepresented voices in the genre.
His moving acceptance speech offers generous nods to the many Black pioneers in country music: “All we’ve ever wanted is a chance to put our music out.”
The War and Treaty offer their formidable voices in tribute to ACM Triple Crown recipient Chris Stapleton, who watches in awe as the husband-and-wife duo torch their way through his “Cold.” (Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter, Stapleton tourmates, just picked up their first CMA nomination for duo of the year.)
Stapleton, 45, qualified for his award by winning ACM new male vocalist (2015), male vocalist (2015, 2017, 2021) and entertainer of the year (2022). Only the ninth artist to receive a Triple Crown, he accepts with typical understatement. “It's a wonderful and rare thing,” he tells the crowd, “to get to do something that you love so much.”
The Academy of Country Music Honors airs at 7 p.m. CDT/8 p.m. EDT Monday on Fox. The broadcast will be available to stream on Hulu, beginning the following evening.
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