It was a mix of old favorites and new blood at the 45th Annual Country Music Association Awards, as many acts on the show claimed their first trophies. The first award of the night was proof of this, as Republic Nashville's The Band Perry, the biggest winners of the night, notched their first ever win in the Single of the Year for their multi-format hit "If I Die Young." The tune also won Song of the Year honors for lead singer Kimberly Perry. But, their night was far from over. The trio had one more speech to make, winning the New Artist of the Year award.
Jason Aldean shocked many by walking away with Album of the Year for "My Kinda Party." It was also the first major win for Broken Bow Records, Aldean's label.
Not all the winners were first-timers, however. Sugarland claimed their fifth straight win in the Vocal Duo of the Year category. Lady Antebellum won the Vocal Group of the Year for the third straight year, and it was a repeat in the Male and Female Vocalist categories with husband and wife Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert reigning in their respective categories for the second straight year.
Reprising her win in 2009, Taylor Swift won the evening's biggest prize -- the Entertainer of the Year trophy. "One of my favorite things this year is the camaraderie of these artists," she said in her speech, alluding to the fact that acts such as Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw joined her on the concert stage at various times this year.
The awards kicked off in exhilarating fashion with Blake Shelton performing the 1980s classic "Footloose" with the song's original performer, Kenny Loggins. Shelton recorded the song for the recent theatrical remake. Other highlights of the night performance-wise were Miranda Lambert's fiery take on her funk-filled hit "Baggage Claim," the Zac Brown Band's stirring rendition of the classic "Georgia On My Mind," with special guest Gregg Allman, as well as Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban's tribute to Glen Campbell, who is in the midst of his farewell tour.
Speaking of tributes, in his first CMA appearance in a quarter-century, Lionel Richie performed a medley of his hits with Darius Rucker ("Stuck On You"), Rascal Flatts ("Dancing On The Ceiling"), and the same song he performed with Alabama in 1986 -- "Deep River Woman," with Little Big Town. The R&B legend will release Tuskegee, a duets album in March 2012. The night was also a return to the CMA stage for Faith Hill, who performed her just-released single "Come Home."
Humor also proved to be a key part of the awards, with hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood making light of the recent Hank Williams, Jr. - Monday Night Football controversy with a parody of his legendary theme song. The two were joined on stage by none other than Bocephus himself. The emcees also presented each other with mock gifts -- which turned out to be Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Barbie dolls -- which elicited a huge response from the crowd. Later in the telecast, 90-year old Little Jimmy Dickens appeared on the stage as if to parody Justin Bieber, announcing his "newest single," which he called "It Ain't My Baby, Baby," referring to the controversy surrounding the teen superstar.
In awards presented by Mercury's Laura Bell Bundy prior to the ABC telecast, Mac McAnally was named Musician of the Year for the fourth straight year. The Video of the Year statuette was presented to "You And Tequila" from Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter. Shaun Silva was the winning director of the clip, which was filmed in the Los Angeles hills. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson won the Vocal Event of the Year award for their "Don't You Wanna Stay."
The Broadcast Personality winners included Chuck Edwards and Linda Lee at WYCD / Detroit in the Major Market category, Chris Carr, Jeffrey "Maverick" Bolen, and Jason Statt for the "Chris Carr & Company," at WUBE, Cincinnati, Ohio in the large market category. Brian Pierce and Kellie Michaels from "Mornings with Brian and Kellie," at KFDI, Wichita won in the medium market category, and KCLR / Columbia, Missouri's Scotty Cox and Carissa Loethen won the small market prize. American Country Countdown's Kix Brooks took home the National Personality trophy.
Major market Radio Station of the Year winners included WYCD / Detroit for major market, WQDR / Raleigh-Durham for large market, KATM / Modesto for medium market, and KCLR / Columbia tallied in the small market field.
COMPLETE WINNERS LIST:
Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift
Single: "If I Die Young," The Band Perry
Album: "My Kinda Party," Jason Aldean
Song: "If I Die Young," Kimberly Perry
Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton
Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum
Vocal Duo: Sugarland
Musical Event: "Don't You Wanna Stay", Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
Musician: Mac McAnally
Music Video: "You and Tequila," Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter directed by Shaun Silva
New Artist: The Band Perry