I’ve had a lot of good moments in the past four years — this one takes the cake!” That’s what an ecstatic, crying CARRIE UNDERWOOD said last night when she was crowned Entertainer of the Year at last night’s 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Carrie is the first solo female artist to take that title since SHANIA TWAIN did it in 1999. The last female act to win Entertainer of the Year overall were the DIXIE CHICKS in 2000. Carrie is now only the seventh female act in history to win the award, along with the Chicks, Shania, REBA MCENTIRE, LORETTA LYNN, DOLLY PARTON and BARBARA MANDRELL. She’s also now won the ACM Triple Crown: Top New Female, Top Female Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year.
Carrie’s win topped off a night that turned out to be very, very good for blondes. Not only did Carrie also win the Top Female Vocalist Award, but TAYLOR SWIFT took home the Album of the Year award for Fearless, JULIANNE HOUGH was named Top New Artist, and SUGARLAND — with blonde JENNIFER NETTLES on lead vocals — was named Top Vocal Duo, breaking BROOKS& DUNN’S 13-year winning streak in that category. And since we’re also counting RASCAL FLATTS’ frontman GARY LEVOX as a blonde, they won Vocal Group of the Year for a record seventh time, breaking ALABAMA’s previous record of six straight wins.
Taylor and Jennifer Nettles also won special “Crystal Milestone” Awards for their individual accomplishments: Taylor for selling the most albums of any artist this year and bringing country music to a younger audience, and Jennifer for being the first woman ever to write, solo, a song that was named the ACM Song of the Year — “Stay.” Oh, and LeAnn Rimes — another blonde — won the Home Depot Humanitarian Award.
As for the non-blondes, BRAD PAISLEY was named Top Male Vocalist, but he accepted via satellite from home, where he and wife KIMBERLY are awaiting the birth of their second child. JAMEY JOHNSON’s “In Color” was named Song of the Year, while TRACE ADKINS’ “You’re Gonna Miss This” was named Single of the Year. Accepting the award, Trace said he didn’t think the song would ever be a single, because he figured nobody would be able to relate to it and radio would never play it. He added, “Glad I’m an idiot! Thank you very much!”
The Las Vegas setting evidently inspired all the performers to step up their game, with high-concept production numbers and collaborations. The show kicked off with BROOKS & DUNN performing “Play Something Country,” punctuated by introductions of, respectively, Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, all singing snatches of their own big hits in the middle of the number. All the artists came together at the end to finish the song.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift teamed up with magician DAVID COPPERFIELD to craft an eye-popping entrance to her performance of “You’re Not Sorry” — Copperfield made Taylor appear in a seemingly-empty elevator suspended above the stage. MILEY CYRUS took the words of her song “The Climb” literally, traveling up to the top of the arena via a motorized staircase. And Trace Adkins gave everyone goosebumps with his stirring rendition of “‘Til The Last Shot’s Fired,” backed up by the West Point Glee Club. The performance is now available on iTunes, with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Here’s a rundown of some other memorable moments from last night’s show:
–During host Reba McEntire’s opening monologue, she joked that noted marijuana fan WILLIE NELSON was teaming up with Olympic star and fellow marijuana fan MICHAEL PHELPS to record a country album of DOOBIE BROTHERS songs.
–Carrie Underwood brought down the house by singing “I Told You So” in a dress that made her look she was erupting out of a wine-colored volcano — the skirt was a mass of yards and yards of material that bloomed out from her waist and nearly covered the stage.
–MIRANDA LAMBERT got a great response when she debuted her new single “Dead Flowers.” Other performances the audience really seemed to enjoy: JAMEY JOHNSON’s “In Color,” LEE ANN WOMACK’s “Solitary Thinking,” Sugarland’s “What I’d Give,” JOHN RICH’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye,” and HEIDI NEWFIELD’s “Johnny & June,” which she sang surrounded by a literal “Ring of Fire” as flames shot up around her onstage.
–When Taylor Swift won Album of the Year, she was seen in the audience screaming, jumping up and down and hugging KELLIE PICKLER.
–While accepting Top Male Vocalist from home, where he was awaiting the birth of his second child, Brad Paisley pointed to his hero, 88-year-old LITTLE JIMMIE DICKENS, sitting next to him on the couch and said, “Well, as you can see, we had the baby. It’s kind of a Benjamin Button thing.”
–While presenting Entertainer of the Year, MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY told a story about how, in Texas in 1987, he told a girl he was GEORGE STRAIT’s personal bootmaker and had his new line of boots out in the car. After she begged to see them, Matthew said, he “got lucky that night” and thanked George directly for his good fortune. Right afterwards, Carrie Underwood won Entertainer of the Year, and in her speech, she said, “Matthew, I wanna see those boots!” Cue much laughter and applause.
–When Carrie Underwood accepted the Top Female Vocalist award, she said, “It is my belief that country music makes the world a better place.” She added, “I feel like I just won American Idol all over again.”
Here are the winners from last night’s 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which took place in Las Vegas:
Entertainer of the Year: Carrie Underwood
Top Male Vocalist: Brad Paisley
Top Female Vocalist: Carrie Underwood
Top Vocal Group: Rascal Flatts
Top Vocal Duo: Sugarland
Top New Artist: Julianne Hough
Top New Male Vocalist: Jake Owen
Top New Female Vocalist: Julianne Hough
Top New Duo or Vocal Group: Zac Brown Band
Album of the Year:Fearless, Taylor Swift
Single Record of the Year: “You’re Gonna Miss This,” Trace Adkins
Song of the Year: “In Color,” Jamey Johnson
Video of the Year: “Waitin’ On a Woman,” Brad Paisley
Vocal Event of the Year: “Start a Band,” Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
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