Kelly Clarkson Wows Dolly Parton in ACM Awards Tribute

This was one of the night's high points, for sure.

Written by Chris Parton
Kelly Clarkson Wows Dolly Parton in ACM Awards Tribute
Kelly Clarkson; Image Courtesy of Academy of Country Music

Kelly Clarkson delivered a shining tribute to a country legend (and the night’s distinguished co-host) at the 2022 ACM Awards, serenading the great Dolly Parton.

Performing a vocal masterclass on Parton’s iconic “I Will Always Love You,” Clarkson took on the role of a classic Vegas songstress that was all-too fitting, especially since the show took place in the beating heart of Las Vegas. Surrounded by ruby sparkles and draped in a black velvet dress, the superstar needed almost nothing to wow the crowd — just incomparable ability and a grand piano.

Never going over board, but letting her vocal smoke show rise and fall with the song’s emotional wounds, she captured all the sadness, grief and undying devotion of Parton’s words with effortless ease. And then, finally letting loose with those high notes made famous by Whitney Houston, she ended the song with the entire Allegian Stadium in stunned silence, her eyes closed.

Parton herself emerged from the wings of the stage to show her admiration, and in true Dolly fashion, she didn’t hold back. “That’s so great. I know Whitney is smiling down on us tonight,” she said. “I was backstage trying not to cry by false eyelashes off.”

Marking the first time a major country awards show aired exclusively as a live stream, the 57th annual ACM Awards took place on Monday (March 7) at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. Co-hosted by Dolly Parton with Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett, the show featured more than 20 performances and was carried by Amazon Prime Video.

Clarkson’s Dolly tribute was first announced on the superstar’s daytime TV talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, with a surprise segment on February 23. Check out full coverage of the 2022 ACM Awards here, including a list of the night’s winners.