Story by Vernell Hackett
Taylor Swift’s new single, “Mean,” is a swipe at all her naysayers and critics. But tonight at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, there were only good vibes as she took home the fan-voted trophy for Entertainer of the Year.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won this and I’m losing my mind,” Taylor said. “The fact it is from the fans makes it even more special. You are best thing that has ever happened to me, ever. Thank you so much.”
Before presenting the Entertainer of the Year award to Taylor, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest told the audience, “Everyone is saying this has been a great night for country music, but I disagree. I think it has been a great night for American music.”
Later in the press room, Taylor said winning the night’s top award has such special meaning for her because all her heroes have also won it. “So many of them have taken me under their wing,” said Taylor, “like Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, George Strait … and then you look back to people like Shania Twain and Garth Brooks, who are two people I’m in awe of and are people I think of when I think of ‘entertainer.’ To know that I’m mentioned in the same breath with them is mind boggling.”
Actors Reese Witherspoon and Rob Pattinson were recently in Tennessee shooting their new movie Water for Elephants, and since Reese is a Nashville native, she was a perfect choice for presenter. The two presented Miranda Lambert with the Top Female Vocalist award – but not before Twilight star Pattinson admitted what he liked best about Tennessee – “the moonshine.”
Hearing her name called, Miranda graciously exclaimed, “I don’t know why I’m up here. I’m so blessed and so humble, and I thank God for giving me the blessing of living my dream. I love country music and I thank my fans.”
Miranda was the top winner of the night, taking home four awards: Top Female Vocalist; Single and Video of the Year; and she shared Song of the Year honors with writers Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.
Later backstage, Miranda admitted, “I’m still excited from last year. I just expected to come here and chill and be happy to be here, because last year was such a great year. I feel so humble. I can’t express how blessed I feel.”
Miranda’s brother, Luke, was her date for the evening because “my fiancé was obviously busy,” she added.
Brad Paisley took home the Top Male Vocalist award for the fifth year in a row – a slight surprise, considering the high-profile year ACM Awards co-host Blake Shelton has had. Even Brad said he thought Blake did a good job and he expected Blake to win.
“Blake is scheduled to go out on tour with me,” said Brad, “so when I came off stage after accepting the award, he came up to me and said ‘I ain’t going.’
“This win felt almost like the first time I won, which the first time you never think you’re gonna win,” continued Brad. “Then by last year I didn’t think I’d win, and this year I was sure I wouldn’t. So this year was a real emotional thing for me.”
Miranda announced the Album of the Year winner, practically screaming when she saw that her friends Lady Antebellum had won with Need You Now. The excited trio took to the stage to accept their award, with Hillary Scott proclaiming, “We want to thank God, and our friends and families for the support you give us on the road…and the fans. We love you.”
Backstage in the press room, Lady A’s Charles Kelley joked he was glad Miranda hadn’t been up for Album of the Year. “We are all friends in this and we are lovers of great music and she made a great record,” he said, turning serious. “For us to win Album is the ultimate for an artist, because it’s a large body of work that we spent a lot of time working on.”
Eagle-eyed reporters noticed a sparkling ring on Hillary’s left hand. But she assured the press, “I am not engaged. When you wear fancy jewelry like this, you wear it on the finger where it fits, and this is just where it fit!”
The trio also received the Top Vocal Group award, for which Hillary thanked every artist who’d ever given them an opening act slot.
The Top Vocal Duo of the Year award went to Sugarland. “We are really excited because it’s all about the acceptance of our peers,” said Jennifer in a phone call to the press room. She also explained her suddenly-shoulder length hair. “It’s all about fun at the awards shows,” she said. “I wanted something different, wanted to feel glamorous. There’s no secret meaning in my hair.”
The second fan-voted category of the night was Top New Artist, which went to The Band Perry, who promptly thanked their parents and the “beautiful fans of country music.” Later in the press room, they talked about how important it was to honor their mother and father.
“It’s been a labor of love for our parents – they are our greatest fans and our greatest critiques,” Kimberly Perry said. “Mom still comes out with us, and our dad does too when he can get off. When we were just starting out we didn’t know anything and our dad asked a million questions. They are our greatest partners.”
Two awards were presented just before the awards show tonight. GAC’s Suzanne Alexander presented Video of the Year to Miranda Lambert for “The House that Built Me” (directed by Trey Fanjoy) and GAC’s Storme Warren presented the Vocal Event of the Year award to Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson for “As She’s Walking Away.”
But tonight wasn’t only about the awards – it was also full of electrifying performances. Brad Paisley and Alabama collaborated on Brad’s current single “Old Alabama.” “It was awesome for me, oh my goodness,” said Brad. Back when I first approached Randy Owen to co-write the song with me, and explained to him the concept of it, he looked at me and said ‘That sounds great; I had no idea anybody cared anymore.’
“I told him he was about to find out, and for me, I hope this makes their iTunes sales spike a little bit. I’m proud I was an unofficial member with them for a while.”
Other noteworthy performances included Carrie Underwood’s duet with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler on “Undo It” and “Walk This Way;” Keith Urban’s sweet performance of “Without You;” Taylor Swift’s “Mean;” and Sara Evans’ “A Little Bit Stronger,” which earned her a standing ovation.
What were YOUR favorite performances of the night? Let us know by leaving a comment below!