Music stars: We’re so used to seeing them perform flawlessly in videos and watching their refined grace on the big screen or red carpet, that it’s sometimes a shock to the system when they actually do make gaffes and prove they’re human after all. For better or worse, award shows tend to be the perfect place for these cringe-worthy moments. Who can forget that awkward encounter between Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards — the one that launched a forever feud? Just think about all the times the Oscars have left viewers uncomfortable in their seats.
The Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards are no exception and have given viewers their fair share of weirdness since the ceremony began more than five decades ago. It’s long history means plenty of high-profile singers — including Miranda Lambert (pictured), Kelly Clarkson, Florida Georgia Line, and many more — have delivered beautiful music, but also some unexpected moments that made us laugh, cry, or roll our eyes. Whether it’s questionable ensembles and props or public jabs at exes, here’s a rundown of the most cringe-worthy ACM Awards moments ever.
When Kelly Clarkson was mistaken for a seat-filler
American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson is a cross-genre powerhouse who’s won over fans of every generation with her powerful hits and relatable personality. The combination of her jovial personality, beautiful vocals, and poignant lyrics could win anyone over — or, almost anyone.
The “Already Gone” singer failed to impress one unnamed man at the 2019 Academy of Country Music awards. This guy clearly wished she was already gone when he asked her to give up her seat at the show.
True to form, Clarkson took the incident in stride. “The greatest thing by far that happened to me tonight was being asked to move because some guy thought I was a seat filler at the ACM’s tonight,” Clarkson tweeted that night with the hashtag #CantWinEmAll. “Literally, it made my night because he was so serious, and I just politely said no.”
Miranda Lambert pours kerosene on the cringe factor
Miranda Lambert’s AMC appearances have raised eyebrows on more than one occasion. For starters, there was the time she low-key threw shade at her ex-husband, fellow country star Blake Shelton, during her performance of “Little Red Wagon” during the 2019 award show. According to Country Living, Lambert replaced the lyric “I live in Oklahoma” with “I got the hell out of Oklahoma.” It’s safe to assume that was a jab at Shelton, who resides on a ranch in the Sooner State, with his post-Lambert lady love, Gwen Stefani. Both Shelton and Stefani were in the audience that night.
Lambert found herself on the receiving end of some potential shade during the 2014 awards. She raised her hand to seemingly high-five the “King of Country,” George Strait, who’d just won the entertainer of the year award, but he walked right past her. Lambert tries to salvage the cringe-worthy moment by turning her solo high-five into a fist pump. What makes the situation even more awkward is that Strait did shake hands with someone standing next to her.
Country couture makes some ACM fans cringe
If we’re talking about questionable moments at an award ceremony, we simply must mention the outfits that often grace, or pain, the fans. In some cases, it’s definitely the latter, and the Academy of Country Music Awards are no exception.
Over the years, some have criticized the AMCs for being too casual. Rolling Stone said Cole Swindell’s ball cap in 2017 “signals he’s a frat boy for life” and declared that his look and sound “does nothing more than reinforce why bro country has got to go.”
In 2019, Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard did not impress in his patriotic ensemble, which one viewer described as “American flag pajamas.” Also that night, Luke Combs performed in a casual button down, which he accessorized with his signature red Solo cup. Then again, The Ringer did describe Combs as “country music’s beer-chugging, super-regular superhero,” so maybe we should be cheering instead of cringing.
Some ACM protests are subtle; others are loud and clear
Award shows provide a platform for celebrities to speak out about issues and causes they’re passionate about, but advocating and protesting at a major event, doesn’t always go smoothly. (Then again, one could argue that meaningful protests should make people uncomfortable). Regardless, country music superstars and their fans have both utilized the Academy of Country Music Awards to make big statements.
In 1994, the legendary Alan Jackson and his band reportedly protested the ACMs decision to stage their performance to a pre-recorded track. To prove a point, Jackson’s drummer “played” the drums, but without any drumsticks.
In 2003, it was the audience that protested during the show. Every time The Chicks (who were going by the name The Dixie Chicks at the time) were mentioned during the show, the audience booed. All that ire stemmed from the band’s disapproval of President George W. Bush. Months before the show, singer Natalie Maines said, “We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” The booing at the AMCs got so out of hand that presenter Vince Gill actually pleaded with the crowd. “Stop it, stop it,” he said, per CBS News. “You know who gets blessed when you forgive — you.” Oh boy.
Please 'say stace' during these challenging times
Singers depend on their ability to properly and rhythmically pronounce words in a way that connects with their listeners — which is what makes it all the more funny when they occasionally stumble over seemingly simple phrases and names.
Take Shania Twain’s cringe-worthy gaffe at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2013, which she made while attempting to pronounce Luke Bryan’s name for entertainer of the year. Twain added a “t” to the end of his name, making it “Luke Bryant.” Oops.
When the 2020 ACMs had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Blake Shelton stumbled during what was designed to be a simple PSA. Instead of telling audiences to “stay safe,” he told everyone to “say stace.” Though he quickly corrected himself, neither Blake nor girlfriend Gwen Stefani could let it go. Both stars had a good time reliving the cringe-worthy moment on Twitter.
By the way, those rescheduled 2020 ACM Awards are happening Sept. 16, 2020, so may just have some fresh moments to add to this list soon. Stay tuned…and say stace.
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