Morgan Wallen was named Male Artist of the Year at the 2023 ACM Awards on Thursday night (May 11). The singer was not there in person to collect his trophy, which presenter and show co-host Garth Brooks accepted on his behalf.

"We all know what it takes to win this award, to win it is one thing, to not be here to get it must be killing him, so let's celebrate for Morgan Wallen," Brooks said from the stage.

Wallen was originally scheduled to attend the 2023 ACMs — in fact, he was a scheduled performer — but he had to cancel his performance after being placed on vocal rest for six weeks.

Leading up to show night, it wasn't clear whether or not Wallen would attend the ceremony and simply sit out his performance, or whether he would skip the event altogether.

Other contenders in the Male Artist category included Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Kane Brown, Jordan Davis. Prior winners mixed with talented first-timers in this year's roster of nominees, and in a category that's been anybody's game in recent years — a different singer has won every time for the past three years of awards shows — there was no clear favorite going into the 2023 ACMs.

Despite some scandals and personal events that have complicated Wallen's star status — including the racist slur incident that kept him out of the running at most major awards shows in 2021 — it's impossible to deny that the singer was a deserving contender in the Male Vocalist category at the 2023 ACM Awards. In 2022, Wallen toured nonstop, playing out the songs on his Dangerous double album that had come out a year prior.

He also worked hard on new music, an effort that paid off earlier this year when the 36-track One Thing at a Time album arrived.

Wallen's win at the 2023 ACM Awards marks the first time he's taken a victory in a traditional artist category, though Dangerous won Album of the Year at last year's show. The singer has a chance to take home one more massive trophy on Thursday night: He's nominated for Entertainer of the Year.

The 2023 ACM Awards streamed live on Amazon Prime Video. Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton co-hosted the show, marking the first time the two living legends have worked together on an event of this kind, and the first time that Brooks has ever hosted a major awards show.

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