NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kicking off the Country Music Association Awards was good luck for Florida Georgia Line: After joining Luke Bryan for the show's opening number, they won the night's first award, single of the year for their hit "Cruise."
Bryan and the duo of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard merged current hits "That's My Kind of Night" and "Cruise" on Wednesday night as Taylor Swift and a cheering crowd sang along.
Bryan and Florida Georgia Line are the year's most popular male acts in country with their booty-shaking, rock-flavored songs sometimes referred to as bro country.
After their performance, hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley took the stage with their opening skit, which joked about feuds in music. They got Bryan and Zac Brown to hug it out after their mild feud over song trends in Nashville. They joked about Juliette Hough's misguided blackface Halloween costume, urging Darius Rucker to start his own feud with the singer. They skewered Obamacare to a Nashville audience that roared with approval.
And, of course, they took a moment to poke fun at Miley Cyrus. Paisley thanked Swift "for never once humping a teddy bear or gyrating with Beetlejuice." Swift responded with an imaginary tip of the cap.
Then, they brought out the guys from the hit show "Duck Dynasty" and parodied "Blurred Lines," with Willie Robertson doing a little twerk for Underwood.
Swift already has two trophies after her "Highway Don't Care" collaboration with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban won musical event and music video of the year.
During the show, the CMA Awards doled out another award, song of the year, for Lee Brice's "I'd Drive Your Truck," about a fallen soldier whose father still drives his truck.
Swift and fellow lead nominee Kacey Musgraves are up for a leading six nominees.
Swift is nominated for her third entertainer of the year award, the night's top honor. She also is still up for album of the year and female vocalist. And though it won't show on her official tally for the night, the 23-year-old pop star will be presented with the CMA's Pinnacle Award. The award goes to artists who take country music to a worldwide audience. Garth Brooks is the only previous winner; he won in 2005.
Like Swift, Miranda Lambert has been a darling of the 6,000 CMA voters with seven trophies since 2010.
With smart songwriting, a progressive bent and a strong sense of self like country's other top women, Musgraves made an auspicious mainstream country debut this year with her album "Same Trailer Different Park." She's up for album, female vocalist, new artist and single of the year. And she scored two song of the year nominations for co-writing Lambert's hit "Mama's Broken Heart" and her own "Merry Go 'Round."
There's no safe money on the winners this year. But at some point voters will begin acknowledging the so-called bro country movement — typified by hunky dudes often wearing ball caps and tight pants. Platinum-tinged rising acts like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line rule the radio with coolers full of cold ones and good vibes.
Meanwhile, veteran George Strait is going for his third entertainer of the year award as he retires from the road, and Bob Dylan is the co-writer on song-of-the-year nominee "Wagon Wheel" with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.
Voters could easily make an argument for any of the five entertainer of the year nominees. Strait is the sentimental choice. Swift's popularity has helped expand the boundaries and fan base of country music. Blake Shelton is a five-time nominee who only seems to get more popular. Jason Aldean is about due for the award as a major architect of country's modernization and a touring titan. And Bryan is arguably country's hottest star after winning the rival Academy of Country Music's entertainer trophy in April.
Still to come were performances by Strait, joining Alan Jackson to salute the late George Jones, the Zac Brown Band will be joined by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, Hunter Hayes has invited Jason Mraz to perform during the three-hour show and most of country's biggest stars will take the stage.
The CMA also will pay tribute to Kenny Rogers.
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