The inaugural American Country Countdown Awards, replacing the previous American Country Awards franchise, brought to life 2014’s biggest party-hardy hits in literal ways. Not only was there a bar on stage, much to the satisfaction of the show’s tattooed hosts Florida Georgia Line, but most of the night’s most light-fused, high-caliber performances celebrated weekend binge drinking on a massive scale. From Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley‘s mid-show galavant of their new slinky single “Sun Daze” to Lady Antebellum‘s “Freestyle,” there was enough for the crowd to sip on. In between jokes about Bad Santas, big sacks and The Walking Dead, there were quite a few musical performances that floated to the top of mainstream country to become truly worthwhile moments in time.
NashvilleGab was onsite to witness all the live action (see more quick photos here), and we have a breakdown of the night’s Top 5 best musical moments:
5. Kenny Chesney‘s groundbreaking “Til It’s Gone”
As the night’s Groundbreak honoree, his legacy was palpable in the room, as the crowd roared as the simply utterance of his name. Not all of his most notable hits are “groundbreaking” by definition, but his live performance style is nearly unmatched by any other A-lister today.
4. Eric Church‘s nostalgic “Talladega”
Another standout track that cuts through the noise, Church (who walked away with Album of the Year for The Outsiders), pulled the reigns in on the show. His music might lean more southern-rock than traditional country, but there’s no doubt that he’s one of the finest male storytellers of 2014.
3. Kip Moore‘s tender “Pretty Girl” moment
As the Breakthrough Artist of the Year, it was nice to see this underrated vocalist finally get his due, even if it’s not at the CMA Awards. His “Pretty Girl” is reason enough to prove that country can be more than just hot girls and red dirt roads. As the night’s most tender moment, he wins by a landslide.
2. Miranda Lambert & Kelly Clarkson‘s explosively cool Reba tribute
There’s no female in country music quite like Reba McEntire. Her music has spanned decades; in fact, she has charted hits in four decades, as Kix Brooks notable pointed out in his heartfeld introduction. Bringing together the pop power of Clarkson and the earthy Lambert was a good choice, even if “How Blue” and “Take It Back” don’t properly represent Reba’s definitive catalog. “Fancy” was a lovely inclusion here, especially when Reba herself joined in, bringing even more female badass-ness to the stage.
1. Carrie Underwood‘s high-octane, power-note, five-song medley
Medleys can be extremely exhausting, especially when you involve eight-year old songs, but Underwood’s convincing electricity allowed her to demonstrate her depth as an artist over the past decade. From “Before He Cheats” and “All American Girl” to “Blown Away” and her new single “Something in the Water,” her opener was the mountainous peak of an awards show that didn’t quite find its footing after that. Aside from the Reba tribute, Underwood elicited the biggest audience reaction; the crowd adored her.
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