Singers Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan led the winners at the Academy of Country Music awards on Sunday, while leading nominees Taylor Swift and Hunter Hayes came away empty-handed in a night honouring top achievers in country music.
Swift, 23, lost out on all five categories she was nominated in including Female Vocalist of the Year and the fan-voted Entertainer of the Year, a surprise for the country music favourite who won the award for the last two years.
Newcomer Hayes, 21, who was nominated in six categories, also went home empty-handed.
The night’s top award Entertainer of the Year went to the show’s co-host Bryan, 36, a surprise to the charismatic host who said he had only just started headlining shows.
“What I always wanted to be is just a country singer who got to ride on a tour bus and perform every night. … This is the defining moment of my life, it means the world to me and I’ll never take it for granted,” Bryan said tearfully.
Lambert, 29, picked up four awards in three categories, including Female Vocalist of the Year, beating Swift, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves and Martina McBride.
Lambert also won Song of the Year for “Over You,” written with husband Blake Shelton, who was co-hosting the ceremony, and thanked her peers for recognizing her song-writing talents.
“As a songwriter having your songs and your lyrics recognized by your peers is pretty much as good as it gets. … Thank you for accepting me as a songwriter and not just as a singer, that means the world to me,” Lambert said.
Shelton, who married Lambert in 2011, thanked his wife for making him a better song-writer.
“I used to think I was a decent songwriter until I started hanging out with her (Lambert) and she taught me so much,” Shelton said in his acceptance speech, pulling his wife in for a big hug.
Jason Aldean bested Bryan, Shelton and one of the night’s top nominees Eric Church for the Male Vocalist of the Year award, while Church picked up Album of the Year for his 2011 chart-topping record “Chief.”
The Academy of Country Music is an organization of music industry professionals who aim to promote and preserve the tradition of country music, and they vote for the top country music achievers for their annual awards ceremony.
The three-hour show televised on CBS featured performances from old and new names in country music including Church, Dierks Bentley, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Lambert, who performed “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
“The Voice” judge Shelton joined co-host Luke Bryan to kick off with a rendition on Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here,” on which they were also joined by Sheryl Crow.
Oklahoma native and former “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood, who was nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, performed her single “Two Black Cadillacs” while fellow “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson sang “Don’t Rush.”
Following ACM awards tradition of pairing veteran and new artists together, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban sang with Swift on “Highway Don’t Care,” while Brad Paisley and John Mayer teamed up to perform “Beat This Summer,” ending with a crowd-rousing guitar riff.
Hayes performed with Motown legend Stevie Wonder on Hayes’ new single “I Want Crazy” and Wonder’s song “Sir Duke.” Wonder closed out the show with his classic track “Signed. Sealed. Delivered.”
Singer Reba McEntire introduced a tribute to late television host and producer Dick Clark, with country music artists George Strait and Garth Brooks singing Brooks’ “The Dance” and Strait’s “Cowboy Rides Away.”
Newcomer duo Florida Georgia Line, formed by Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, picked up the fan-voted award for New Artist of the Year and performed their hit single “Cruise” on the show.
Husband-wife duo Thompson Square won Vocal Duo of the Year, while Alabama group Little Big Town won Vocal Group of the Year.