It was a night of new victors and returning champions at "The 45th Annual CMA Awards" Wednesday night in Nashville. Taylor Swift won her second CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy. Newlyweds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton won Female Vocalist and Male Vocalist for the second consecutive year. Jason Aldean won his first two CMA Awards for Musical Event of the Year with Kelly Clarkson, and Album of the Year for My Kinda Party. The Band Perry won their first Awards for Single of the Year for "If I Die Young" and New Artist of the Year. Kimberly Perry claimed an additional trophy for Song of the Year for penning the hit song. Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter won for Music Video of the Year. Lady Antebellum picked up their third trophy for Vocal Group of the Year, and Sugarland won Vocal Duo of the Year for the fifth time.
Swift won the Horizon Award (now New Artist of the Year) in 2007 and was named Entertainer of the Year for the first time in 2009. "One of my favorite things about this year is all the camaraderie between all these artists that I could call and say, 'Hey, do you want to come sing with me?'" said Swift. "And there were more artists who showed up just out of the goodness of their heart and came out and performed for the fans at my shows."
She then read out all the names of people who had performed with her, written on her hand, and ended by exclaiming, "You have made my year! Thank you so much!"
"The 45th Annual CMA Awards" was hosted for the fourth time by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood and broadcast live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on the ABC Television Network.
First nominated in 2010, The Band Perry won their first-ever CMA Awards for Single of the Year for "If I Die Young," along with producer Paul Worley, and New Artist of the Year.
"Oh, first of all, we wanted to say thank you to the beautiful fans of Country Music," said Kimberly Perry. "It is the joy of our whole lives to sing this song for you guys."
After winning New Artist of the Year, she added: "We promise to keep working hard every day out on the road and here in Nashville to earn this Award."
As a songwriter, Kimberly Perry picked up the trophy for Song of the Year for penning "If I Die Young."
"I truly believe that if 'I Die Young' would have been written with or without me, it was a song that was meant to be," she said. "But I was so excited to have pen and paper in hand when it was ready to come to earth."
Aldean, who received first-time nominations in five categories in 2011, won Album of the Year for My Kinda Party, along with producer Michael Knox, and for Musical Event of the Year for "Don't You Wanna Stay" with Kelly Clarkson. This was Clarkson's first win, too. In 2007 she was nominated for Musical Event of the Year with Reba for "Because of You."
Aldean exclaimed "What a year!" before thanking his family and singling out Knox. "He's like my big brother," Aldean said. "This guy found me in a club in Atlanta, Georgia, brought me to Nashville 15 years ago and has made every record I've ever done."
For the second year, Shelton and wife Lambert firmly established themselves as Country's new and reigning power couple. They join Tim McGRaw and Faith Hill as the only other married couple to ever win the his-and-hers CMA Awards in the same year. McGraw and Hill won in 2000 (Lambert and Shelton were not married in 2010 when they won their respective Vocalist Awards).
Shelton had one of the memorable performances of the night, joining '80s star Kenny Loggins in a rocking Country version of "Footloose" to open the show.
"'You're spoiling me!'" Shelton said, with a laugh, after accepting his Award for Male Vocalist. "I really didn't prepare anything to say at all. I didn't think y'all would let me get away with this two times."
One of the many highlights of the night was a stirring tribute to Glen Campbell, a Country Music Hall of Fame member and former CMA Entertainer of the Year. The tribute included an emotional three-song medley with three former CMA Entertainer of the Year recipients honoring the legend: Vince Gill performing "By the Time I Get to Phoenix"; Keith Urban singing "Wichita Lineman"; and co-host Paisley performing "Galveston."
The tribute brought a standing ovation inside the Bridgestone Arena. At the moment's crescendo, composer Jimmy Webb and Campbell embraced on stage, and the cheers got even louder.
Later, after the Awards, Campbell described the tribute medley of his tunes as "Awesome, it really was. The whole thing was wonderful. It's great when they come off nice, isn't it?"
Memorable performances for the night also included co-hosts Paisley and Underwood performing their hit duet "Remind Me." This was their first live performance of the No. 1 hit song on national television. Former CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Faith Hill also gave her first performance in five years at the CMA Awards. Hill debuted "Come Home," a single from her forthcoming new album due out in early 2012. Southern rocker Gregg Allman joined Zac Brown Band on a cover "Georgia On My Mind." Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, and Rascal Flatts joined music icon Lionel Richie for a medley of his hits.
Paisley and Underwood warmed up the crowd to start the night with Hank Williams Jr. making a surprise appearance as the hosts performed a re-vamped version of Williams' well-known anthem "Family Tradition" to cheers and applause. Later in the evening, Little Jimmy Dickens, made a cameo appearance with the pair.