LAS VEGAS — Carrie Underwood captured the entertainer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, the first female act to win the honor since the Dixie Chicks did it back in 2000 and only the seventh to do so in the show's nearly four-decade existence.
"I've had a lot of good moments in the past four years. This one takes the cake," the tearful former American Idol champ said. "Thank you God, thank you fans, thank you to ACM for nominating me in the first place. I never thought I'd be nominated and never thought I'd win. I'm shaking. I don't know what to say."
With the win, Underwood, who also won top female vocalist, broke Kenny Chesney's four-year win streak and denied him the chance to tie Alabama's five years of dominance in the category. Besides Underwood, the other female acts to win included Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. Chesney kissed Underwood as she walked up to accept the honor.
Another female dominating not only country music but the entire music industry, Taylor Swift, won album of the year for her sophomore disc Fearless. Both of Swift's albums have topped the 3 million mark — a rare feat in today's music industry. She's connected with fans both young and old for her intensely personal songs, which she writes usually on her own or with another writer.
"A lot of people who know me know if you talk to me more than 5 minutes I'm probably going to write a song about you," Swift said, as she proceeded to thank characters in her songs such as Tim McGraw and Romeo.
Other winners included Jamey Johnson, Sugarland and Julianne Hough, but the evening's most memorable moments came via the performances.
Trace Adkins performed Til the Last Shot's Fired, a somber salute to U.S. troops, with the West Point Glee Club in honor of the servicemen and women. The performance was introduced by Lt. Andrew Kinard, who had been wounded. He told the crowd, "As you listen to this song, please consider that it's not about the war, it's about the warrior."
John Rich's angry anthem Shuttin' Detroit Down also stirred the crowd.
"I'd like to dedicate this song tonight to all the hard-working, taxpaying Americans from coast to coast who love this country as much as I do," Rich said to the audience while holding a guitar tagged with the sticker "Made in the U.S.A."
"We wrote this song specifically for you," he said before launching into his searing song that feeds into taxpayer resentment about the bailouts on Wall Street.
Other performances included teen sensation Miley Cyrus, dancing atop a high staircase on stage; Heidi Newfield singing Johnny and June, inspired by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, around an appropriate ring of fire; and Underwood in a burgundy dress so overwhelming that it took up most of the stage.
"Can I borrow that?" host Reba McEntire quipped afterward.
Newcomer Johnson beat out veterans like George Strait and Brad Paisley in nabbing the night's first honor, song of the year for his poignant hit about an old man looking back on his life, In Color.
The show aired live from the MGM Grand on CBS.