With tears in her eyes — and
"I will never forget this moment because in this moment everything I have ever wanted has just happened to me," she said in accepting the major honor over four veteran male acts, all of whom she has opened concerts for in the past year. "You guys, this album is my diary, and so to all the people who voted for me for this ... thank you for saying you love my diary because that's the nicest compliment," said Swift, wearing a flowing gown with a glittering gold bodice.
Her win snapped a three-year run by Kenny Chesney, who has won four of the last five years in the category. It also made her the first solo female artist in more than a decade to snag the honor since Shania Twain did it in 1999.
The win capped a night when Swift swept up four awards, including Album of the Year for the still-unstoppable Fearless, as well as Female Vocalist of the Year and Video of the Year for "Love Story." Swift got one more swing in during the acceptance speech for Female Vocalist, when she quipped, "I want to thank every single person in this room tonight for not running onstage during this speech."
In the latter category, she beat out host Carrie Underwood, who was blanked in all three of the categories in which she was nominated. She had her fun, though, as she and co-host Brad Paisley took several shots at Kanye during the three-hour telecast. The pair jabbed 'Ye during a medley of their songs to open the show, when they sang, "Mama don't let your babies grow up to be Kanye." They did it again later during some banter about Paisley's "Welcome to the Future" video, when 88-year-old Grand Ole Opry member Little Jimmy Dickens crashed the stage and interrupted the pair.
"Excuse me, sir," he said, cutting Paisley off. "I'll let you finish later. I know you had a nice video and all, but Taylor Swift made the best video of all time. Of all time! You go, girl!" The cameras cut to Swift, who, along with the crowd, was laughing at the gag. "What kind of security do we have that a 4-foot 9-inch, 85-year-old man gets by it," joked Paisley, who won two awards, including his third straight Male Vocalist of the Year.
It was a night of big wins for country's new generation, as Grammy winners Lady Antebellum snagged Single of the Year for "I Run to You," as well as Vocal Group of the Year, ending a six-year run by Rascal Flatts in that race.
Former Hootie and the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker — whose career with that easy-rocking band began more than 20 years ago — won the Best New Artist award for his 2008 country debut Learn to Live, which has spawned a trio of hit singles and sold more than 1 million copies. The Charleston, South Carolina, native had a simple message to the country community that has embraced him: "To the fans, thank ya'll for accepting me. And I think most importantly, to country radio, you took a chance on a pop singer from Charleston, South Carolina. Thank you so much for that!" He later performed his song "Alright" and high-fived audience members as he ran around the floor of the Sommet Center.
There were plenty of major performance numbers, including Swift kicking the night off with a rousing "Forever & Always," during which she tossed a chair off the podium and slid down a pole. As she did on last weekend's "Saturday Night Live," where she opened with a number in which she took jabs at her famous ex, Joe Jonas, Swift threw another roundhouse in a jokey interview segment with Nancy O'Dell of "Access Hollywood" before the song.
"If guys don't want me to write bad songs about them, then they shouldn't do bad things," said Swift, who also performed her song "Fifteen" during the event.
Among the other new turks winning big was bearded outlaw Jamey Johnson, who won for Song of the Year for "In Color." "I never thought you guys would even let me come to things like this," he joked during his acceptance speech. Beloved group Sugarland won Vocal Duo of the Year for the third time in a row.
Other performances included the hard-touring Zac Brown Band playing a fiery cover of the Charlie Daniels Band's classic "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"; broken-up super-duo Brooke & Dunn burning through "Honky Tonk Stomp" with ZZ Top in their final appearance together; Chris Daughtry jamming with Vince Gill on "Tennessee Line"; upstart Miranda Lambert singing "White Liar"; and Underwood slinking through "Cowboy Casanova." Amping up the rock action, Kid Rock joined Johnson for "Between Jennings and Jones" and Dave Matthews teamed with Chesney on "I'm Alive."