Host Dolly Parton, classic country royalty, is about the only traditional thing about Monday night’s Academy of Country Music Awards, a show that seeks a new flow in nearly every way.
Parton will be joined by co-hosts Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett — all three will also be performing — in a ceremony that jumps from network TV to a streaming-only, no commercials telecast on Amazon Prime Video, and shifts from a theater setting to the outdoor Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
The year’s top nominee is Chris Young, whose seven nominations, including album of the year and single of the year, come in part because he got dual nods as artist and producer.
“I’ve never been the most nominated in anything before,” said Young, who will also be a part of a pair of performances, including his hit “Raised on Country.” “So this is big. And you know, I would love to win one of them. I’d love to win all of them.”
The return of Morgan Wallen, if he attends and wins any major awards, could be among the night’s central moments. Wallen is back as a four-time nominee after being removed from last year’s ACM ballot after he was caught on camera using a racial slur. He has been absent from other awards shows since, though has slowly returned to the spotlight.
His nominations include album of the year for “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which was the most popular album across all genres last year. He also earned nominations for male artist of the year and song of the year.
But the Vegas-based ACM Awards have always been more about the presentation than the trophies, and this year’s Amazon experiment, a sped-up, concert-like format without commercials, will make that more true than ever.
Drawn by the ACM’s reputation for having a fun, inviting and inclusive atmosphere, the streaming giant sought to go beyond the live sporting events it has previously aired to connect that with a large audience of country fans who listen to Amazon Music.
The show will have a sporting look, with three stages, overhead spider cameras, non-stop action and heavy on graphics.
The awards will be handed out in segments, rather than spread between songs, with one 35-minute block of performances with no interruptions. A post show edit of only the performances will also be offered.
Co-hosts Barrett and Allen will open the show with a two-song set. Host Parton will perform a song from her upcoming album with fellow Tennessean Kelsea Ballerini.
Reigning ACM entertainer of the year Luke Bryan also has double performances including his hit “Buy Dirt” with Jordan Davis and a performance of his ballad “Up.” Other performers include Kane Brown, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Maren Morris, Walker Hayes, Thomas Rhett, Blanco Brown, Brooke Eden, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde and BRELAND.
Miranda Lambert earned five nominations, including entertainer of the year, and is now tied with Reba McEntire for her 16th female artist of the year nomination. First-time nominee Walker Hayes also received five nominations, due to his viral Applebee’s themed song “Fancy Like,” up for single of the year.
Chris Stapleton, a five-time nominee, is up for entertainer of the year, alongside Lambert, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Carrie Underwood.
Along with Morgan, album of the year nominees include Carly Pearce, Thomas Rhett, Young, Lambert, Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.
Two awards were announced in the days leading up to the show. Lainey Wilson was named new female artist of the year and Parker McCollum new male artist of the year. Both will also perform.