Published on November 7th, 2013 | by USA Today

Six things you need to know from the CMAs

At Wednesday night’s CMA Awards in Nashville …

Pleasant surprises for Strait, Musgraves

In a night where country chart-toppers and mainstream crossovers dominated the competition, there was a slew of satisfactory surprises. The “King of Country” himself, George Strait, won entertainer of the year at the end of the ceremony, beating out the night’s other big winners, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift. Newcomer Kacey Musgraves also bested popular duo Florida Georgia Line for the new-artist accolade, but have no fear: Those guys left anything but empty-handed.

Florida Georgia Line cruises to a (double) win

Charismatic pair Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard (better known as Florida Georgia Line) collected two prizes early in the evening for best single (for radio sensation Cruise) and vocal duo. Aside from their performance of Round Here later in the broadcast, the guys joined Luke Bryan at the top of the show for renditions ofThat’s My Kind of Night and Cruise (complete with T-Swift’s personal choreography from her seat).

Swift’s at the Pinnacle of her career

Speaking of Taylor Swift, the country superstar appeared genuinely surprisedand humbled by her Pinnacle Award win, an honor reserved for artists who have reached a certain widespread level of success. (The only other recipient to date is Garth Brooks,) Frequently teary-eyed and noticeably choked up by the end of her speech, the 23-year-old was celebrated for her successes in a video rundown, which included pre-recorded spots of Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake and Reese Witherspoon singing her praises. She was presented the award by country-music luminaries such as Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, both of whom she’s previously opened for on tour.

Underwood, Paisley praise Swift, bash Cyrus

Swift has received some flack for her seemingly serial dating in the past, but that was nowhere near the jabs hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood took at Miley Cyrus throughout the evening. “Taylor, you’ve grown up right before our very eyes,” Paisley said to Swift. “And I want to thank you from a grateful industry, for never once humping a teddy bear or gyrating with Beetlejuice.”

“I’ve gotta say — if someone in music today was gonna be caught naked, licking a hammer … I think we all thought it’d be Blake Shelton,” Underwood added, jokingly.

Paisley soon appeared in Robin Thicke’s infamous Blurred Lines attire from the MTV Video Music Awards, while Underwood pulled out a foam finger (which she treated respectfully, much to the creator’s contentment). The charming pair also poked fun at a wide range of topics including Obamacare, the royal babyDolly Parton and their fellow country artists, asking why they can’t all be friends in an amusing play on the well-known War song.

Shelton, Lambert are a dynamic duo

Aside from his major nod for album of the year for Based on a True Story…, Shelton brought home the award for male vocalist of the year, made all the more tender by cutaways to his misty-eyed wife, Miranda Lambert, who earlier snatched the female vocalist prize for the fourth year in a row. The veteran country singer played it cool in her acceptance speech, thanking her husband and acknowledging her fellow nominees. “Taylor, I was crying, that was freaking awesome,” Lambert said, referring to Swift’s star-studded Pinnacle Award presentation.

And a few heartfelt tributes

While Paisley and Underwood kept the proceedings light for the majority of the show, there were no doubt some heart-wrenching tributes along the way. Legends Alan Jackson and Strait performed George Jones’ classic He Stopped Loving Her Today, in commemoration of the country icon who died in April. Later in the ceremony, Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker paid tribute to Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award winner Kenny Rogers, during which Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles sang with Rogers on hits such as Islands in the Stream and The Gambler. Finally, Luke Bryan paid tribute to his departed siblings in the woeful ballad Drink a Beer. He lost his brother, Chris, and sister, Kelly, in 1996 and 2007.


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