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The Best Moments of the 2014 ACM Awards

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(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Courtney E. Smith

The Academy of Country Music’s 49th Annual Awards were broadcast out of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas again this year, with special performances in nearby Mandalay Bay. Here are the biggest moments from the show.

The stars of the show were undoubtedly hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, who took great delight in making fun of each other and all the performers and nominees all night in genuinely funny bits. They came to the stage dressed as Daft Punk, they tried to top Ellen’s Oscar selfie stunt and decided they were the only famous enough people in-house to take a selfie of, and of course their bad Letterman jokes. Pair that with shout-outs to same-sex marriage and legalizing drugs in their opening monologue, this was not your mama’s ACMs.

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The debut TV performances of new singles from Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum were crowd favorites, with the latter bringing Stevie Nicks on stage to join them and busting into a few verses of the Fleetwood Mac hit “Rihannon” which brought the whole theater to their feet.

Hilary_Stevie(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Another performance that grabbed the crowd’s attention far above the many others in the telecast was host Luke Bryan doing “Play It Again” on a spinning record. The song had all the heads in camera shot bobbing and it looked like someone told Taylor Swift to stay in her seat for this show or else she’d have been up dancing to this one.

Luke_Bryan(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, our co-host Blake Shelton performed with Shakira, debuting a “Medicine”, a song featured on the latter’s new self-titled album. Shakira is in red lingerie and thigh-highs, bring a touch of pop music stage costumes to a show that doesn’t see much of that stuff. This makes Shelton’s second duet with a coach from The Voice, following the one he did with Christina Aguilera. Why do all the people on that show want to record duets with him? Is Miranda okay with him doing it with so many other ladies? Guess so!

Blake_Shakira(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A surprise crowd sing- and clap-along came when Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum joined forces to perform “Wagon Wheel” and brought a down home, acoustic feel to the whole thing. And finally Taylor Swift got to dance! Other famous people the camera caught singing along: Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Angie Harmon and Carrie Underwood, mainly because everyone knows this song and universally loves it. This was the highlight that delighted the crowd, while being one of the most lo-fi performances of the night.

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As expected, the tribute to Merle Haggard was a powerful moment. With an introduction by a country music legend in his own right, Garth Brooks, and performances from Miranda Lambert and George Strait doing “The Fugitive” and “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,” it was a fitting tribute for a Crystal Milestone Award winner and man whose contributions to country music are one step beyond being legendary. Strait was the perfect choice here, as his neoclassical style is heavily indebted to the Bakersfield sound Haggard is best known for. A Garth-Miranda-King George lead chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd lead into Haggard’s short and to-the-point acceptance speech.

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)(Ethan Miller/Getty Images) 

Last, but not least, was a well deserved win: our Entertainer of the Year (or is it Lifetime?) is George Strait. When he said it heard this was a fan voted award, he couldn’t seem to find the words to express his thanks. A tearful, touched King George walked home with his crown and the crowd left feeling that all was right with the world of country music.

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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