Blake Shelton was the big winner at the 46th annual Country Music Assn. Awards. The 36-year old Oklahoma native won three awards: Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year. He shared the latter prize with his wife Miranda Lambert, who won Female Vocalist of the Year for the third year in a row.
Shelton was an upset winner for Entertainer of the Year. He beat Taylor Swift, whose new album, Red, made headlines just yesterday for selling more copies in one week than any other album since 2002. Swift was vying to become the first woman to win Entertainer of the Year three times. That potential record-setting achievement was promoted three times during the three-hour telecast, a sign that she just might pull it off.
In accepting the award, Shelton said that winning Entertainer of the Year was never in his sights. "When I moved here, I had two goals, to someday have a gold record and to someday be a member of the Grand Ole Opry," he said. Shelton was presented the award by Reba McEntire, a fellow Oklahoman who won the prize in 1986.
Lambert and Shelton are only the second married couple to win Male and Female Vocalist of the Year in the same year. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were the winners in 2000. Lambert and Shelton have gone one better by winning the prizes three years in a row. In accepting his award, Shelton made note of his high-profile role on The Voice. "I know I have a side job, but country is still what I do."
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Lambert and Shelton also took Song of the Year for "Over You," which was a #1 country hit for Lambert in May. In an emotional acceptance speech, Shelton said "I lost my brother in a car wreck when I was 14 years old." After Shelton's music career took off, his dad urged him to write a song about his brother. His dad died in January.
Little Big Town also won two awards. Its sexy shuffle "Pontoon" took Single of the Year. The song topped the country chart for two weeks in September. The two-man, two-woman group also won Vocal Group of the Year. They broke Lady Antebellum's three-year grip on the award.
Eric Church's Chief took Album of the Year. The album entered both the pop and country charts at #1 in July 2011. The album's key hit was "Springsteen," a song about the rock icon. The hit was a finalist for Single, Song and Music Video of the Year. In his acceptance speech, Church noted, "I spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in—too country, too rock." He thanked the country community for embracing him.
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Hunter Hunter Hayes took New Artist of the Year. The 21-year old singer is the youngest male solo artist ever to win in the category. He swiped the title from Bryan White, who was 22 when he won in 1996 (when the award was called the Horizon Award). Hayes' "Wanted" was a #1 country hit in September.
Thompson Square, a husband-and-wife duo consisting of Keifer and Shawna Thompson, took Vocal Duo of the Year. They're the second married couple to win in this category. Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White took the prize in 1987. In accepting the award, Keifer said, "Being able to do it with your best friend is awesome." Thompson Square broke Sugarland's five-year lock on the award. Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" topped the country chart in April 2011.
"Feel Like A Rock Star," a duet by Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, was named Musical Event of the Year, an award for the top collaboration. The victory compensates for its so-so showing on the country chart. After a fast start, it peaked at #11, disappointing given their combined star power.
Toby Keith's video for his loopy smash "Red Solo Cup" won as Music Video of the Year. Keith won in the same category in 2005 with "As Good As I Once Was." Keith's novelty-edged single reached the top 15 on both the pop and country charts.
Guitarist Mac McAnally took his fifth consecutive award as Musician of the Year.
Willie Nelson won a special Lifetime Achievement Award which will be hereafter dubbed the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.