Wednesday night's 47th annual Country Music Awards were full of surprises, from a countrified take on one of the year's biggest pop hits to a surprise appearance from hip-hop royalty. But, as usual, the three-hour extravaganza also had the one thing you can pretty much rely on at any country awards show these days: hardware for Taylor Swift.
The singer took home three honors, joining a list of winners that included "American Idol" judge Keith Urban (for contributing to Tim McGraw's "Highway Don't Care"), "Cruise" singers Florida Georgia Line and "The Voice" coach Blake Shelton (Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year).
The 2013 CMA's co-host, Carrie Underwood, showed again why she keeps getting the gig, displaying a wry sense of humor in the opening gags about country feuds and Obamacare and once again setting some sort of record for the amount of costume changes during an awards show. (Ten, for the record.)
Though she was not there, Miley Cyrus also got plenty of attention during the broadcast, with a raft of jabs at her about twerking, humping teddy bears, foam fingers and naked hammer licking. In fact, the show found plenty of ways to combine pop and country, with co-host Brad Paisley and Underwood joining with the "Duck Dynasty" crew for a down home, duck calling take on Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." (Paisley would later come out in Thicke's signature black and white referee uniform.)
Swift, who was tied with Kacey Musgraves with the most nominations at six, won two awards for her part in CMA Musical Event of the Year, Tim McGraw's "Highway Don't Care," and a special CMA Pinnacle Award, presented to a singer who brings country music to a worldwide audience.
In a video montage paying honor to her massive sales and huge tours, Swift got props from such superstars as Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Timberlake, who said, "From a country boy at heart, so proud of you and I can't wait to see what new pinnacles you decide to reach." It was only the second time the Pinnacle has ever been presented. Swift also performed a subtle, acoustic take on "Red" with an all-star group of country icons, including Alison Krauss and Vince Gill.
It was a big night for duo Florida Georgia Line, who took home two awards for their super smash "Cruise," Vocal Duo of the Year and Single of the Year, thanking Swift for supporting them early on. One of the show's biggest surprises was an appearance by rap icon Sean "Diddy" Combs, who paired with Kellie Pickler to present the vocal group award.
"Ladies and gentlemen, are y'all surprised to see me here?" Combs asked. "Music City, I'm here! Check it out. It's always a dream of mine to come to the CMAs. I've always been a kind of down-low country music fan, but I'm coming out tonight. I love me some country music, baby! I love all kinds of music."
Among the night's other notable performances was a hook-up between Hunter Hayes and Jason Mraz, who got together to play their bouncy hit collabo "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me." After starting out backstage, the duo made their way into the middle of Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, with Hayes strumming an acoustic guitar as he strolled with Mraz back to the main stage. Host Underwood played a medley of hits that included "Blown Away," "Good Girl," "Two Black Cadillacs" and "See You Again."
Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl also brought some rock action to the night, taking the stage with the Zac Brown Band for their first-ever joint performance on the debut of the band's swampy boogie rocker, "Day for the Dead."