Fans and industry members voted Taylor Swift as the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year at Sunday night’s 46th annual ACM Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, while televised on CBS. Swift played her new single, “Mean,” the sharp-tongued response to some of her haters, playing on a fake backwoods front porch with accompaniment from an old-style string band with fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and a six-string banjo.
“For me, with the entertainer of the year award, I see the face of Shania [Twain] and Garth [Brooks] and my heroes,” she told PEOPLE after snagging the honor. “To be among them – it just means so much.”
Lady Antebellum also took major ACM awards with top vocal group and album of the year for the multiplatinum song “Need You Now.” The Band Perry, a bluegrass-rooted family trio, was voted in as overall best new artist over best new solo artist winner Eric Church.
For his part, Brad Paisley seemed genuinely surprised when he won best male vocalist over Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, George Strait and Keith Urban. In the moments after the announcement he seemed taken aback by being named as country’s top male voice, as if the award was too much. (Paisley opened the show with “Old Alabama,” a song that found him borrowing lines from Alabama’s “Mountain Music.”)
“I am honestly shocked. This is way too many of these for me,” he said of his fifth consecutive trophy in the category. “I don’t want to know who got paid what,” he quipped, quickly adding, “No, it’s all very fair.”
Award shows tend to be as much about the performances as the actual awards — or even more so. The ACM awards pushed the envelope more than most… at the 45-minute mark there had been seven songs without a single award being handed out. Hoping a genre-crossing appeal will improve ratings and possibly expose non-country fans to the music, producers paired Rihanna with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles for a performance of Rihanna’s latest single, “California King Bed.” While the two had obvious chemistry, their voices didn’t blend so well.
The crowd at the MGM arena jumped to its feet when Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler joined Carrie Underwood for a rendition of her heavy rock tune “Undo It” and Aerosmith’s classic “Walk This Way.” But when Tyler sang, “So I gave her just a little kiss, like this,” she pulled away at the last second and grinned.
The show also teamed veteran singer-songwriter James Taylor with the Zac Brown Band for a performance segment and lined up Ryan Seacrest, actress Reese Witherspoon and “Twilight” actor Robert Pattinson to be among the award presenters. Miranda Lambert made the most trips to the podium, earning four awards last night, honored as best female vocalist, and her hit single “The House That Built Me” was named both single and song of the year. The song snagged video of the year as well.
Entertainer of the year nominee Aldean even worked a couple of country rap interludes into his “Dirt Road Anthem.” Among the awards handed out before Sunday’s telecast, Reba McEntire was honored for career achievement and Swift collected the Jim Reeves International Award, which recognizes country performers who spread the music worldwide. The Tex Ritter Award that goes to movies that emphasize country music went to the Gwyneth Paltrow starring “Country Strong.” Garth Brooks took another ACM Award, even though he released no new recordings during the eligibility period, as one of two recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award, which also was given to Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers.
McEntire hosted the show for the 13th time, bringing Blake Shelton on to co-host with her. Much of the pair’s banter during the show centered on Shelton learning to do the job, which he handled for the most part with ease and humor, while taking a jab at Miley Cyrus.
“Eric Church has a big hit this year with ‘Smoke a Little Smoke,’” Shelton, 34, told the audience. His punch line? “I heard it was about Miley Cyrus.”
Shelton also poked fun at Swift’s breakup with Jake Gyllenhaal, and made low blows to LeAnn Rimes’ marriage issues. However, a Charlie Sheen joke did sneak its way in there eventually when Blake said that the MGM Grand was so big it would take Sheen forever to trash it. He then noted that since that statement was “not a joke,” he didn’t break the “no Charlie Sheen” rule that was playfully put into effect at the beginning of the ceremony.
Full list of 2011 ACM Winners:
- Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift
- Top Male Vocalist of the Year: Brad Paisley
- Top Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
- Top Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland
- Top Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum
- Album of the Year: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
- Single of the Year: “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
- Song of the Year: “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
- Video of the Year: “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
- Vocal Event of the Year: “As She’s Walking Away,” Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
- Top New Artist: The Band Perry
- Career Achievement Award: Reba McEntire
- Jim Reeves International Award: Taylor Swift
- Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award: Garth Brooks, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers
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Images Via: WENN