In an action-packed Academy of Country Music Awards that boot-scooted itself all the way to Texas for the first time in 50 years, let's rehash our favorite moments:
King George is back!
Did you think George Strait's historic performance at AT&T Stadium in summer 2014 was his last time on that stage? He performed early on at the ACM Awards after receiving a "milestone award" for the largest span between Entertainer of the Year wins in Academy history. (That'd be 24 years.) It's nice to see King George sing live again at AT&T Stadium, if only for two short tunes.
Randy Travis receives much love.
The Texas country legend still recovering from a stroke nodded as presenter Lee Brice acknowledged him in the ACM crowd. Our music critic Hunter Hauk says it well: "His expression told us he was both overwhelmed by the love and overjoyed to be here." His appearance was a welcomed, wonderful, surprise.
Tony Romo brought a football.
When Dallas Cowboys quarterback appeared onstage holding a football, I could practically hear the collective groans. But in what could have been a totally cheesy move, Romo played along with flying colors as Bryan put on Cowboys gloves and caught a pigskin tossed over the crowd.
Then came the biggest win of the bit, when Blake Shelton asked if the football was one of those deflated ones: "We're the Dallas Cowboys," Romo answered. "We have real balls." Hashtag heck yes.
Little Big Town does 'Girl Crush,' despite all the controversy.
It's catchy and it's clever, and this country foursome sings the new ballad beautifully. Some radio stations recently pulled the song, believing it promotes a gay agenda. It doesn't, the band told the Washington Post. More power to them for putting it center stage.
Taylor Swift's mom makes us want to cry.
Taylor Swift recently told her fans, and thus the world, that her mom Andrea Finlay was diagnosed with cancer. In a very cool gesture from the academy, Finlay took the stage to introduce her daughter, who received a milestone award for youngest ACM Entertainer of the Year. "I know you love her as I love her," Finlay said to Swift's fans, "and for that I thank you eternally." And then the world smiled.
Nick Jonas and Dan + Shay didn't sing anything remotely country.
Country music can take many shapes and sounds -- that's one of the best things about the genre -- but none of that could be found in Nick Jonas and Dan + Shay's performance of "Jealous" and Chains." And we liked it.
Alan Jackson offered an Oklahoma City bombing tribute.
His song "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" was written in the wake of the 9/11 bombings and repurposed Sunday night to commemorate the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was beautiful. Heartfelt. Thoughtful.
The Brad Paisley solo.
"Crushin' It" is a song about the weekend. It's a song about fun. It does not necessarily require an electric guitar solo in the middle of the ACM Awards. But Paisley's not cut from the same bro country cloth as his colleagues might be, and he offered up an impressive solo. He, uh, crushed it?