CMA Awards 2014 Recap: Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert Win Big

Luke Bryan
Terry Wyatt/FilmMagic

 Luke Bryan accepts the Entertainer of the Year Award during the 48th annual CMA awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Luke Bryan took home top honors at the 48th annual Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 5), winning for Entertainer of the Year.

"I've never met Garth Brooks before," the singer said of the man who presented him with the trophy. "Can I have another hug?" he asked. Brooks obliged, while Bryan thanked his team and family while accepting his very first CMA Award.

CMA Awards 2014: And the Winners Are…

And if there was any doubt who the dominant female artist in the format was, Miranda Lambert answered those questions loud and clear, adding four trophies to her growing collection. Lambert claimed the first award presented during the ABC telecast, winning Single Record of the Year for "Automatic." In accepting the award, she thanked radio and said "the song has a very special place in my heart." She would strike again during the next hour with a win for Album of the Year for Platinum.

There will have to be a little more mantle space at the Lambert-Shelton household, as both Lambert and her husband earned their fifth straight Female and Male Vocalist trophies, respectively. In winning her fifth, Lambert surpassed Reba McEntire and Martina McBride for most wins in the category, and Shelton tied Vince Gill and George Strait with his win. Gill won the prize from 1991-1995, while Strait took the prize home in 1985 and 1986 and again from 1996-1998. Shelton dedicated the honor to 1980s hitmaker Earl Thomas Conley, an artist he has long cited as one of his biggest influences, with whom he co-wrote "All Over Me," one of his earliest singles, from 2001.

Lambert's fellow Texan, Kacey Musgraves, earned a surprise nod in the Song of the Year category with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally for "Follow Your Arrow" -- which, with a peak of No. 43, was the only Song of the Year winner to not make the top 40 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. The win marked her second CMA trophy after winning New Artist of the Year in 2013. Her successor in the latter category was Brett Eldredge, who was equally moved and shocked at his win. "I remember a few years ago, I was dreaming at what it would be like to be up here," he said.

One group that knows how it feels to be at the winners' podium is Florida Georgia Line, who earned a repeat victory in the Vocal Duo of the Year category. Little Big Town also defended their category, taking the Vocal Group of the Year prize for a third straight year.

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley scored points in their opening monologue with an emotional "farewell" to Strait with a mock version of his classic "The Cowboy Rides Away," referencing the singer's final tour, which came to an end in June. Another topic in the opening was Taylor Swift's move away from the format, with the two claiming that Nashville is still reeling from an epidemic known as "Postpartum Taylor Swift Disorder." Paisley quipped that "President Obama doesn't care," to which Underwood replied "I'm pretty sure that's why the Democrats lost the election," referring to Tuesday's midterms. The pair then launched into a parody of "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," to which Paisley stated to Swift that "If you ever want to come back, there's a seat for you. It's Blake Shelton's. We'll kick him out."

Performance-wise, the night was kicked off by four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney, who performed his recent Billboard No. 1 single "American Kids." That segued into Meghan Trainor's collaboration with Lambert on the smash pop hit "All About That Bass." Lady Antebellum added a saucy version of their most recent smash single "Bartender," while their Capitol labelmate Keith Urban showcased his vocal and guitar prowess on "Somewhere In My Car." The Band Perry gave a bouncy nod to Glen Campbell with a cover of John Hartford's standard "Gentle On My Mind." Tim McGraw scored with a version of "Shotgun Rider," the current single from his acclaimed Sundown Heaven Town disc.

Just a few minutes after winning Song of the Year for "Follow Your Arrow," Musgraves added one of the highlights of the night with "You're Lookin' at Country," in which she was joined on stage by the original artist behind the song -- the legendary Loretta Lynn -- in front of a replica of the Grand Ole Opry barn. Another collaboration included new Opry members Little Big Town with pop princess Ariana Grande on her pop hit "Bang Bang." Overall, perhaps the best pairing of the night belonged to Shelton and the enchanting Ashley Monroe with "Lonely Tonight," which appears on his Bringing Back the Sunshine disc.

Underwood gave her "Something in the Water" single a powerful reading, set against a backdrop of water, while Paisley connected with the audience with "A Perfect Storm," which earned him a standing ovation. Later highlights in the evening included The Doobie Brothers' medley of hits, which included Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott and Hunter Hayes. The veteran rockers have been making the Nashville rounds this week with the release of Southbound, a new disc that features countrified collaborations of their '70s hits.

The Bridgestone Arena crowd also rose to their feet for Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill, who was presented with the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence for his many career achievements, capping off a week where the iconic singer was named a BMI Icon and also had a statue dedicated to him at his alma mater, Northwest Classen High School, in Oklahoma City.

A few awards were handed out prior to the telecast. Mac McAnally won his record seventh straight trophy for Musician of the Year. Earlier in the day, on Good Morning America, the Musical Event of the Year award was presented to Lambert and Urban for their collaboration "We Were Us," while Dierks Bentley carried home the Video of the Year prize for his "Drunk on a Plane" clip, which was directed by Wes Edwards.

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