Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett tie for top prize at ACMs

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Carrie Underwood accepts the entertainer of the year award in a tie with Thomas Rhett during the 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In surprise twist that fit an unexpected year of firsts, Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for entertainer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, the first time the top prize has been split between two artists.

Underwood and Rhett seemed equally taken aback after host Keith Urban announced the tie at the awards show held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday.

“Keith, what is happening right now?” Rhett asked, astounded, before thanking his family. Underwood appeared right after him remarking, “2020, man?” before adding, “I am more than happy to share this with Thomas Rhett.”

The show on CBS had been delayed for months because of the pandemic, moved from Las Vegas to Nashville for the first time and held without audiences in empty venues. There was a lot of anticipation for the show, which featured Taylor Swift making her first appearance at the ACMs in seven years.

Underwood's win is her third total in that category and Rhett's first win. They beat out other nominees Eric Church, Luke Bryan and Luke Combs. Coincidentally, a woman hasn't won that award since 2011 when Swift last won it. Swift delivered a simple acoustic performance of “betty” from her new album “Folklore,” on a darkened Opry House stage.

Combs still went home a winner by picking up album of the year and male artist of the year. After amassing tremendous streaming numbers and nine consecutive No. 1 country radio hits, Combs thanked fans for their support from the Bluebird Cafe.

“This is a lot to process right now, I just can’t believe this,” Combs said. “I just want to thank everybody in my life, my team, my beautiful wife and the fans. You guys have done everything for me. ”

Country group Old Dominion won song of the year and group of the year, and band members Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi earned additional individual awards as songwriters for “One Man Band.”