Brad Paisley and Keith Urban joined Carrie Underwood on stage for the rousing opener “Songs Like This” – and so the 44th annual Country Music Association Awards got off to an amazing start on Wednesday, November 10th.
The first award of the night, Single of the Year, went to Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” their second straight win in the category. Next up was Song of the Year, which went to the songwriters; “The House That Built Me,” recorded by Miranda Lambert, took home the prize for songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.
Paisley and Underwood kept the music flowing all night with little musical interludes, and performances took place throughout Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, like Blake Shelton’s performance of “All About Tonight,” at the end of the arena opposite the main stage. There was also plenty of comedy with stars like Little Jimmy Dickens.
Birthday girl Lambert debuted “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round,” while the “King of Country” George Strait performed the latest hit in his 35-year career, “The Breath You Take.” Kenny Chesney took the stage to perform his ode to the gridiron, “The Boys of Fall,” and Taylor Swift debuted the song “Back to December” from her new album Speak Now.
Reigning New Artist of the Year Darius Rucker presented this year’s award to one of the hottest group’s in country music, Zac Brown Band. They were then joined on stage by country legend Alan Jackson to perform their latest number one song, “While She’s Walking Away.”
More performances came from the likes of Sugarland (“Stuck Like Glue”), Urban (“Put You in a Song”), Jason Aldean and his duet partner Kelly Clarkson (“Don’t You Want To Stay”), Kid Rock (“Born Free”), Lady A (“Hello World”), and The Band Perry (“If I Die Young”).
Unique performances on the evening included Reba McEntire’s rendition of Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy,” Paisley’s musical tribute “This is Country Music,” Underwood’s beautiful “Mama’s Song,” Dierks Bentley’s bluegrass revival “Up on the Ridge,” Lambert and Sheryl Crow teaming up for a “Coal Miner’s Daughter” tribute to Loretta Lynn with Lynn herself, and Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s country music debut with Vince Gill on “Country Strong,” the theme from her upcoming movie with Tim McGraw.
The big winners on the night were Lady A, who added Vocal Group of the Year to their Single of the Year award; Shelton (Lambert’s fiancé), who took home Male Vocalist of the Year and Musical Event of the Year with Trace Adkins for “Hillbilly Bone;” Lambert, who took home Album of the Year for Revolution, Music Video of the Year for “The House That Built Me,” and Female Vocalist of the Year; and Paisley, who took home the coveted Entertainer of the Year award.
Other winners on the night were Mac McAnally for Musician of the Year and Sugarland for Vocal Duo of the Year.
Author’s note: on my picks earlier in the week, I went 9 for 12.