Last night’s Academy of Country Music Awards, co-hosted by Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire, was chock full of memorable wins and performances, the majority of the latter being of the duet variety. Pop diva Rihanna’s duet with country star Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland was probably the evening’s most anticipated, the two sharing singing duties on Ri Ri’s Loud ballad “California King Bed.” Never the strongest live performer, Rihanna was vocally overshadowed somewhat by Nettles on stage, though looks-wise, the Barbadian pixie stole the show as always, keeping her bright red ‘do but cropping it to a much shorter, less Sideshow Bob-ish cut.
Elsewhere, the night’s duet performances were more of the classic/current variety, with several contemporary stars splitting stage time with heroes of the past. Brad Paisley hosted genre stalwarts Alabama for a performance of (appropriately enough) “Old Alabama,” Zac Brown brought out a cowboy hat-donning James Taylor to help out with “Colder Weather,” and Carrie Underwood and Aerosmith singer / American Idol judge Steven Tyler traded verses on “Walk This Way.” The two even locked lips for a millisecond after the song’s trademark “I gave her just a little kiss / like this” line, which combined with Carrie’s slightly weirded-out expression, should do wonders for Tyler’s constantly growing reputation as a creepy old lech.
As for the actual award recipients, Miranda Lambert looked poised to absolutely clean house early on, taking home the awards for song, video and single of the year for her country chart-topper “The House That Built Me,” presumably leading to a lot of bad jokes in the crowd about future-hubby host Blake Shelton rigging the ceremonies for her. But it was crossover star Taylor Swift who took home the night’s biggest honors, the much-coveted Entertainer of the Year award, a win which stunned the singer/songwriter—though, to be fair, winning the “Singer Named Taylor S. of the Year” ACM would probably stun the easily shocked Swift. “This is the first time that I’ve ever won this and I’m just losing my mind,” claimed a tearful Taylor, who might want to save a little juice for the CMT awards in June.
Lady Antebellum and Brad Paisley were some of the night’s other big winners, taking home Best Vocal Group and Best Male Artist honors, respectively. And throughout the entire evening’s proceedings, the Arcade Fire were nowhere to be found, which was probably for the best—country fans can be particularly vicious and vindictive with the social media.