Wherever her career might take her in the future, it’s a matter of fact that Country music was the first home for Taylor Swift. The Pennsylvania native was at the beginning of her career story in 2007, as the singer took home the Horizon Award at the 41st Annual CMA Awards. In her acceptance speech, she noted that it was one of the highlights of her high school career.
While Swift helped to usher in a new generation of Country fans, there was plenty of love for the veterans. Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson claimed his second Song of the Year trophy alongside of songwriters Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson for the uniquely-written “Give It Away,” which also nabbed a Single of the Year prize for George Strait. Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley claimed the Female and Male Vocalist trophies, while Kenny Chesney walked away with yet another Entertainer of the Year award.
After going host-less in 2007, the CMA’s returned to a more traditional format in 2008, with Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood teaming up for the first time to host. Incidentally, the Arista Nashville pair also repeated as Male and Female Vocalist winners. George Strait also repeated in both the Album (Troubadour) and Single categories (“I Saw God Today”), while Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant found himself in the CMA winners’ circle for the first time, taking home Musical Event with the highly esteemed Alison Krauss. Kenny Chesney won his fourth Entertainer of the Year award, tying Garth Brooks for most wins in the category, and Underwood delivered one of the top performances of the night with her power ballad “Just A Dream.”
In 2009, there was one artist that dominated at Country Radio like few had before or since, and the 43rd Annual CMA Awards reflected this, resulting in a big night for Taylor Swift – who won all four awards she was nominated for – including the Entertainer of the Year award. In ending Kenny Chesney’s four-year run, Swift became the youngest artist to ever take home honors from the CMA – all before her 20th birthday. Lady Antebellum also ended another multi-year run, breaking Rascal Flatts’ six-year streak of wins in the Vocal Group of the Year category. One of the most interesting winners was in the New Artist of the Year category, where Darius Rucker, front man for 90s Pop supergroup Hootie & The Blowfish, walked away with the prize.
In 2010, there were two songs that dominated the Country format like no other – the traditional flavor of Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” and the crossover appeal of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” Which song would turn out to be the big winner? As it turned out, both did quite well. Lambert’s heartfelt ballad earned Song of the Year honors, as well as Video of the Year. In addition, Lambert won the first of her record six Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. But Lady A had their moments, as well. The Capitol Nashville trio won another Vocal Group of the Year prize, while walking off with the Single of the Year award.
Blake Shelton – who had been in Nashville for close to a decade earning his keep with a steady stream of hits – won his first of five Male Vocalist awards, and also helped Trace Adkins to notch his first CMA win for Musical Event of the Year with “Hillbilly Bone.” Also getting his turn in the Entertainer of the Year spotlight was show co-host Paisley – a CMA favorite for the past decade.
Family harmony has always played a major role in Country Music, and at the 45th Annual CMA Awards, that was more evident than ever, as East Tennessee natives The Band Perry notched wins in three categories, thanks to the success of their hit ballad “If I Die Young.” Taylor Swift returned to claim the top prize for Entertainer, while “Don’t You Wanna Stay” earned Musical Event honors for Jason Aldean and Pop queen Kelly Clarkson. Country’s then-favorite lovebirds, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert repeated as Male and Female Vocalist winners, with Lambert giving an inspired performance of her current single, “Baggage Claim.”
Nobody in Nashville has more fans within the industry than Little Big Town, and when the quartet made their move to the A-List with the energetic “Pontoon,” CMA voters took notice in 2012, naming the record as Single of the Year. The Capitol Nashville act also scored a win in the Vocal Group category. Their label was particularly happy, as Eric Church nabbed his first-ever CMA trophy for Album of the Year for Chief. Hunter Hayes won the New Artist of the Year prize, while Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton won Song of the Year – together – for their wistful “Over You.” It proved to be a big night for Ada, Oklahoma’s favorite son, who won in the Entertainer category. Though he had the numbers on his side, nobody was more surprised than Shelton. As usual, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood delivered a hilarious opening, which has become a long-standing tradition.
If anything, the 47th Annual CMA Awards proved to be a mix of new and old. First, the new…..Lee Brice, Florida Georgia Line, and Kacey Musgraves all took home their very first CMA Awards for Song, Single, and New Artist of the Year, respectively. Florida Georgia Line also won their first Vocal Duo award – one that they have claimed every year since. However, traditional favorites also were celebrated. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won their fourth straight Male and Female Vocalist honors, while Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban – all former Entertainer of the Year winners – won for Video and Musical Event for “Highway Don’t Care,” and Kenny Rogers was given the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award – and musical tributes from Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, and Jennifer Nettles.
Luke Bryan had been a nominee for the past four years at the CMA Awards, but in 2014, the fan favorite would hear his name called for the first time as Entertainer of the Year. Otherwise, the 48th Annual Awards could very well be sub-titled “The Miranda Lambert Show,” with the singer taking home four more awards – including Musical Event with Keith Urban for their hit “We Were Us.” She might not have won any awards, but Carrie Underwood continued to notch memorable performances with a jaw-dropping version of her current release, “Something In The Water.”
As a songwriter, Chris Stapleton has written hits for Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, and Tim McGraw. But there’s something to be said when a tunesmith is turned loose to do his own thing. His Traveller album had garnered much critical acclaim, but not a lot of sales. Then, the nominations for the 49th Annual CMA Awards were announced in late-summer. The soulful singer found himself in the running for a trio of trophies. Nobody knew it at the time, but he would win each – Male Vocalist, New Artist of the Year, and Album of the Year. He would also be a part of the most-talked about performance of the ABC telecast, alongside of pop star Justin Timberlake.
It was a night that was a triumph for art – as well as commerce. Stapleton’s sales went through the roof as no other CMA winner in history, and not that he needed to – but Timberlake gained a few fans in Music City, as well. For artists not named Stapleton, it was a big night for Lambert – whose sixth win in the Female Vocalist of the Year category set a record, and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” was voted the Single and the Song of the Year. Last year’s Entertainer of the Year winner, Luke Bryan, didn’t go home empty-handed, either. The singer walked away with his second straight win in the top category.
What will happen this year? For one thing, the 50th Annual CMA Awards promises to be a…..Classic. Tune in Wednesday, November 2 at 8pm Eastern on ABC to find out who will be crowned winners!