The last segment of the CMAs at least rewarded those who cringed through the first two and a half hours, but things didn’t brighten for Georgia’s artists, all of whom lost in their respective categories.
Though Jason Aldean was widely expected to win the coveted Entertainer of the Year given his monster year, it was instead a stunned-looking Blake Shelton who took the award show’s top honor.
“When I moved to Nashville in 1994 I had two goals: One was to someday have a gold record and one day to be a member of the Grand Old Opry. Entertainer of the Year was…what is this? I don’t even know!,” Shelton stammered. “I know I’m not out there on the road as much…I don’t know how this happened. I freakin’ love it, though. I try to represent country music as best I can with everything I do. I love country music more than anybody in this room.”
The award was Shelton’s third of the night.
Earlier, Shelton’s wife Miranda Lambert took Female Vocalist of the Year. “I don’t necessarily deserve this, but I’ll sure take it,” she said, laughing. Lambert continued with a charmingly rambling speech about being invited to Martina McBride’s house and wanting to represent for all of the females, “to stick together and get our country voices heard.”
But the highlight of the show was the tribute to Willie Nelson.
Lady Antebellum initiated the performance with a tender “Always on My Mind” and “Crazy.” Then came Blake Shelton and Keith Urban for “Whiskey River”
and the ever-slender Tim McGraw and Faith Hill joined the team for “Good Hearted Woman.”
Nelson looked on from the audience with his usual bemused expression during the performances but came onstage to lead the all-star jam in “On the Road Again.”
At song’s end, host Brad Paisley ambled over to present Nelson with a massive trophy.
“How many pushups can you do with that one?” Nelson joked.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene