Luke Bryan pulled off a shocking win on Sunday night when he beat out heavyweights Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift to win the Academy of Country Music Award's biggest prize of the evening: entertainer of the year. The winner is chosen by fan votes.
The musician, who co-hosted the show with Shelton, was stunned after his name was announced, and appeared to cry as he slowly walked out from backstage to accept the award from Shania Twain, who was making her first appearance at the ACMs in 10 years. Even with his trophy in hand, Bryan stood in silent shock at the microphone for a long while.
"This is ... I don't know what to say, you guys," he finally started. "Thank you guys so much, fans, for doing this to me, thank you so much for making my life what it is. What I always wanted to be was just a country singer that got to ride on a tour bus and show up on a new stage and play music every night. … I just started headlining! … Every time I step on stage, it is a blessing to me to play for fans. ... This is the defining moment of my life!"
Bryan, 36, been on the scene since his debut album was released in 2007, but wasn't a headlining act until his single "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" exploded after he started delivering booty-shaking performances of the catchy tune at awards shows in 2011.
The other big winner of the night was Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert. She took home three of the four trophies she was nominated for: song and single record of the year for "Over You," and female vocalist for the fourth year in a row. Lambert shared the song of the year victory with her husband, who co-wrote the tune.
"Last time this happened, you didn't get a chance to talk, and you're not going to get a chance either this time," he joked as he and his wife accepted their trophies. "I'll tell you all something: I’ve learned so much from this human being standing next to me … she blows me away, but as far as standing here right now, I used to think I was a decent songwriter until I started hanging out with her."
Notable moments from the show included Garth Brooks and George Strait's performance together; Reba McIntire's announcement that the ACM was "renaming its most prestigious honor to the ACM Dick Clark Artist of the Decade Award"; and Stevie Wonder closing the show with "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."
The complete list of winners:
- Entertainer of the year: Luke Bryan
- Male vocalist: Jason Aldean
- Female vocalist: Miranda Lambert
- Vocal duo: Thompson Square
- Vocal group: Little Big Town
- New artist: Florida Georgia Line
- Album: Eric Church, "Chief"
- Single record of the year: Miranda Lambert, "Over You"
- Song: Miranda Lambert, "Over You"
- Video: Little Big Town, "Tornado"
- Vocal event: "The Only Way I Know," Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan and Eric Church
- New male vocalist: Brantley Gilbert
- New female vocalist: Jana Kramer
- New vocal duo or group: Florida Georgia Line
The 48th Annual ACM Awards was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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