The 46th Annual Country Music Association Awards was the usual blend of all-star concert event, glitzy red carpet affair and tight-knit family potluck.
Hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley (or Ma and Pa of the CMAs, at this point), the Nashville-based country music kudosfest was jam-packed with tunes and good vibes from start to finish.
But while there were plenty of laughs, it’s not like three hours could go by without some awkward moments. We’re taking the liberty of chronicling the most memorable bits, for better or worse, in addition to offering up the complete list of winners, as they’re announced. Here’s what’s goin’ down:
Country-Strong Opening Act: Jason Aldean kicked off the show by dedicating the 2012 CMA Awards to New York, New Jersey and friends on the East Coast affected by the massive storm that battered the area. He was promptly joined onstage by current heartthrobs Luke Bryan and Eric Church, the latter the night’s leading nominee, with five.
Most Awkward Monologue Joke: While discussing all the big sports trades (Tim Tebow to the Jets, Peyton Manning to the Broncos, etc.) Paisley joked that the biggest shuffle was the Kennedy family trading Arnold Schwarzenegger for Taylor Swift. “What?! Why don’t I ever hear about these things? I’m the last one to know!” protested a mock-mortified Paisley.
Biggest Missed Opportunity: The camera didn’t pan to Swift to see her reaction! Boo!
Most Laborious Joke: The hosts assembled a bunch of hot nurses and a rather elderly doctor to “induce” Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, whose first child is due in about three weeks.
Most Emotional Moment: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton shared the songwriters’ Song of the Year honor for “Over You.” “I lost my brother in a car wreck when I was 14 years old and, later in life, when I decided I wanted to be a country singer, my dad always told me, ‘Son, you should write a song about your brother,'” Shelton said as Lambert teared up beside him. “I lost my dad in January and it’s so amazing to to me that, tonight, even after he’s gone, he’s still right! I just needed the right person to write this song with, and the right person to sing it.” He said, turning to his wife, “I love you so much, baby.”
Most Randomly Charming Moment: Paisley picking the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show on his guitar in tribute to the late actor, who died this year.
Sweet Mama-Bear Moment: Underwood took great pride in introducing the first-ever CMA Awards performance from her tour mate, 21-year-old Hunter Hayes. The fresh-faced hottie, also tonight’s winner for New Artist of the Year, sang “Wanted”—and the screaming gals in the audience returned the favor.
Most Gracious Speech: Lambert gave an individualized shout-out to every gal she beat out to win: For Swift: “I’ve been listening to Red all week, it’s freakin’ awesome.” For Underwood: “At rehearsal, I heard her sing ‘Blown Away’ three times, and it blew me away.” For Kelly Clarkson: “I sang with her in Colorado and I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die.” For Martina McBride: “I grew up with her records and to try to even hit one note that she ever sang, it’s impossible.”
Best Shout-Out to Jesus: Little Big Town really went to town in thanking the Lord for their Vocal Group of the Year Award.
Bestest Best of the Night: The music, as always! From Aldean, Church and Bryan’s opening number to Lambert’s fiery “Fastest Girl in Town” to Zac Brown Band’s tearjerker rendition of “I Saw Goodbye in Her Eyes” to the Band Perry’s foot-stomping “Better Dig Two,” it’s hard to beat a country show for consistency of performance quality throughout. Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” backed by a massive gospel choir.
Best Tribute: There was only one, to Willie Nelson, recipient of the inaugural Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. While Lady Antebellum did a find job with “You Were Always on My Mind” and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Mickey Raphael, you couldn’t really top Nelson warbling “On the Road Again.” Better yet: His acceptance was short and sweet. “This is a great award and I appreciate it very much. Thank you, CMA. Thank you, Nashville. I love all of you out there, thank you, I appreciate it.”
Best Double-Take: Blake Shelton, when he was named Entertainer of the Year. Even his wife gave him a “so what are you waitin’ for?!” wide-eyed look as he just sat there after his name was called. “You can tell this time I really didn’t think I was gonna win…I’m still Willie’d out here!” he exclaimed.
Here’s the complete list of winners from the 46th Annual CMA Awards:
Entertainer of the Year: Blake Shelton
Album of the Year: Chief, Eric Church
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year: Blake Shelton
Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town
Single of the Year: “Pontoon,” Little Big Town
Song of the Year: “Over You,” Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert (songwriters)
Musical Event of the Year: “Feel Like a Rock Star,” Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw
Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally
Music Video of the Year: “Red Solo Cup,” Toby Keith
New Artist of the Year: Hunter Hayes