7:00 p.m.: The show is kicking off with Luke Bryan, who has the most nominations tonight, performing his latest hit, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” He’s got his trademark ball cap on; look for him to turn it around backwards in just a couple of minutes. That Georgia boy has a killer grin, y’all.
7:03: I can’t wait to see what kind of nonsense co-hosts Kristin Chenoweth – a fellow Oklahoma girl – and Trace Adkins have worked up for our amusement tonight. It will be hard for them to top last year’s Baby Bjorn stunt.
7:05: They’re opening with a skit and a few jokes about Kristin’s teeny stature, with Trace trying to sit in miniature pink furniture and sip out of itsy bitsy Red Solo Cups. They show gets back to live when they emerge, this time with Kristin in a baby sling on Trace’s shoulder. It was funny the first time, it’s silly the second, let’s hope they leave it behind now. They’re giving the giant sling to Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, who is having a baby. “That’ll come in handy when he’s 12.” They’re making jokes about Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” and “motorboatin’” and cracking about Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and I wonder if Carrie Underwood is reciting the gags along with them because they sound just like the ones she did with Brad Paisley at last month’s CMA Awards.
7:10: We’re moving on, thankfully, and Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert comes out in a sleek, short black dress with silver swirls to present group of the year. Here are the nominees:
Artist of the Year: Group
The Band Perry
Eli Young Band
Zac Brown Band
7:12: Winner: Lady A. They also win single of the year by a group for “We Owned the Night.” Charles Kelley asks Miranda, “Blake lets you go out like that?” while Dave encourages Hillary to thank the baby. After thanking the fans, Charles says the band has new music coming early next year. I’ll take it!
7:13: Kristin is sitting in the lap of one of the hot young things of Love and Theft – she made sure he wasn’t married first because she didn’t want to get her butt kicked – to introduce Dierks Bentley. He’s got his hat turned around backwards too while he’s belting his party/drinking anthem “Country and Cold Cans.” Kristin and Trace were right: There’s a lot of drinking songs out right about now. But it’s great fun, and Dierks is one my personal faves because he’s a sweetheart.
7:21: Kristin looks super-sexy in a super-low-cut silvery gown, and they’re arguing over who gets to be sexy Santa and who gets to be the elf in a seasonal skit planned for later in the show. Kristin is lobbying for casting against type in this deal. You can tweet your preference with #kristinsanta or #tracesanta. The height jokes are getting almost as bad as the rehashes from the CMAs, folks. Here comes Scotty McCreery and rodeo star Trevor Brazil to present the new artist trophy. I hope the Annies win but I’m expecting Hunter Hayes to get a new purple and white guitar:
Artist of the Year: New Artist
7:24: Winner: Lauren Alaina. Scotty smilingly hands the guitar that is this year’s trophy to his “American Idol” runner-up, who seems truly shocked. “I can’t breathe,” she says with a huge smile and obvious emotion in her voice. While her mama looks on, she’s thanking God and “Idol” and everyone else, before commenting “I think I’m holding it backwards,” and switching the guitar to her other side. She finally just covers her face and laughs and let’s the girl toting the guitars lead her away by the hand.
She wasn’t my choice for the award, but she’s so happy that I’m kind of glad she got it.
7:25: Love and Theft and Natasha Bedingfield are introducing the next performer: Rascal Flatts, who are a co-nominee with Bedingfield in the collaborative performance category. The Flatts are performing their latest love song, “Hot in Here.” Not my favorite of theirs, but I still love those harmonies.
7:29: Joe Don Rooney guitar solo! That is hot. The pride of Picher is a talented guy.
7:34: The guys from Florida Georgia Line are introducing “There’s Something ‘Bout a Truck” hit-maker Kip Moore to sing his new Southern rocker “Beer Money.” I’m starting to think that the ACAs are sponsored by Budweiser since these are all drinking songs. Or whatever company makes trucker caps, since all boys have one to turn around backwards.
7:37: Kip is setting aside his guitar so he can high-five the fans and sing “There’s Something ‘Bout a Truck.” It was like two songs in two minutes. I guess that’s what you get in a two-hour awards show.
7:38: Comedian Ron White takes the stage with his mom, Barbara, and his customary glass of scotch. They’re quipping that country music used to mean George Jones and Dolly Parton and now “it’s the cast of ‘Glee’ in cowboy hats,” which gets a giggle from Keith Urban. I guess if you make fun of yourself, it makes it easier when everyone else does it. But I do love Ron’s jokes about having the same number of Tour De France wins as Lance Armstrong. That one was funny.
They’re going to give the breakthrough artist award. Here are the options:
Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist
7:42: And Barbara wants to give it to the Rolling Stones. Why not? They’re as country as anyone there, I suppose. Whatever that means.
Anyway, the actual winner is Jake Owen, who thanks the fans and declares his love for his mom, his wife and his new baby girl, who is about two weeks old. Very sweet.
7:47: Kristin, looking lovely in a long sparkly black gown, introduces hot newcomers Jana Kramer, Lee Brice and Casey James, who are going to present the touring artist award:
Touring Artist of the Year
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw
Zac Brown Band
7:48: Winner: Jason Aldean. “I tell you what, I couldn’t win an award that means more to me than something for touring,” he says, noting that’s what he’s tried to build his career around. He thanks the fans for showing up as well as his band, crew and booking manager.
7:50: Kristin is back to remind people to tweet in for her to play Santa and Trace to play the elf later in the show before kicking it over to her “badass co-host,” who is performing with Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd. They’re playing some Skynyrd classics, starting with “What’s Your Name?”
7:53: People like Dierks and Lady A’s Charles Kelley are on their feet rocking out to Skynyrd. Maybe I’m just being overly nostalgic, but here’s the problem with inviting legacy acts on the show: They seem to upstage the youngsters so easily. I mean, Trace held his own, but I’d rather watch Skynyrd than a lot of the folks up for awards tonight. OK, I’ll stop now.
7:58: Yikes. Kristin emerges dressed in a pink frilly dress playing “Honey Boo Boo.” Yikes. Just yikes. That’s crazy-scary. The woman has a Tony for playing Sally Brown on Broadway and now she’s playing Honey Boo Boo on a fan-voted awards show. At least we know she doesn’t have a problem taking herself too seriously.
Thankfully, she and Trace are quickly kicking it to Gloriana, who in turn hand off to Jake Owen, who is performing his third straight chart-topper “The One That Got Away.” He doesn’t have a trucker cap on, though. His hair is awfully pretty.
8:03: Tulsa-based comic Rodney Carrington is carrying a bouquet of red roses and a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and he’s accompanied by a pair of stars from the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants. Rodney has the gifts in hand for when the winner of “the best female ever” gets the prize and wants to kiss him. Here are the potential lucky ladies:
Artist of the Year: Female
8:05: That honor will go to Carrie Underwood, who also is winning for her collaboration with Brad Paisley. She now has 11 ACAs, the most of any artist. Looking quite lovely in a short coral-colored dress, she calls herself the luckiest and most blessed person in the world.
“We’ve had such an incredible year being on the road,” she says. “I work with so many amazing people. Thank you, God for blessing everyone in this building with just a great love of what we do.” She’s thanking the fans and all her peers in the audience.
And yes, she even gave Rodney a kiss on the cheek.
8:11: Goodness, Dustin Lynch is handsome. And he’s got a cowboy hat on! He’s just here to help introduce Jason Aldean’s performance, but it’s good to see him while he’s onstage. The Georgia superstar is rocking through his new surefire hit “The Only Way I Know.”
8:15: Trace is wandering around, singing “Viva Las Vegas” and pondering “what would Brad Paisley do” when a knocking noise starts coming from inside a guitar case. It’s Kristin telling him to open the case. “You idiot, you were supposed to do a magic trick with me, but you just left me in there. Brad Paisley would never do that to Carrie Underwood.” Trace replies, “He wouldn’t do this either,” picks her up and shakes her. They then declare it the worst magic trick ever. The magic isn’t here for those two tonight. I love Kristin and like Trace a lot but they need better writers BADLY.
Penn and Teller and Lauren Alaina are going to do a real magic trick to present the next award, single of the year by a female artist:
Single of the Year: Female
Sara Evans, “My Heart Can’t Tell You No”
*Miranda Lambert, “Over You”
Martina McBride, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”
Taylor Swift, “Ours”
*Carrie Underwood, “Good Girl”
8:20: Penn and Teller use the static electricity from Trace’s ponytail and a playing card to play a little tune across the top of Trace’s black cowboy hat. It’s neat little trick, but even better, the winner is Miranda!
“Well, that was cool,” she comments. Ran tells Lauren she made her cry with her speech earlier and reassures her she wasn’t holding the guitar upside down earlier. She thanks her hubby Blake Shelton for writing a great song with her. She comments that he isn’t there because he’s doing live shows for “The Voice” and she Tivo’d his show because she’s really nervous for him and his team. “I hope he Tivo’d me too because we won!”
Love, love, love her.
According to the announcer, Miranda also won video of the year by a female artist and most-played radio track.
8:25: Trace is reminding people to tweet for him to be Santa and not an elf. “Speaking of elves,” he says to introduce his co-host, Kristin, to perform her country song “What Would Dolly Do.” It’s a terrifically fun song, and I’ve heard the Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer perform it live. I love the “W-W-Double-D” chorus; it is too sassy, even if you can’t help but notice that the Broken Arrow native is using about 1/10th of her vocal power when she sings country music. She is a true powerhouse.
8:28: A very handsome Chris Young and very giggly LeAnn Rimes are going to present the top video by a group. Here are the options:
Music Video of the Year: Group or Collaboration
Gloriana, “(Kissed You) Good Night”
Lady Antebellum, “Dancin’ Away With My Heart”
Little Big Town, “Pontoon”
Love and Theft, “Angel Eyes”
The Band Perry, “All Your Life”
8:29: Winner: The oh-so likeable Little Big Town. They’re thanking “the greatest fans in the world.” Kimberly Schlapman says “I thought these things were cardboard, but they’re heavy like they’re real and everything.” I’ve interviewed three of the four members of LBT and liked them very much. They’ve paid a lot of dues, and you can tell they’re having such fun with the success they’re experiencing these days.
8:35: “It’s not a rumor, it’s a fact, Fleetwood Mac is reuniting and they’re going on tour,” Kristin says. She’s right, they’re coming to Tulsa in 2013. She’s introducing Fleetwood Mac guitarist/singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham, to the tune of “Tusk,” who is introducing Aussie country superstar Keith Urban, who is going to perform with kids from the Grammy camp program. And they’re not doing a Fleetwood Mac song, but Keith and these amazing young rockers are playing the Cream classic “Crossroads.” Wow. This is incredible. Every last one of these youngsters is astonishingly good, and Keith looks like he is having the time of his life playing with them. This is far and away the highlight of the night. Kudos to Keith for being willing to turn the spotlight over to such remarkable young women and men. That ROCKED!
8:44: Texas guys and Grammy nominees Eli Young Band are introducing Little Big Town’s performance. “How could you not love them?” the EYB boys wonder. How indeed. They’re awesome, and they’re singing their witchy new hit “Tornado.” Love it.
8:49: Jewel, who is getting ready to play June Carter Cash in a Lifetime TV movie, and her hubby, rodeo star Ty Murray, are going to present the artist of the year award to one of these folks:
Artist of the Year
Zac Brown Band
8:50: Winner: Luke Bryan, who basically also wins everything else that hadn’t been handed out yet. I’m not kidding: He wins a total of nine awards.
“I want to thank God for the ability to get out there on the road and do what I love and play for great country music fans,” he says, thanking his wife, band, crew, label, mama and daddy, tourmate Jason Aldean and “all the artists that are in this room that inspire me.”
“Country music, there’s nothing better. We get to do what we love and we get to do it for honest, hardworking people,” he adds. “They’re telling me to wrap, but I don’t wanna wrap.”
They’re going to commercial anyway, and presumably Kristin and Trace will be back to close the show. Please let the writing suddenly become drastically improved in the next 90 seconds while these ads play …
8:56: “Here comes Santa Claus,” and here comes the results of the Twitter vote: Kristin is dressed as sexy Santa and Trace is decked out as a giant elf, complete with fake ears. “You look like a holiday hooker,” he grouses at Kristin. “What are you supposed to be, a Viking elf?” she counters. “Can I sit on your lap? I’m so glad I wore underwear,” Kristin adds, reminding the audience there’s only 14 shopping days ’til Christmas. This is actually the funniest moment of the whole show. It may be a straight-up sight gag, but at least it isn’t a month past its expiration date.
They’re introducing Lady A to give their rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” and it will definitely get you in the yuletide spirit. Charles Kelley is coming down to playfully dance with big winner Luke Bryan, and Kristin takes the stage to frolic along with them. She and a downtrodden, ridiculously costumed Trace wish everyone a good night.
And that’s a wrap on the third annual ACAs, which were at their best when they were actually not even the slightest bit country. I love seeing Kristin Chenoweth on national TV, but I hope she puts her dainty foot down and insists the writers come up with non-height-related jokes next year.