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Sometimes the old and new guard in country music don’t always see eye to eye. But in the end, the biggest winners at the 47th annual CMA Awards tonight (Nov. 6) came from totally different generations.
George Strait walked away with the big prize, the Entertainer of the Year award, an acknowledgment of his incredible contributions to the format and his ability to still sell out massive tours with the best of them. “This means the world to me. I appreciate it.” It was George's third EOTY win and first since 1990.
On the other end of the spectrum, the young duo Florida Georgia Line was among the night’s most decorated winners, earning trophies for Single of the Year for the unstoppable “Cruise” as well as Vocal Duo of the Year. FGL’s Tyler Hubbard said it had been an “unbelievable year” for him and partner Brian Kelley.
Also winning multiple awards was Tim McGraw's collaborative effort with Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, “Highway Don't Care,” for Video of the Year and Musical Event of the Year. Additionally, Blake Shelton copped two of the big ones, continuing his ownership of the Male Vocalist category for a fourth straight year and upsetting the competition in the Album of the Year category for Based on a True Story . . . “If there was one award that would mean the most to me, it would be album of the year,” he said at the podium. Blake’s wife, Miranda Lambert, continued her Female Vocalist of the Year streak as well.
Other winners for the evening included New Artist Kacey Musgraves, Vocal Group of the Year Little Big Town (who were bestowed their honor from odd couple Kellie Pickler and Sean “Diddy” Combs), and “I Drive Your Truck” for Song of the Year. Singer Lee Brice praised its writers, saying, “The first time I heard it, [it] blew my mind.”
For her amazing, globe-conquering success, Taylor Swift was honored with the CMA’s Pinnacle Award, which Garth Brooks also won back in his heyday. A special video was shown, with Taylor's praises sung by Mick Jagger, Ethel Kennedy, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Timberlake and many more. “You’ve made me feel so special right now!” exclaimed Taylor.
Show hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were superb, hilariously riffing on everything and not steering away from the tough stuff. Their bit about feuds led to Luke Bryan (who opened the show with “That’s My Kind of Night”) and Zac Brown hugging it out on camera.
They also went after Miley Cyrus (Carrie: “Twerking is, well, have you ever been to a Luke Bryan concert?” Brad: “I thought those were mini-seizures!”), Obamacare (to the tune of “Amarillo by Morning”) and Robin Thicke's inescapable “Blurred Lines” with a Duck Dynasty cameo.
Standout performances included Kacey Musgraves, glowing in yellow as she sang “Follow Your Arrow,” even if they wouldn't let her say the word “joint”; Taylor Swift backed by Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Sam Bush on a stripped-down, chamber-music arrangement of “Red”; Zac Brown Band’s jam with Dave Grohl on spooky new song “Day for the Dead”; Luke Bryan singing the poignant “Drink a Beer” with Chris Stapleton before raising his own beer to a backdrop photo of his deceased brother and sister; and, without a doubt, George Strait and Alan Jackson saluting George Jones on “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Interestingly, Taylor noted in her Pinnacle Award acceptance speech that said she learned to “play the songs your fans want to hear” when she toured with George Strait as a teenager. Hey, maybe the different generations can get along after all.