At Thursday night’s (Nov. 1) ceremony at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Shelton received his
first trophy as entertainer of the year, as well as his third consecutive male vocalist of the year award. Lambert won her
third straight female vocalist award, and the couple shared one of the night’s most prestigious honors — the song of the
year award — for co-writing her hit, “Over You.”
Big Town also won in two categories — vocal group and single of the year (for “Pontoon”).
Other winners included Eric Church (album of the year for Chief),
Thompson Square (vocal duo), Hunter
Hayes (new artist) and guitarist Mac McAnally (who won his fifth consecutive
award as musician of the year). Earlier in the day, the winners in two categories were announced on ABC’s Good Morning
America. Kenny Chesney and Tim
McGraw shared the musical event award for their collaboration on “Feel
Like a Rock Star.” Toby Keith and director Michael Salomon also shared
the music video prize for “Red Solo Cup.”
In accepting their
awards, Shelton and Lambert each managed to show their appreciation while expressing their love of country music and, perhaps
even more notably, their peers within the industry.
Perhaps the award that meant the most was the song of the year
win for the song they co-wrote about Shelton’s late brother, Richie.
“I lost my brother in a car wreck when I was 14
years old,” Shelton told the crowd. “Later in life, when I decided I wanted to be a country singer, my dad always told me,
‘Son, you should write a song about your brother.’ I lost my dad in January, and it’s so amazing to me that tonight — even
after he’s gone — he’s still right. I just needed the right person to write this song with and the right person to sing it.”
accepting her female vocalist trophy, Lambert said, “Holy crap. I don’t necessarily deserve this, but I’ll sure take
Then she spoke about the emotional nature of “Over You.”
“I didn’t say anything for song of the year because
it was a huge, huge dream of mine to write the song of the year,” she said. “And I never thought I’d get to, especially celebrate
it with my husband.”
“I’ve been listening to Red all week long. It’s freakin’ awesome, Taylor,” she said. “I was at
Carrie Underwood’s rehearsal yesterday and she sang ‘Blown Away’
three times in a row — and it blew me away. And I’m sitting here looking at Kelly Clarkson. I sang with her onstage in Colorado,
and I wanted to crawl in a hole and die after that. … I just talked to Martina, and she invited me to her house. I grew
up with her records and tried to hit even one note she ever sang — and it’s impossible.
“So I can’t believe I’m standing
up here holding this right now. But I’m going to try to represent for all the females who want to be up-and-comers and that
want to just get their country voice out there. There’s room for all of us girls. … We’re going to stick together and get
our country voices heard.”
In accepting his other awards, Shelton alluded to the fact that he hasn’t toured extensively
during the past year because of his involvement with the NBC series, The Voice. However, it’s likely that his visibility
on the talent competition and other TV talk shows swayed CMA voters to cast their ballots for him in the coveted entertainer
of the year category.
“When I moved to Nashville in 1994, I had two goals,” he said. “One was to someday have a gold
record, and one was to someday be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Entertainer of the year … what is this? I don’t even know.
I know I’m not out there on the road. Oh, my gosh. Taylor Swift? I know I’m not out there as much. And I don’t know how this
happened. I freakin’ love it, though. Listen, I try to represent country music as best I can with everything I do. It’s television,
it’s touring. It’s a lot of things. I love country music more than anybody in this room. Thank y’all so much. I love y’all.”
winning their first-ever CMA awards, Little Big Town member Kimberly Schlapman noted, “This has been a 13-year journey.”
living proof that if you work really, really hard and you chase your dream, all the good stuff happens and it follows you,”
bandmate Karen Fairchild added.
Church won his first CMA trophy, too, and he indicated that the album of the year victory
means he has a place in country music.
“I’ve spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in — too country, too
rock,” he said. “I want to thank you guys for giving me somewhere to hang my hat tonight.”
Thompson Square, the husband-and-wife
duo of Shawna and Keifer Thompson, ended Sugarland’s five-year run as duo
of the year.
“Ever since I was about 5 years old, I used to practice in the kitchen with one of my mawmaw’s Mason jars
for this moment right here,” she said while onstage.
“This is one of the coolest things we’ve ever experienced,” he
noted. “Being able to do it with your best friend, it’s awesome.”
Hayes, a 21-year-old Louisiana native, was initially
at a loss for words after hearing his name announced as the CMA’s new artist of the year.
“I don’t even know what to
do right now,” he said. “Oh, wow! I want to say, thank you, Lord, for letting me do what I do and what I do every day. Thank
you to the amazing fans. Thank you to my family. They’re here tonight. My mom and dad have done so much to get me right here.
Thank you, guys. … Amazing. This is awesome.”
The awards show, hosted by Underwood and Brad
Paisley, is often used by artists and record labels as a platform to introduce new music. Thursday night was no exception.
Jason Aldean opened the show with a message of support to East
Coast fans who are victims of Hurricane Sandy and then had Church and Luke
Bryan join him for “The Only Way I Know” from his new album, Night Train.
McGraw performed “One of Those Nights,” the first single from upcoming album, Two Lanes of Freedom. Taylor Swift
offered “Begin Again” from her just-released Red. The
Band Perry previewed “Better Dig Two,” a rough-edged song from trio’s second album, set for release early next year. And
Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill provided one of the evening’s musical highlights
with “Don’t Rush,” their duet which will be featured on her upcoming album, Greatest Hits — Chapter One. Other newer
songs included Faith Hill’s “American Heart” and Paisley’s “Southern Comfort
Keith Urban and Zac
Brown teamed up to perform “Georgia Woods,” a song featured on his 2010 album, Get Closer. Church delivered “Springsteen,” which featured a brief portion of the Boss’ “Born to
Other performances were provided by Lambert (“Fastest
Girl in Town”), Underwood (“Blown Away”), Hunter Hayes (“Wanted”),
Aldean (“Take a Little Ride”), Bryan (“Kiss
Tomorrow Goodbye”), Little Big Town (“Pontoon”), the Zac Brown Band (“Goodbye in Her Eyes”), Dierks
Bentley (“Tip It on Back”), the Eli Young Band (“Even
if It Breaks Your Heart”), Brantley Gilbert (“Country
Must Be Country Wide”) and Kenny Chesney (“Come
The music ended with an all-star tribute to Willie Nelson,
who received the CMA’s first lifetime achievement award named in his honor. Lady
Antebellum began the medley with “Always on My Mind” and “Crazy.” Shelton and Urban followed with “Whiskey River,” accompanied
by Nelson’s longtime harmonica player, Mickey Raphael. Hill and McGraw sang “Good Hearted Woman” before Nelson joined all
of the musicians onstage for one of his signature songs, “On the Road Again.”