If 2006 was Carrie Underwood‘s coming-out party at the CMA Awards, 2007 solidified her place among the current greats of country music.
For the second year in a row, Underwood, 24, won two big awards in Nashville on Wednesday night, repeating as female vocalist of the year and nabbing single of the year for “Before He Cheats.” (Last year, she also took the Horizon Award.)
“God had blessed me with so many wonderful things in my life, and I will spend my entire life trying to figure out why,” Underwood, 24, said after beating out Reba McEntire and other veterans for the vocalist award. “If you had told me a few years ago I would have been nominated with the people that I have been nominated with, I would have called you absolutely insane.”
Kenny Chesney won the top award, entertainer of the year, for the second year in a row and third time overall. “Guys, I can’t believe that I get to stand on the stages I get to stand on every summer, and sing the songs that I sing,” he said.
After six previous nominations for male vocalist of the year, Brad Paisley finally won in that category. With tears in his eyes, he thanked his father, “who carried amplifiers and ran sound, even though he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Paisley also picked up a second award, for music video of the year.
Taylor Swift, the 17-year-old newcomer, was shaking when she accepted the Horizon Award at the Sommet Center. “I can’t even believe that this is real,” she said. “This is definitely the highlight of my senior year!”
More Major Winners
• Rascal Flatts, for vocal group of the year
• Sugarland, for vocal duo of the year
• George Strait, for album of the year, It Just Comes Natural
Tears & Cheers
Among other highlights of the night:
• Kellie Pickler broke down crying while performing “I Wonder,” a song about her estranged mother, who abandoned her when she was 2. She struggled to finish the song, tears streaming down her cheeks, and spoke the final word, “Tennessee,” as the Nashville crowd rose in applause to support her. (Click here to see video.)
• Kid Rock arrived with Gretchen Wilson, and seemed to have vague but determined plans for the evening. “Follow the whiskey,” he said on the red carpet.
• Jessica Simpson enjoyed the show from the audience but did not present.
• Multiple nominee Keith Urban brought wife Nicole Kidman, explaining that the two have been “doing a lot of travel, racking up a lot of frequent-flier miles,” as he’s been touring the U.S . and she’s been shooting a movie in Australia.
• Among the many performers on the telecast, the Eagles earned a rousing ovation for their rendition of “How Long,” the new single from the No. 1 CD The Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio album in 28 years.
• Dwight Yoakam gave a brief tribute to Porter Wagoner, the country-music legend who died on Oct. 28. “As Dolly [Parton] once sang, he was someone who we’ll always love,” Yoakam said. “A lot of country stars have worn rhinestone suits, but no one ever wore them as iconoclastically or with his unique and lasting style. Porter, you’ll be missed.”