Swift won the coveted entertainer of the year honor, and Lambert picked up a female vocalist trophy and the album of the year honor for her fourth album, Four the Record Aldean and Clarkson’s collaboration on “Don’t You Wanna Stay” netted them wins in the single record of the year and vocal event categories.
Lambert’s husband, Blake Shelton, was named male vocalist. Other winners during the telecast include Lady Antebellum (vocal group) and Scotty McCreery (new artist). Song of the year honors went to “Crazy Girl,” written by Lee Brice and Liz Rose and recorded by the Eli Young Band. Prior to the awards show, the video of the year award went to Toby Keith, producer Mark Kalbfeld and director Michael Salomon for “Red Solo Cup.” During an event Saturday (March 31), Thompson Square received the ACM’s vocal duo award.
In accepting the entertainer of the year award, Swift said, “I want to say to my fellow my nominees in this category, I respect you so much, and I love you. We work hard, and we try to give back. Recently, I became aware of a different struggle that’s going on.”
“My date tonight was supposed to be a high school football player named Kevin McGuire. And he’s not here, but I promised I’d give him a shout-out. Kevin and all your family and friends, thank you for wanting to take me to the ACMs.”
She invited the 18-year-old high school senior from New Jersey to the awards show after his sister orchestrated a major campaign on Facebook for the singer to accompany him to his prom. The youth, who is fighting cancer, was forced to cancel his trip to Las Vegas when he was hospitalized following chemotherapy and radiation treatment last week.
Album of the year is another major honor at any awards show, and Lambert cited the quality of the other nominees in the category — Aldean’s My Kinda Party, Eric Church’s Chief, Kenny Chesney’s Hemingway’s Whiskey and Lady Antebellum’s Own the Night.
“I own every record in this category, and I’ve been listening and listening, thinking, ’Man, I’m not gonna get it,'” she said. “Every record is amazing, and I’m so thrilled, I will never take this trophy for granted. My albums are my babies. They’re what make me wake up in the morning.”
The success of Aldean’s collaboration with Clarkson is no doubt a contributing factor in her decision to record a country version of her pop hit, “Mr. Know It All.” Aldean said the idea of adding her to his recording of “Don’t You Wanna Stay” evolved while he was working on his My Kinda Party album.
“When we were in the studio, we had this song and I kind of brought the idea up,” he said in accepting the single record of the year award. “I kind of thought it needed a female vocal on it. Kelly was the first name I threw out. And I’m really glad I did. She came in and made a great song — just took it to a new place.”
Clarkson told the audience, “Thank y’all so much for welcoming me from the pop world.”
Perhaps the most newsworthy performance was Chesney and Tim McGraw introducing their duet, “Feel Like a Rock Star.” According to CMT Radio, the song was written by Chris Tompkins and Rodney Clawson and will be the first single from Chesney’s new album, Welcome to the Fishbowl, set for release June 19. Chesney and McGraw will also be performing together at stadiums this summer during their Brothers of the Sun tour.
In terms of a high energy level, the winning performance was the Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley teaming up for “Whiskey’s Gone.” During the telecast, the Zac Brown Band had already performed “Keep Me in Mind” at the ACM Fan Jam at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and Paisley had delivered “Camouflage” at the main awards show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The band was already roaring through “Whiskey’s Gone” when Paisley, wearing a skull cap similar to Brown’s preferred headwear, nudged things up a notch with his blistering guitar playing.
Of course, people will be talking about Martina McBride and Train frontman Pat Monahan singing “Marry Me” during an actual wedding ceremony. Tying the knot were Christina Davidson and Frank Tucci, a New Jersey couple whose spouses died in 2009.
Other noteworthy moments included Bono of U2 providing a video introduction to Dierks Bentley’s performance of “Home.” Rascal Flatts were joined by actor, comedian and banjo player Steve Martin on their current single, “Banjo,” although Martin’s banjo skills were not extensively showcased on the show. Toby Keith walked through the audience singing his novelty hit, “Red Solo Cup,” with a guest appearance by Carrot Top.
Newcomer Hunter Hayes performed his single, “Storm Warning,” and introduced Little Big Town’s performance of “Here’s Hope,” he wrote to call attention to child hunger. Little Big Town melded the song with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Other performances were provided by Lambert (“Over You” ), Aldean (“Fly Over States” ), Shelton (“Drink on It”), McCreery (“Water Tower Town”), Chris Young (“Save Water, Drink Beer”), Keith Urban (“For You” from the Act of Valor soundtrack), Brantley Gilbert (“Country Must Be Country Wide” ), Eric Church (“Springsteen”), Lady Antebellum (“Dancin’ Away With My Heart”), Sara Evans (“My Heart Can’t Tell You No” ) and Luke Bryan (“I Don’t Want This Night to End” ).
Shelton and Lionel Richie closed the show with “You Are,” a track they recorded for Richie’s new album of duets, Tuskegee.View photos from the ACM Awards.