In a night that was short on surprises, Blake Shelton had one big moment that injected a shocking new name into the proceedings at the 44th annual Country Music Association Awards and helped keep some parity in his future family.
As expected, Blake’s fiancee, Miranda Lambert, won Album of the Year from the CMA for Revolution, and she added to her first-time haul by picking up Female Vocalist and the Music Video trophy, for “The House That Built Me.”
Not surprisingly, Blake’s “Hillbilly Bone,” a collaboration with Trace Adkins, also swiped the Musical Event of the Year. But when Blake took Male Vocalist of the Year in the show’s final hour — well, who the heck saw that coming?
Certainly not Blake, who stood in a surreal state of disbelief before he stomped up the steps at the Bridgestone Arena to claim his prize.
“It’s about 34 years worth of steps right there for me, y’all,” Blake said once he got the microphone. “This is a really big deal for me.”
“Oh! Shake it up, CMA!” Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles exclaimed in the press room as the storyline played out on backstage monitors.
Prior to this year, neither Blake nor Miranda had won a CMA trophy. Now they’ve got five between them as they look toward a 2011 wedding. And their relationship produced one more victory — for the appropriately titled “The House That Built Me” — which brought Song of the Year honors to composers Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin. Miranda first heard the song when she was in a car with Blake, and he ceded it to her because of her instant emotional connection.
“Revolution has truly caused a revolution in my life this year, thanks to the country music industry,” Miranda told the audience. “It’s my baby, it’s what I do. It’s what I live for. Thank you so much for lovin’ it, too.”
Not that Blake and Miranda were all that the CMA loved. Brad Paisley, who co-hosted the show with Carrie Underwood, won his first Entertainer of the Year award. Sugarland won Vocal Duo of the Year for the fourth straight time, the Zac Brown Band walked away with New Artist, and Lady Antebellum took home two trophies: Vocal Group and Single of the Year, for “Need You Now.”
“Need You Now” had already claimed Single Record and Song from the California-based Academy of Country Music in the spring. And the Need You Now album has gone triple-platinum. Just 12 months ago, Lady A won the CMA’s Single of the Year for “I Run To You.”
The interim has been “the most incredible year of our lives,” Charles Kelley observed at the podium.
The awards are meaningful not just to the performers, but to the people behind the scenes, too, which was part of the reason Brad delivered such an emotional speech as he took the Entertainer of the Year award.
“My hero Little Jimmy Dickens has a saying, and that’s if you see a turtle on a fence post, it had help gettin‘ up there,” Brad said. “I feel just like a turtle on a fence post at this point.”
The awards also hold some meaning for the people who carried the banner before the current crop of stars. The house was littered with Country Music Hall of Fame members, including Ferlin Husky, Bill Anderson, Alabama’s Randy Owen and Mark Herndon, George Strait and Vince Gill, who backed Gwyneth Paltrow during her live debut as a country singer.
Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn was also on hand, joining Miranda and Sheryl Crow in a performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the title track from a Loretta tribute album that was released on Tuesday. Backstage, Loretta gave her seal of approval to the night’s biggest winner.
“Nobody in country music,” she observed, “is more country than Miranda.”