Swift, Lambert big winners at Academy of Country Music Awards
The 47th Academy of Country Music Awards became a mini-reality show of its own on Sunday in Las Vegas: There was a bona fide onstage wedding, the surreal meeting of cartoonish hard rock band KISS and country trio Lady Antebellum, and Toby Keith singing a loopy love song to a plastic beverage container with help from Wayne Newton and Carrot Top.
The offbeat moments shared the stage with multiple award-winners Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson and the announcement of the night's top honor, entertainer of the year, which went to Taylor Swift.
“Thank you so much to the fans who voted for this, I am so happy about this,” said Swift, who also received the award last year. “I want to say to my fellow nominees: I respect you so much. I love you.”
Texas-bred singer and one-time “Nashville Star” contestant Lambert added two more ACM Awards to her mantel, taking female vocalist and album of the year honors.
After her fourth album, “Four the Record,” was selected over efforts by Kenny Chesney, Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Eric Church, Lambert came to the stage in a floor-length gold lame dress and asked, “Seriously? I own every record in this category and I've been thinking ‘Man, I'm not going to get it.' … I am so thrilled, I will never take this trophy for granted. My albums are my babies.”
“Don't You Want to Stay,” the hit duet by Aldean and the first “American Idol” winner, Clarkson, won for single record and vocal event of the year. Aldean said Clarkson had been his first choice as a duet partner: “She made a great song and took it to a new place.”
“Man … I didn't see that coming at all,” Shelton said, then quoted lyrics from another singer's song, Dierks Bentley's “Home.” “I was backstage repeating the lines to Dierks' song, ‘It's been a long hard ride, I got a ways to go' and that's how I feel. I'm so proud to take this home tonight.”
A more recent “Idol” singer, Scotty McCreery, scored the new artist award, his “Idol” exposure bolstering his fan recognition level, a factor in the new artist category in which the ACM allows the public to vote. Fans also get a voice in the choice of entertainer of the year.
The Eli Young Band's hit “Crazy Girl,” an affirmation of love through hard times written by Lee Brice and Liz Rose, won for song of the year.
“Holy cow, I have dreamed about this moment my whole life,” lead singer Mike Eli said, before thanking his wife and their soon-to-be-born child.
Actor, comedian and banjo enthusiast Steve Martin joined Rascal Flatts for its song “Banjo,” delivered as a tribute to bluegrass music pioneer Earl Scruggs, who died Wednesday at 88 of natural causes. Scruggs was given a standing ovation.
KISS took over this year where Aerosmith's Steven Tyler had stepped in last year to add a dash of '70s rock to the evening, revealing Lady Antebellum as the ACM's vocal group winner.
“This is crazy,” group member Charles Kelley said as he and band mates Hillary Scott and Dave Heywood collected their trophies while flanked by the rock quartet in full makeup, big hair and costumes. “Look, Mom,” Kelley shouted into the microphone, “KISS!”
In a more serious moment with a rock star, U2 singer Bono introduced Bentley's performance of “Home,” saying the song inspired him to feel patriotic for America “and I'm not even American. … But America is not just a country, it's an idea.”
A Las Vegas minister presided over the wedding of Christina Davidson and Frank Tucci, conducted while Martina McBride and Pat Monahan, singer for Bay Area rock band Train, performed Train's “Marry Me” (which McBride also has recorded). Davidson and Tucci both lost spouses in 2009, met at a support group in New Jersey and accepted ACM producers' invitation to be married on television.
Left at the altar, however, was Chesney, who came into the show with nine nominations but left empty-handed.
Shortly before the wedding segment, Keith invited Las Vegas regulars Newton and comedian Carrot Top along while he sang his novelty hit “Red Solo Cup.” (His video for that song got the video of the year award.)
The show concluded with pop-R&B star Lionel Richie drawing from his new country-leaning duet album “Tuskegee,” singing a remake of his 1983 hit “You Are” with Shelton. Many of the country acts in Las Vegas for the ACM Awards were scheduled to stick around Monday to tape a tribute to Richie that CBS plans to air April 13.
It wasn't the only plug for other CBS programming. Beth Behrs from the series “2 Broke Girls” presented the song of the year award, and Ashton Kutcher from “Two and a Half Men” presented Lambert with the female vocalist trophy.
The show tilted heavily toward performances, with the musical productions outnumbering envelope-ripping three to one. The ACM show also encourages featured musicians to look forward, most presenting new singles rather than their nominated songs.
The Academy of Country Music is the West Coast counterpart to the Nashville-Based Country Music Assn., which hosts its annual awards ceremony each fall in the country music capital.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: Taylor Swift accepts the award for entertainer of the year at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday in Las Vegas. Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill