It was a Blake & Miranda kind of night at the 46th Annual Country Music Association Awards, handed out in Nashville on Thursday night and airing live on ABC. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, the reigning King and Queen of Country music, swept the boards, taking home awards in four categories overall, including the big one: Entertainer of the Year, which went to Blake.
Accepting the trophy, an incredulous Blake said, "I'm not sure how this happened, but I freakin' love it!" He added that when he moved to Nashville in '94, he had only two goals: to get a gold record and join the Grand Ole Opry. Entertainer of the Year, he said, never crossed his mind. Noting that he's not been on the road as much due to his commitments to The Voice, Blake said he tries to represent country music as best he can, adding, "I love country music more than anybody in this room!"
In addition, Blake and Miranda became the first married couple ever to win the CMA Award for Song of the Year: they took home the trophy for co-writing Miranda's hit "Over You," inspired by the death of Blake's brother in a car crash. In an emotional acceptance speech, Blake said that years ago, his father had advised him to write about the loss of his brother. "I lost my dad in January," he continued. "It's amazing that tonight, after he's gone, he's still right." Miranda broke down in tears at the podium.
Finally, Blake and Miranda both three-peated in the Male and Female Vocalist categories. Revealing that he'd had a few drinks, the Voice coach expressed surprise at the win, saying that he expected Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan to take it. Miranda, too, seemed surprised, noting that she wasn't sure she "deserved" the award, adding, "But I'll take it!" Miranda also took a lot of time acknowledging her fellow nominees: Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood.
In the other categories, it was a night of firsts, with Little Big Town, Eric Church, Thompson Square and Hunter Hayes all taking home their first-ever trophies.
Nobody was more excited than Little Big Town, who were the first winners of the night: Single of the Year for "Pontoon." Referring to a bit at the opening of the show where Brad Paisley told his co-host Carrie Underwood the true meaning of a certain term used in that song, Karen Fairchild came to the podium and said, "Oh my stars, Brad Paisley! You just told my mama what 'motorboating' means!" When they won again, for Vocal Group of the Year, they literally jumped up and down at the podium and thanked Jesus numerous times. Kimberly Schlapman said, "Y'all, this has been a 13-year journey!"
Eric Church won Album of the Year for Chief, and he told the crowd, "I spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in…too country, too rock…I want to thank y'all for giving me somewhere to hang my hat." He did not remove his hat, or his sunglasses, during his acceptance speech. Thompson Square was named Vocal Duo of the Year, breaking Sugarland's five-year lock on the category. Shawna Thompson said she'd been preparing to accept a CMA Award since she was a kid, "practicing in the kitchen holding with one of my meemaw's Mason jars." A shocked Hunter Hayes was named New Artist of the Year.
Co-hosts Brad and Carrie drew plenty of laughs with their comedy bits, including a song that turned Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" into "Moves Like Haggard," poking fun at all the hell that country artists raise, including Randy Travis' recent escapades. They also poked gentle fun at Taylor Swift's brief romance with Conor Kennedy, but since the camera didn't cut to Taylor, we don't know if she was amused. The pregnancy of Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles pregnancy was also fodder for various jokes, including an announcement by Brad that they were going to induce labor right there, with "Dr." Little Jimmy Dickens overseeing everything. And the "motorboating" references also came fast and furious.
As host and performer, Carrie got to wear somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 different outfits, and looked fabulous in each one. It's up to the viewers to decide if her decision to sing her song "Blown Away" was appropriate in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, especially since she and Brad spent a lot of time sending their love out to to the hurricane's victims and requesting donations. Brad even performed a bit of Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" as a tribute to folks in New York, and threw in a New Jersey shout-out as well.
Here's a rundown of who performed what on the show:
Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Eric Church - "The Only Way I Know" Tim McGraw - "One of Those Nights" Miranda Lambert - "Fastest Girl in Town" Zac Brown Band - "Goodbye in Her Eyes" Dierks Bentley - "Tip It On Back" The Band Perry - "Better Dig Two" Eric Church - "Springsteen" Eli Young Band - "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" Taylor Swift - "Begin Again" Little Big Town - "Pontoon" Luke Bryan - "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" Hunter Hayes - "Wanted" Faith Hill - "American Heart" Brantley Gilbert - "Country Must Be Country Wide" Keith Urban feat. Zac Brown - "Georgia Woods" Brad Paisley - "Southern Comfort Zone" Carrie Underwood - "Blown Away" Jason Aldean - "Take A Little Ride" Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill - "Don't Rush" Kenny Chesney - "Come Over" Willie Nelson Tribute: -Lady Antebellum, "Always On My Mind/Crazy" -Blake Shelton & Keith Urban, "Whiskey River" -Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, "Good Hearted Woman" -Willie Nelson: "On the Road Again"