If there were any remaining doubts about Taylor Swift being both country and pop's reigning personality they were ended last night when she captured country music's biggest award at the 43rd annual CMA Awards show, Entertainer of the Year.
Besides becoming the first woman in 10 years to get this honor (seventh overall), Swift also became the youngest artist (19) to ever win the award by the 6,000-plus members of the Country Music Association.
Entertainer of the Year was just one among four awards Swift captured during a dominant evening that also saw her win Album of the Year for "Fearless," Female Vocalist of the Year and Music Video for "Love Story." Swift was so overcome at winning the evening's biggest award that she took a moment to compose herself before calling her entire band to the stage and also thanking her fans, especially "the ones who come to the shows with the special shirts they've made." She also saluted country radio for "taking a chance on my songs and playing some things that were different."
The show was broadcast live from the Sommet Center on WKRN-2, with Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood serving as co-hosts. It also aired over satellite radio on "The Highway" (Ch. 16) while various bloggers and others on Facebook provided their own commentary throughout the evening.
Besides opening the show, the recent Swift/Kanye West situation was referenced a couple of times. Paisley and Underwood took their own shot at West in a duet. Then later Little Jimmy Dickens strolled on stage and said "Now Brad Paisley, you had a nice video, but Taylor Swift had the best video of all time," a routine that Paisley suggested to ABC months ago. Finally, Swift thanked all her competitors "for staying in their seats and not coming up on stage."
Swift's victories set the tone on a night when other newcomers and emerging stars took plenty of awards. Darius Rucker, once the focal point and lead singer of the top-selling rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, capped a triumphant switch to country by winning the Best New Artist award. He thanked country for "welcoming a pop singer into their ranks."
Lady Antebellum won both Group of the Year and Single of the Year for "I Run to You," while Jamey Johnson's "In Color" won Song of the Year. Sugarland again took Duo of the Year, while Paisley won his third consecutive Male Vocalist of the Year and shared Musical Event of the Year with Keith Urban.
ABC also used the evening to springboard promos for a host of things, from touting their revived programming success this season (currently edging out Fox for No. 2 overall behind CBS and challenging them for No. 1 in the 18-49 demographic), while also showing through some of its ads the expanded appeal country has for advertisers in such areas as video games and HDTV.
In addition, a number of veteran country stars from Barbara Mandrell, one of the new inductees into the Country Hall of Fame, to Reba McEntire, who admitted earlier in the week she voted for Swift in the Entertainer of the Year contest, took time either on TV or radio to compliment the current crop of new and contemporary country stars.
"There's more talent out there now than ever," Mandrell said. Her attitude exemplified the feeling of celebration personified by Swift's historic performance at the 43rd CMA Awards.