In addition to being named top female vocalist, Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” netted wins as video, single and song of the year. Lady Antebellum received top vocal group honors and also won in the album of the year category for their triple-platinum Need You Now.
The Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson shared the vocal event win for their collaboration on “As She’s Walking Away.” Brad Paisley chalked up his fifth consecutive win as top male vocalist, Sugarland grabbed their second vocal duo award and The Band Perry was crowned top new artist.
Lambert and Paisley both expressed bewilderment over their wins in the female and male vocal categories.
“I don’t know why I’m up here. I feel so blessed, so humbled,” Lambert told the crowd. “I love country music fans. Thanks for coming out to the shows, and thanks for believing in me. I love y’all so much.”
“I’m honestly shocked,” Paisley said. “This is way too many of these for me. I’m so thankful to the fans of country music for this shot to do this for a living. I’m so proud of the other nominees. I’m friends with all of you. I don’t even want to know how close the voting was on this. I don’t know who got paid what.
“No, I’m kidding,” he laughed. “I’m kidding. It’s all very fair. Thanks to the Academy. You’ve been so good to me.”
“The House That Built Me” also provided wins for songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, record producers Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke and video director Trey Fanjoy and producer Trent Hardville.
In accepting the album of the year trophy, Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley joked about Lambert’s string of wins.
“Thank you, Miranda Lambert, for winning this last year and not being in the category this year,” he said. “That really helps a lot.”
Returning to accept the vocal group award, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott acknowledged the generosity of others.
The success of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” made them the favorite in the fan-voted top new artist category.
“We are a family band here in The Band Perry,” Kimberly Perry said. “So first of all, my brothers and I would like to thank our fantastic parents, Marie and Steve Perry. Thank you to the beautiful fans of country music. Thank you so much for lending us your ears and hard-earned dollars. We are so humbled by this. Our songs belong to you, absolutely.”
And while jokes have been made about Taylor Swift saying she never expects to win any awards, she didn’t say that in accepting the entertainer of the year honor. However, she did seem genuinely surprised to hear Ryan Seacrest announce her name Sunday night.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won this, and I’m just losing my mind,” she said. “The fact that this is from the fans makes it so beautiful. … We just got back from Asia and Europe on tour. Thank you for this wonderful welcome home gift, and thanks for not forgetting about me. The fact that this is from the fans, you’re the best thing that has ever happened to me — ever.”
This marked the first year the ACM Awards were televised from two separate venues. The main awards show took place at the MGM Grand. Hosts Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton were shuttled down the street to the nearby Mandalay Bay resort where Sugarland headlined the first annual ACM Fan Jam.
Paisley opened the show at the MGM Grand with his latest single, “Old Alabama,” inspired by the music of the band of the same name. With the founding members of Alabama already announced as performers, it was no huge surprise when Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry arrived onstage to help Paisley finish the song.
Nor was it a surprise when Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Rihanna performed the pop star’s latest single, “California King Bed.” And the Zac Brown Band’s collaboration with James Taylor on their latest single, “Colder Weather,” and the singer-songwriter’s “Sweet Baby James” had been announced in advance, too.
The shocker — and perhaps the most exciting performance of the evening — came when Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler showed up onstage to help Carrie Underwood sing her edgy single, “Undo It.” Dressed in a white, floor-length coat, Tyler underscored his reputation as one of rock music’s most charismatic performers while prompting Underwood to put some additional fire in her already-soaring vocals. They followed it up with Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” It was a hard act to follow, which makes you wonder why the moment transpired so early in the show.
In one of the most eagerly anticipated segments, Ronnie Dunn offered his first televised solo performance after Brooks & Dunn’s 2010 farewell tour. He made his mark with “Bleed Red,” the first single from his upcoming album.
Darius Rucker was joined by a group of participants from the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp program to perform “Music From the Heart.” The young people with developmental disabilities wrote the song with Nashville-based songwriters Brett James and Chris Young.
In addition to their hosting duties, McEntire sang “When Love Gets a Hold of You” and Shelton introduced his new single, “Honey Bee.” Lambert offered a spirited version of “Heart Like Mine,” Sugarland delivered “Tonight” and Swift, playing a six-string banjo, got into an acoustic mood with “Mean.”
The awards show also featured performances by Jason Aldean (“Dirt Road Anthem”), Dierks Bentley (“Am I the Only One”), Eric Church (“Smoke a Little Smoke” ), Sara Evans (“A Little Bit Stronger” ), Toby Keith (“Somewhere Else”), Martina McBride (“Teenage Daughters”), The Band Perry “If I Die Young” and Keith Urban (“Without You” ).View photos and more coverage from the ACM Awards in Las Vegas.