George Strait won his second entertainer of the year - 25 years after he won his first - and Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban teamed up to earn top honors Sunday night at a jam-packed Academy of Country Music Awards that had a little something for everyone.
Strait's victory was not unexpected. He's a few months from retiring from the road and won the same trophy at the rival Country Music Association Awards five months ago. But the ACMs entertainer award is fan-voted and some wondered if Strait's older fan base might vote.
"I've always said I have the best fans in the world," Strait told the crowd. "I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case."
No one will begrudge Strait the win, including co-hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, who were also nominated in the category with Lambert and Taylor Swift.
"Our hero," Shelton said in a genuine moment. "Our hero won tonight!"
Until that point Bryan and Shelton had overshadowed much of the ceremony, held in Las Vegas. Urban and Lambert tied for the most trophies but it was Lambert's husband, Shelton, and Bryan who were on a winning streak.
They deftly stole the show with a mix of self-deprecating, celebrity-skewering jokes and two performances apiece. And as Shelton noted, he also gets to share Lambert's bed.
"Honestly, I think we're the biggest celebrities in the room," Shelton said during the show's funniest moment - a recreation of Ellen DeGeneres' selfie moment at the Oscars - and it may just be true.
Shelton is the star of "The Voice" and a platinum-selling hitmaker with 11 straight No. 1s. Bryan is the reigning entertainer of the year, and both were up for that award again this year with Lambert, Taylor Swift and George Strait, the genre's top stars.
They zinged Eric Church over the likelihood of finding marijuana in his dressing room, poked fun at Britney Spears (who performs on the Las Vegas strip) and ribbed Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in the audience, about his team's disappointing playoff record (Shelton and Bryan announced the 50th edition of the ACM Awards will be held at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium next year).
Each performed twice with Shelton offering a subdued but powerful version of his song "My Eyes," playing an acoustic guitar while seated with Gwen Sebastian at his side, before returning flanked by Shakira on their duet "Medicine." Bryan performed "Play It Again" while standing on a revolving replica of a vinyl album, then teamed with vocal duo of the year winner Florida Georgia Line on "This is How We Roll."
Lambert did her best to upstage her husband, who gave her a peck on the forehead after she won single record of the year for "Mama's Broken Heart," co-written by Kacey Musgraves. Lambert also won her fifth straight female vocalist of the year award.
"I was just hanging out with (presenter) Trisha Yearwood back there, holy crap, and I was standing next to Sheryl Crow, a complete and utter rock star," Lambert said of Crow, a fellow nominee. She also spoke about others in the category: "Kacey Musgraves, I grew up with her. She wrote the single of the year this year. And Carrie Underwood's my buddy, y'all, and she's a phenomenon. I can't believe it, I'm so grateful and humbled. I love my job."
Lambert teamed with Urban to win vocal event of the year for their "We Were Us" collaboration.
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