Kenny Chesney was the top winner Wednesday night, taking home the entertainer of the year award for the second year in a row at the annual Country Music Association Awards.
However, as was the case last year, no single act dominated the awards, billed as “country music’s biggest night.”
Brad Paisley and George Strait went into the evening with five nominations each and both carried home trophies. Strait was a surprise winner for album of the year, and Paisley finally won best male vocalist after multiple losses over the years.
“I always wanted to win this just once, and this will do,” the wisecracking Paisley said before launching into a list of “thank you’s” that included a nod to his father for carrying sound equipment “even though he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Paisley was also won the best video award for his hit “Online.”
Another double winner was former “American Idol” Carrie Underwood, who did a repeat this year in the best female vocalist category. She also won the coveted single of the year for “Before He Cheats.”
“Here I go again, the water works have started,” Underwood said after her vocalist win over acts like Reba McEntire and Alison Krauss. “If you had told me a few years ago that I would be nominated with the people I was nominated with, I’d have told you you were insane.”
Though several acts teared up on stage, the night’s most moving moment came when Kellie Pickler dropped her blond ditz act, strode on stage in a stunning red dress and sang the heck out of an autobiographical tune about the mother who abandoned her. By the song’s end, the former “American Idol” contestant became so emotional, she had to cover her face and struggled to get the words out. The crowd ate it up, however.
A disbelieving 17-year-old high school student named Taylor Swift won the Horizon Award. In accepting the trophy, Swift earned laughs by announcing “This is the highlight of my senior year!”
Presumably washed up Tracy Lawrence won for musical event of the year, with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, against a slate of red hot acts like Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire.
Sugarland, essentially an opening act for everybody else in the industry, won best duo over mainstays Brooks & Dunn and crowd favorite Big & Rich.
The show, which had a projected audience of 36 million, was heavily promoted as the first-ever awards show performance by the Eagles, something that made sense considering the success of the band’s latest song “How Long” on the country charts. The group’s set went off without a hitch, with their classic harmonies in perfect sync.