As if there was any prior doubt,
At Thursday night's (Nov. 1) ceremony at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, Shelton received his first trophy as entertainer of the year, as well as his third consecutive male vocalist of the year award. Lambert won her third straight female vocalist award, and the couple shared one of the night's most prestigious honors -- the song of the year award -- for co-writing her hit,
In accepting their awards, Shelton and Lambert each managed to show their appreciation while expressing their love of country music and, perhaps even more notably, their peers within the industry.
Perhaps the award that meant the most was the song of the year win for the song they co-wrote about Shelton's late brother, Richie.
"I lost my brother in a car wreck when I was 14 years old," Shelton told the crowd. "Later in life, when I decided I wanted to be a country singer, my dad always told me, 'Son, you should write a song about your brother.' I lost my dad in January, and it's so amazing to me that tonight -- even after he's gone -- he's still right. I just needed the right person to write this song with and the right person to sing it."
In accepting her female vocalist trophy, Lambert said, "Holy crap. I don't necessarily deserve this, but I'll sure take it."
Then she spoke about the emotional nature of "Over You."
"I didn't say anything for song of the year because it was a huge, huge dream of mine to write the song of the year," she said. "And I never thought I'd get to, especially celebrate it with my husband."
Lambert also made it a point to lavish praise on the other four nominees in the female vocalist category --
"I've been listening to Red all week long. It's freakin' awesome, Taylor," she said. "I was at Carrie Underwood's rehearsal yesterday and she sang
"So I can't believe I'm standing up here holding this right now. But I'm going to try to represent for all the females who want to be up-and-comers and that want to just get their country voice out there. There's room for all of us girls. ... We're going to stick together and get our country voices heard."
In accepting his other awards, Shelton alluded to the fact that he hasn't toured extensively during the past year because of his involvement with the NBC series, The Voice. However, it's likely that his visibility on the talent competition and other TV talk shows swayed CMA voters to cast their ballots for him in the coveted entertainer of the year category.
"When I moved to Nashville in 1994, I had two goals," he said. "One was to someday have a gold record, and one was to someday be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Entertainer of the year ... what is this? I don't even know.
"Look, I know I'm not out there on the road. Oh, my gosh. Taylor Swift? I know I'm not out there as much. And I don't know how this happened. I freakin' love it, though. Listen, I try to represent country music as best I can with everything I do. It's television, it's touring. It's a lot of things. I love country music more than anybody in this room. Thank y'all so much. I love y'all."
In winning their first-ever CMA awards, Little Big Town member Kimberly Schlapman noted, "This has been a 13-year journey."
"We're living proof that if you work really, really hard and you chase your dream, all the good stuff happens and it follows you," bandmate Karen Fairchild added.
Church won his first CMA trophy, too, and he indicated that the album of the year victory means he has a place in country music.
"I've spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in -- too country, too rock," he said. "I want to thank you guys for giving me somewhere to hang my hat tonight."
Thompson Square, the husband-and-wife duo of Shawna and Keifer Thompson, ended
"Ever since I was about 5 years old, I used to practice in the kitchen with one of my mawmaw's Mason jars for this moment right here," she said while onstage.
"This is one of the coolest things we've ever experienced," he noted. "Being able to do it with your best friend, it's awesome."
Hayes, a 21-year-old Louisiana native, was initially at a loss for words after hearing his name announced as the CMA's new artist of the year.
"I don't even know what to do right now," he said. "Oh, wow! I want to say, thank you, Lord, for letting me do what I do and what I do every day. Thank you to the amazing fans. Thank you to my family. They're here tonight. My mom and dad have done so much to get me right here. Thank you, guys. ... Amazing. This is awesome."
The awards show, hosted by Underwood and
Other performances were provided by Lambert (
The music ended with an all-star tribute to