As COVID-19 cases soar in Tennessee, the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards couldn’t be anything like past ceremonies — there was no audience, bits were pre-recorded, performances were spread out, and Blake Shelton was green-screened in (as was Gwen Stefani, since the pair are basically attached at the hip). According to ET, the ceremony, which was hosted by Keith Urban, was initially meant to be held in Las Vegas, but it was postponed because of the pandemic, then moved to Nashville where it paid homage to three of country music’s most beloved venues: the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry House, and the Bluebird Cafe. That means a lot in a time when live entertainment is taking a major hit.
Though the lack of an audience made for some mildly awkward performances, there was one good change for ACM Awards, which typically play it very — in the words of Kacey Musgraves — straight and narrow. According to ET, the ceremony aimed to acknowledge “current issues regarding social justice,” but it sadly wasn’t actually a major focus. In fact, the whole thing was devoid of controversy and lacked the fanfare of traditional ceremonies. That includes the socially distanced red carpet, which led to an ultra-casual ceremony. The glitz and glam of previous ACM Awards were largely missing, but some stars still attempted to keep the flame alive. Here are the best and worst outfits of the bunch.
Gwen Stefani ditched punk for country
Gwen Stefani wasn’t present in Nashville for any of the ACM festivities, but she certainly served a look worthy of a country awards show, anyway. Clearly, she’s been quarantined with Blake Shelton a while because the No Doubt singer gave her classic punky style a cowgirl makeover for their duet of “Happy Anywhere.” He’s a little bit country and she’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
According to Us Weekly, the pair’s single has become a sort-of quarantine anthem, so it only makes sense that they were green-screened into the Bluebird Cafe and fully socially distant from literally anyone else outside of their household. As far as outfits go, Stefani pulls off an all-white look like no other. Perhaps that’s partly because her signature platinum hair makes the whole thing extra striking. In addition, the gold fringe and gold boots along with her fishnets gave us some major David Bowie (but make it country) vibes. Leave it to Stefani to serve an iconic themed look.
Kelsea Ballerini pulled off some glitzy leopard print
By now, Kelsea Ballerini is an awards show vet. The star even made our best-dressed list at the CMA Awards back in 2017, but when it came to the 2020 ACM Awards, she was a little bit nervous. The singer, who pre-taped her performance of her single “Hole in the Bottle,” admitted to James Corden on The Late Late Show that she felt “rusty,” and it was a “weird” experience singing to an empty auditorium. “It’s odd, but it’s nice to be back on any kind of stage,” she said.
Despite any potential nerves, Ballerini’s outfit oozed confidence. Her glitzy leopard print look was fun and flirty, but her matching red sequined cowboy boots were the real standout. In the words of How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby — who rocked red cowboy boots of his own — she’s pulling it off. At this point, we’ve totally forgotten the snooze-worthy pinstripe suit she wore while interviewing with People earlier in the night.
Taylor Swift donned a pair of khaki riding pants
There were no cardigans worn during Taylor Swift’s triumphant return to the ACM Awards, where she performed “Betty” from her surprise album, Folklore, at the Grand Ole Opry House. According to Variety, the singer hasn’t performed at any country music awards show in seven years, but she hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to trends. Never mind the fact that she single-handedly made cardigans the must-have item for fall, and her own branded cardigans have been spotted on her celebrity pals like Cara Delevingne and Kaia Gerber. She also basically proved that red sequins are deserving of a major moment, and we should probably never comb our bangs again. Who knew fringe looked so good undone?
Swift’s look was notably low-key, which felt in line with her peers. The turtleneck was the touch of glam we’d expect from an award show getup, but the khaki riding pants oozed a casual cottage core aesthetic, which she’s been rocking throughout her album cycle. Snaps for Swifty!
Jimmie Allen had a fashion-forward monochrome ensemble
For Jimmie Allen, the ACM Awards were a major moment. The star made his debut with his chart-topping single “Make Me Want To,” and he wasn’t taking any of it for granted. Prior to his performance at the Bluebird Cafe, the singer tweeted, “Crazy to think how 3 years ago I didn’t have a record deal and was dreaming of having a #1 song and playing the ACMs. Well tonight it happens. Never give up on yourself and no dream is ever too big to accomplish.” Inspiring!
Allen wasn’t about to waste his ACM Awards debut on a bad outfit, even if there was no audience. Unlike a number of his peers, who showed up in tired denim and basic button-ups, the singer opted for an eclectic, black monochrome ensemble that majorly played on texture — from the fringe of his jacket to his leather pants to his chain-embellished boots. If Allen’s stripped-down performance didn’t make a statement, his outfit definitely did.
Mickey Guyton showed off her baby bump
For Mickey Guyton, the ACM Awards were high stakes. According to the Associated Press, the star just released her first EP in five years and is working to re-establish herself as a powerful voice in a genre classically dominated by white men. This time, she’s casting aside her past doubts and being true to herself. “I was trying to write everybody else’s song and everybody else’s story when I had a unique story of my own,” she told AP.
Guyton’s new singles “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” prove she’s a force to be reckoned with, one who’s willing to broach topics a heck of a lot more poignant and uncomfortable than having one margarita (ahem, Luke Bryan). Her performance of the latter at the Grand Ole Opry House absolutely stunned, and so did her classic red carpet look. She oozed old Hollywood glamour, but one accessory specifically stood out — her baby bump. The star joined the short but powerful list of female performers (including Beyonce and M.I.A) who have performed at awards shows while expecting.
Morgan Wallen rocked a Canadian tuxedo
Listen, Morgan Wallen deserves a little slack. He’s a newbie at awards shows, and his nomination for New Male Vocalist proves it, but is a Canadian tuxedo ever an acceptable look if you’re not Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake at the 2001 American Music Awards? At least Wallen can probably chalk it up to whiskey glasses or exhaustion from his brand new parenting duties.
In an interview with Radio.com, the star admitted that it’s been a “tricky situation” co-parenting his two-month-old son, Indigo Wilder, and that he was heading to care for the baby right after he was done with the press. Clearly, fashion wasn’t the first thing on his mind, and that’s okay. The music speaks for itself. Wallen’s performance of “Whiskey Glasses” was his first at an awards show, and the star was shockingly nonchalant about the whole thing. It’s the kind of attitude only a full-on denim outfit can provide.
Miranda Lambert looked like a bluebird in her ensemble
For many of us, Halloween starts at the onset of the very first pumpkin spice. Clearly, Miranda Lambert has been tuned into spooky season because her getup looked like a cowgirl outfit that could’ve been purchased at a costume shop. Perhaps Spirit Halloween took up temporary residence in the Grand Ole Opry House. Hey, the live entertainment industry is pretty much shut down right now. Either way, Lambert’s outfit was a little too campy, especially with the detailing on the flared pants, though it was a respectable attempt to pay homage to the country stars of the past.
Despite the outfit, Lambert has a ton of reasons to be proud. The girl has enough ACM Awards to fill up an entire trophy case, and her collaborative single “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” with Maren Morris, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes, Elle King, and Caylee Hammack won the award for Music Event of the Year. Plus, her performance of “Bluebird” just hit differently knowing how devastating the pandemic has been for small and large clubs alike.
Luke Bryan has been spending too much time in Margaritaville
Could Luke Bryan try any less? Is it possible? Is this just something that happens when you’ve won eight ACM Awards, and nothing matters anymore? All we can say is that Bryan didn’t look bad. He actually looked great — for someone who should probably be hanging out on his porch drinking a cold one, running errands, or watching their kids’ sports game. Flatly put: Luke Bryan’s look was fully Luke Bryan the dad, and not Luke Bryan the country star.
In any event, the singer proved that regular old dudes — the kind who would wear a baseball cap on the red carpet — are deserving of being on a red carpet. According to the Tennessean, his song “One Margarita” was the fastest-rising song on the country charts this year, probably because it had the same casual attitude as his look. He told the newspaper that releasing a single about care-free partying was “the right thing to do” during a pandemic — at least until the hangover. Overall, we much prefer the pastel Hawaiian t-shirt he donned during his performance, which lent itself way more to Margaritaville than Nashville.
Maren Morris clashed with some neon prints
Whereas Kelsea Ballerini stunned in orange and red tones, Maren Morris clashed. Maybe the whole thing was just a little too neon, especially the strappy heels. The print and ruching were undeniably reminiscent of something purchased at Wet Seal circa 2004 rather than Versace, which is what it was, according to Wonderwall. At the onset of fall, does it make sense to wear palm trees? Maybe not, but when you think about, does anything in 2020 make sense? Morris isn’t even pretending that it does.
“I feel like this year has been hell for a lot of us, and it’s also had its bright moments and its silver linings, and so ‘Hell and Back’ is really about getting through that dark tunnel,” she told Stage Right Secrets of her performance. I guess we can all pretend that lockdown is a permanent vacation. Bring on the palm prints. Why not?
Cam tried for a pastel oufit
Cam doesn’t exactly have the longest history with the ACM Awards, but it is a prolific one. According to One Country, she was the most-nominated female during the 2016 awards show, but “barely had an EP out” the year prior. It was a fast rise to fame, and four years later, she’s still making a splash. This time, Cam was a presenter and didn’t have any nominations since she’s still awaiting the release of her upcoming album The Otherside. This gave her a little bit of leeway to play with her look, which frankly, may just be the best and the worst all wrapped into one.
Lauren Martinez, Cam’s makeup stylist, revealed on Instagram, “I decided on soft curls and a pink glow to compliment her amazing dress.” As for Cam’s dress, which played into the pastel trend, it was one part high fashion and one part Vagina Monologues. Seriously, there’s no way of getting around it. Nonetheless, she looked absolutely ethereal, even if the look was partially inspired by female genitalia.
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