The 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards are already here and we’re ready to celebrate all week(end) long.

And while we’re already cheers-ing for this year’s New Male/Female Artists of the Year, Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett, there is still so much to look forward to at the show. Here’s what we’re excited to see at this year’s show.

Three Legendary Venues

While we may be a little bias for one in particular, the ACMs ceremony will take place across multiple venues across Music City. Things will kick off live at the Grand Ole Opry House where some of the biggest names in country music will step into the legendary circle for the big night. Ryman Auditorium, which has been standing on Broadway in Downtown Nashville since 1892, will also serve as a location for the awards. The Ryman was also one of the Grand Ole Opry’s former homes until 1974, and now it serves as one of Music City’s most beloved concert stages for shows of all genres. Going back to their roots, some performers will broadcast live from The Bluebird Cafe, the “accidentally famous” landmark, known for intimate songwriter rounds and discovery. It’s been a Nashville staple since the early ‘80s for finding new artists — 

most notably Taylor Swift was discovered there —  and now even has a namesake documentary. These venues will tie the past to the present by incorporating a little country music history into the ceremony, while showcasing the best that modern country music’s hitmakers have to offer.

Hosts with the Most

Social: Keith Urban & Mickey Guyton

Opry member, and last year’s Entertainer of the Year, Keith Urban, will host the awards for the second consecutive year, with “Black Like Me” singer and friend of the Opry Mickey Guyton as co-host. Last year, Guyton made her ACM debut with a stunning, emotive vocal performance of her single “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” on the Opry stage, while Urban accompanied her on piano. In addition to their professional chemistry hosting on stage, we’re looking forward to seeing any performances they may have up their sleeves this year. Guyton has released an EP and several singles since then, so there’s lots of material to pull from. Urban is nominated twice for Music Event of the Year and Guyton held her first ACM nomination this year, for New Female Artist of the Year (which was awarded to Gabby Barrett).

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Our Performance Wishlist

There’s a slew of Opry members we’ll see and hear from throughout the night. Here’s what we’re hoping we could see:

One of Urban’s nominations is for his song “One Too Many” with pop star Pink, which we think would make for a great cross-genre, rockin’ moment in the show.

2019 Opry inductee Luke Combs is up for Entertainer of the Year, and so is Eric Church. Combs and Church are nominated for Music Event of the Year for their song “Does To Me,” which we hope to hear live.

Female Artist of the Year nominee Kelsea Ballerini made an appearance to sing “hole in the bottle” last year, and we’d be happy to see her return to the stage with any one of her songs.

Our fingers are crossed that Carrie Underwood brings R&B/pop duet partner John Legend to the stage for a performance of “Hallelujah,” for which they are nominated for Video of the Year.

Dierks Bentley is nominated for Male Artist of the Year and Video of the Year for his song “Gone,” which we hope to hear since it’s inspired by quarantine and, frankly, something we all can relate to after the last year.

Music Event of the Year certainly has some strong contenders, but one of the standout nominations is for “Be A Light” by Thomas Rhett featuring Opry members Urban, Reba McEntire, recent Opry invitee Hillary Scott of Lady A and Christian artist Chris Tomlin. A collaborative performance of this one could be in the cards for the night.

Another collaboration we hope to see is longtime Opry member Blake Shelton and fiancé Gwen Stefani singing together. They made an appearance together last year, and since their song “Nobody But You” is up for Music Event of the Year also, marking Stefani’s first ACM nomination, we hope to catch some of their silky smooth harmonies.

Memorable Moments from 2020

In anticipation of Sunday night, we’re also taking a look back on the 55th ACM Awards, which took place on September 16, 2020. The ACMs also broadcast from the same historic venues, including the Opry House —  a first for the awards.

There was a stunning tribute to the women trailblazers of country in honor of the Opry’s 95th anniversary, in which Underwood sang a medley of songs from the likes of Loretta Lynn to Martina McBride. Kane Brown performed “Worldwide Beautiful,” which is nominated for Video of the Year this time around. Swift made her return to the country scene with an acoustic offering of “betty.” Miranda Lambert sang her Grammy-nominated track “Bluebird,” which is up for Song of the Year and Single of the Year, live from The Bluebird Cafe, where she’s been known to pick a tune. Luke Bryan, who will likely make an appearance as he is nominated for Entertainer of the Year, gave a rowdy rendition of “One Margarita.” Shelton and Stefani duetted —  something we hope happens again. We also saw performances from Maren Morris, Combs, Barrett and Florida Georgia Line, all who very well may make a return this year.

Tune in with Us!

To catch all the performances and watch the show live from the Opry, tune in to CBS at 8 PM EST (delayed broadcast for PT), on Sunday, April 18th. The awards will also be available for on-demand streaming via Paramount+. You can catch performances after the show on the Academy of Country Music’s website and YouTube. Be sure to grab a comfy seat, some friends and prepare to be immersed in pure country talent on Sunday night! We’ll meet you there.