ACM/Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Monday, April 8, 2013 | 2:37 p.m.
Garth Brooks and George Strait at 2013 ACM Awards
Country conquered in the network TV races Sunday night, swooping up nearly 14 million viewers. The 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards walloped the competition with giant ratings, giving CBS a dominant first-place win for the head-to-head primetime battle.
The ACM Awards was the night’s top program in viewers and demographics, with the highest number of viewers since the 1998 broadcast. Sunday night’s broadcast also marked the first time that the ACM Awards beat the same season’s Country Music Awards in the ratings categories since the advent of people meters.
“Wow,” said Bob Romeo, CEO of ACM. “We knew we had a great plan to get the word out to music fans to watch, but the fact that they embraced us on this level just makes us want to reach higher next year.” The ACM Awards also broke records online and on social media, coming in No. 1 in the week’s Top 10 Social Shows, with 1.9 million social media comments and 619.4 million impressions – ahead of the 2013 NCAA championships, NBA, MLB and “The Voice.”
It was a close race for center spotlight at the ACM Awards last night, but the duet and first-time performance onstage together for Garth Brooks and George Strait won. Miranda Lambert’s eye-popping cleavage caused almost as big a buzz. Forget those rules that a rival network put in place for the gowns of the Grammys and the outfits of the Oscars. CBS took the plunge, and as Miranda joked when I asked about her dress, she laughed, “It won for Duo of the Year!”
Hosts Blake Shelton, Miranda’s hubby, and Luke Bryan joked about side boobs and bare backs. Luke swiveled his Elvis Presley backside imitation, and Blake said, “Only rule here is no butt cracks.” There were jokes all evening from the rowdy boys about body parts, including an opening reference to jeans being sprayed on with paint, no ball room like Motel 6 and just like a credit card, “Nothing up front, and interest later.”
Blake and Luke even joked about Tim McGraw: “No big deal about McGraw’s new buff body, since he’s always had the best body in country music -- and her name is Faith Hill.” The social Internet universe lit up like our Strip’s neon signs when Reba McEntire near tears introduced Garth and George as they joined forces for their musical tribute to late producer Dick Clark.
How appropriate that they picked “The Cowboy Rides Away” with its lyrics, “The last goodbye is the hardest one to say, and this is where the cowboy rides away. It’s time to say goodbye to yesterday. … As the credits roll, a sad song starts to play. … This is where the cowboy rides away.”
The closing shot of the YouTube video of their performance captures a very teary-eyed Kari Clark; Dick and she had been married since 1970. His son Rac Clark follows in his footsteps as executive producer of the ACM Awards.
The biggest honor of the night went to Luke for his first win as Entertainer of the Year with a record breaking 1-million-plus votes from fans. It was obvious that he thought the award was going to his good friend Jason Aldean, who won Male Vocalist of the Year for the first time. Luke was so stunned when he heard his name that he doubled over, and Blake caught him just off-stage before he fell.
Backstage, Luke, who also won Vocal Event of the Year with Jason and Eric Church, told us: “This is unlike anything I have ever experienced. My family has dealt with a lot of tragedy in our lives, losing my older brother and my older sister -- you know they are in heaven smiling down on moments like this. You are overwhelmed with emotion; it was an amazing feeling and one that I would be amazed if it was ever trumped.”
Luke also commented about his first ACM Awards hosting gig: “As far as a scale of 1 to 10 on how I think I did hosting, I put so much emphasis on making sure that the hosting went well, I feel like I knocked it out of the park. I felt like Blake and I just had a blast. I have really been known to really get excited about stuff, and I was proud and I was calm in that same moment.
“I was so focused on hosting that I forgot the first line of my new single ‘Crash My Party,’ and somehow I don’t even know if ya’ll picked up on that. But somehow I don’t even know what I sang, I just went ‘blah, blah, blah,’ and then I got back on track because hosting was such an important thing for me, just representing country music. Being savvy, and cool, and that was basically a big deal for me.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, I enjoyed the pressure, but now I am ready to party. I don’t even know if right before the show I could have told you what I was nominated for because we were wanting the show to be great, and as long as the show is great, and my performance is great, the nominations, and then to top this off the Entertainer of the Year deal, just is an amazing thing.
“I had Reba McEntire text me before the show saying good luck. Blake is just a true champion and a true professional. What I was amazed by is the time leading up to hosting. … Blake is busy, and I am busy, but come crunch time when Blake and I were reading our scripts and let’s make it work. It is cool when you see somebody as a true professional, and it inspires you to be a true professional, and that is what, obviously, Blake Shelton is.”
Thanks to Metro for hitting speeds up to 110 mph -- per Luke’s tweet -- to shuttle them between MGM Grand Garden Arena and The Orleans Arena for their intros. Editor at Large John Katsilometes wrote about that high-speed adventure.
It was the fourth consecutive year that Miranda walked home with the silver trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year. She was the leading winner of the night with four trophies in three categories -- Single Record of the Year and Song of the Year as artist and composer for “Over You” shared with co-composer husband Blake. Miranda now joins Reba and Loretta Lynn as the only other artists to win Female Vocalist of the Year four or more times.
Miranda talked about her meeting the night before with Shania Twain backstage at Caesars Palace: “I was so emotional, my tough girl image is over with. I’ve not stopped crying really since last night -- to see Shania and Faith Hill, and then to be introduced to Shania, my head was spinning off my shoulders, and I haven’t calmed down since then. I’ve been teary all day. Then I saw George Strait and Garth Brooks together onstage, and I broke down. I said, ‘I can’t take this,’ and I cried all night.”
During the show, Blake got a lot of laughs when he introduced Miranda in one segment and said he’d seen her naked earlier in the morning. Naturally, I had to ask her if that was true. “Not so -- you can’t even think about that kind of stuff, let alone try anything -- on awards day,” she quipped.
We got a preview of Tim’s “Superstar Summer Night” tonight at MGM Grand with his performance of “Highway Don’t Care” with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Tweets all night long raved about the performances, hosts and agreed “the best ACM Awards show yet.” It was a nonstop, jam-packed show of superstars the academy had promised: “There’s no other awards show on television that has this many stars.”
They kept their word -- and delivered more!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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