The trio — Kimberly Perry and brothers Reid and Neil — took home the new artist prize, but more significantly picked up single and song of the year honors for their chart-topping “If I Die Young.”
Taylor Swift reigned as the entertainer of the year, and Jason Aldean won in two categories at the 45th annual awards show. His My Kinda Party was named album of the year, and he and Kelly Clarkson shared the musical event honor for their collaboration on “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”
Other winners included Miranda Lambert (female vocalist), Blake Shelton (male vocalist), Sugarland (vocal duo), Lady Antebellum (vocal group) and Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter (video of the year for “You and Tequila” ).
Although all three members of The Band Perry shared the stage in accepting all three of their awards, technically, the song of the year award went only to Kimberly Perry, the sole writer of “If I Die Young.”
“I truly believe that ‘If I Die Young’ would have been written with or without me,” she said in accepting the song of the year trophy. “It just always felt like a song that was meant to be here. But I’ll tell you this, I was so excited to have the pen and paper in hand when it was ready to come to earth.
“I want to thank the fans of country music again. Your stories have changed our lives. Thank you, country radio, for allowing this song to be heard and giving it a shot. I want to thank my brothers who play it alongside me night after night. They are the backbone of The Band Perry. And, of course, our parents, Marie and Steve Perry. We are their labor of love. They’ve always encouraged our writing.”
Swift, who won the entertainer of the year award in 2009, has toured relentlessly following last year’s release of her Speak Now album.
“I’m so happy right now!” she told the crowd. “Thanks to all the fans who filled up those stadiums and arenas all over the world this year. … This is amazing!
“One of my favorite things about this year is the camaraderie between all these artists that I just make a phone call and I say, ‘Hey, do you want to come sing with me.’ And there were a lot of artists who showed up and, just out of the goodness of their heart, came out and performed for the fans at my shows. And I’d like to thank those artists, and I need to remember all of them —
Tim McGraw, Justin Bieber, Hot Chelle Rae, Nicki Minaj, Ronnie Dunn, Haley Williams, T.I., Shawn Colvin, Switchfoot, B.o.B., Tal Bachman, Kenny Chesney, Jason Mraz, Ellen DeGeneres, Andy Grammer, Jimmy Eat World and Usher. Thank you for coming out and playing for my fans. I’m so happy we had so many to play for this year. You have made my year. Thank you so much!”
Aldean’s two wins are his first-ever CMA Awards. Accepting his album of the year award, he thanked his management company, record label and booking agent before expressing special gratitude to his record producer, Michael Knox.
Referring to Knox as “a longtime friend who’s like my big brother,” Aldean added, “This is the guy who found me in a club in Atlanta, Ga., and brought me to town 13 years ago and has made every record I’ve ever done. And I definitely wouldn’t be here without this guy right here.”
In winning the male and female vocalist awards for a second consecutive year, it was a significant night for Shelton and Lambert, who were married in May.
“I really didn’t prepare anything to say at all,” Shelton told the audience. “I didn’t think y’all would let me get away with this two times.”
Later in the evening Lambert echoed her husband’s sentiments.
“I did not expect to get this at all,” she said. “I had a great year last year, and I’m very, very humbled at this moment to be standing up here in front of these amazing females who are here and deserve it … more than I do. Thank you, country music fans. Congrats to my hubby, too. It’s gonna be a good night tonight, baby!”
Lady Antebellum led the vocal group field for the third straight year.
“Wow, there is no way we can be singled out amongst this group,” band member Dave Haywood said of the other nominees. “For all the groups in the category this year, this is incredible to be in the same list.”
Sugarland won for the fifth consecutive time in the vocal duo category and dedicated this year’s award to their fans in Indianapolis. Seven people died and more than 40 were injured when a storm struck the Indiana State Fairgrounds and toppled the stage just prior to the duo’s Aug. 13 concert.
“I would love to dedicate [this] to them this year,” Jennifer Nettles said. “Thank you to the good folks of Indiana. This is for the fans.”
“I don’t know if I even belong in the same phone book as the rest of these guys I’m nominated with, but I’m mighty grateful.”
In terms of the musical performances, Shelton and Kenny Loggins kicked off the show with “Footloose” to set the bar high for several other collaborations that followed. Loggins co-wrote and recorded the song for the 1984 movie of the same name, and Shelton sings it on the soundtrack of the recently-released film remake.
Other collaborations included the Zac Brown Band‘s soulful version of “Georgia on My Mind” with surprise guest Gregg Allman, along with Rascal Flatts and British vocalist Natasha Bedingfield’s performance of the band’s latest single, “Easy.” Sugarland teamed with singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson for “Run,” Chesney and Potter did a particularly effective all-acoustic performance of “You and Tequila” and awards show hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood sang their duet, “Remind Me,” for the first time on national television.
In preparation for the March release of an album featuring remakes of his past hits, Lionel Richie was joined by Little Big Town on “Deep River Woman,” Darius Rucker on “Stuck on You” and Rascal Flatts on “Dancing on the Ceiling.”
Clearly, the most emotionally-charged collaboration of the night came when Vince Gill, Keith Urban and Paisley shared the stage in a tribute to Glen Campbell, who is currently on a farewell tour after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. With Campbell in the audience, songwriter Jimmy Webb played piano in the band while the three country superstars performed three iconic hits Webb wrote and the Country Music Hall of Fame member recorded in the ’60s.
Gill began the tribute with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” followed by Urban’s rendition of “Wichita Lineman” and Paisley’s take on “Galveston.” Campbell came to the stage and grabbed an acoustic guitar at the end of “Galveston” but did not sing.
Urban, who has canceled several appearances after being diagnosed with a polyp on his vocal cords, was in surprisingly strong voice during the Campbell tribute and his solo performance of his single, “You Gonna Fly.”
Swift’s performance of “Ours” was particularly refreshing — just her sitting on a couch with an acoustic guitar. For an awards show, it was a genuinely brave move. Lacking the theatrics of some of her previous awards show appearances, it underscored her basic talents as a gifted singer-songwriter.
In her first CMA Awards performance in five years, Faith Hill introduced her new single, “Come Home.” American Idol winner Scotty McCreery appeared to captivate fans with “Walk in the Country,” and Luke Bryan raised the energy level with “Country Girl (Shake It for Me).”
Other performers included Lambert (“Baggage Claim”), Aldean (“Tattoos on This Town”), Lady Antebellum (“We Owned the Night” ), The Band Perry (“All Your Life” ), Martina McBride (“I’m Gonna Love You Through It” ), Sara Evans (“A Little Bit Stronger” ), Eric Church (“Drink in My Hand”), Thompson Square (“Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” ) and Chris Young (“Voices” ).View photos from the CMA Awards.