Lady Antebellum getting an award from KISS, in full makeup? Ashton Kutcher singing a George Strait classic? Toby Keith singing a duet with Carrot Top? Bono introducing a number from “my friend, Dierks Bentley?”
No, it wasn’t some crazy dream — it was just another night at the Academy of Country Music Awards, held Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Taylor Swift took home her second straight Entertainer of the Year trophy, and for once, she didn’t make her famous “surprised face” — probably because co-host Blake Shelton made fun of it earlier in the evening. Accepting the award, Taylor gave a shout out to Kevin McGuire, the leukemia-stricken teen who was supposed to be her date for the show, but who had to be hospitalized and wasn’t able to make it.
“Kevin and all your family and friends, thank you for wanting to take me to the ACMs,” she said. As for the award, she said, “I’m so happy about this!” and thanked her band and fans. Taylor is the second woman ever to win this award twice: the first was Carrie Underwood.
It was also a good night for country’s current power couple, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. Miranda took home the Album of the Year trophy for her disc “Four the Record,” and it’s the third time she’s won that particular award. The only other artists who’ve won it that many times are Alabama and George Strait.
“Seriously?” asked an unbelieving Miranda when she got onstage. “I’m so thrilled. I will never take this trophy for granted. My albums are my babies. It’s what makes me wake up in the mornings.” Miranda also once again picked up the award for Female Vocalist, and while accepting that honor, she said, “I really am so humbled; I don’t know what to say.” She added, “Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this gift I can share will all my fans.” Hoisting the trophy, she declared, “I’m so proud of country music and I love us all. We deserve this!”
Blake, meanwhile, was named Male Vocalist of the Year, and he was so surprised, the only thing he could say initially was “Holy crap!” Noting that he’d been thinking of the lyrics of Dierks Bentley’s song “Home,” he added, “It’s been a long hard ride, and got a ways to go, and that’s still how I feel man, but I’m proud to take this home tonight.”
Lady Antebellum took home the Vocal Group of the Year award, but other winners were unexpected: the Eli Young Band won Song of the Year for “Crazy Girl,” while Thompson Square was named Vocal Duo. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson won two trophies for their duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay”: Vocal Event of the Year and Single Record of the Year. “Thank you so much for welcoming me from the pop world,” said the world’s first “American Idol.” And speaking of that, the reigning “American Idol,” Scotty McCreery, was named Top New Artist, while another “Idol” alum, Carrie Underwood, opened the show with her new hit “Good Girl.”
Kenny Chesney was the leading nominee going into Sunday night’s show, with a whopping nine nods, but he went home empty-handed. Still, Kenny got his moment in the spotlight: he and Tim McGraw, his partner on the upcoming Brothers of the Sun summer tour, debuted their new collaboration “Feel Like a Rock Star,” the first single from Kenny’s upcoming album “Welcome to the Fishbowl.”
“You busted your ass all week and now it’s your time to be/Whatever you wanna be/You can dress to kill, shoot to thrill, try to seal the deal,” sang Tim and Kenny. “Whatever makes you feel like a rock star.”
The much-hyped live wedding between real-life couple Christina Davidson and Frank Tucci took place onstage as planned, with the two saying their vows in the background, while Martina McBride and Train’s Pat Monahan sand a duet of “Marry Me” in front of them. The audio of the ceremony was faded down while the two sang, but the audience did got to hear the couple say “I do” — or in this case “I will” – and the official pronounce them husband and wife, adding, “Now, you may kiss your bride!”
Blake and Reba McEntire kept the performance-packed show — 24 in all, if you were counting — moving along, and got off a few good jokes in the opening. They poked fun at Randy Travis’ DUI arrest and Tim Tebow’s alleged date with Taylor Swift, among other things, and also took some potshots at each other.
“When I first met you, you were just the life support system for a mullet,” Reba told Blake. “I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of your early career … until we got the History Channel,” Blake shot back.
Here are some of the additional performance highlights from Sunday night’s show:
Blake and Lionel Richie closed the show with a duet of Lionel’s classic “You Are.” It was a preview of the upcoming Lionel Richie special that will tape Monday night and air April 13 on CBS. It features top country stars paying tribute to the legendary entertainer, as well as some duets.
Toby Keith sang his smash “Red Solo Cup” while walking through the audience, and they were all waving red Solo cups, of course. At one point, Las Vegas entertainer Carrot Top joined him in his walk and the two sang together.
Brad Paisley performed “Camouflage,” and also joined the Zac Brown Band for “Whiskey’s Gone.” Brad was sporting the same knit cap as Zac during the performance.
Introducing the Female Vocalist of the Year category, Ashton Kutcher, in full country regalia, sang — badly – a few bars of George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart.” He should not quit his day job.
Comedian and actor Steve Martin joined Rascal Flatts onstage, playing the banjo on the song “Banjo,” of course.
Miranda Lambert sang the ballad “Over You,” which Blake Shelton introduced as being “the most personal and important song in our lives together.”
Sara Evans performed her version of the 1988 Rod Stewart pop hit ‘My Heart Can’t Tell You No.” She was introduced by Latin pop star Marc Anthony, with whom she’ll perform “Endless Love” at the Lionel Richie special taping Monday night.
Dierks Bentley sang “Home,” which was introduced via video by U2 front man Bono, who declared himself a fan and said, “When he sings ‘Home,’ I feel patriotic about America, and I’m not even American!”
Keith Urban performed “For You,” his song from the movie “Act of Valor,” about Navy SEALS.
Other performances included Jason Aldean’s “Fly Over States,” Eric Church’s “Springsteen,” The Band Perry’s “Postcard from Paris,” Blake Shelton’s “Drink on It,” Chris Young’s “Save Water, Drink Beer” and Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want this Night to End.”