American Idol winner Carrie Underwood won female vocalist of the year at the 40th Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville Monday night.
Accepting her award, she said tearfully, “Two years ago I was sitting at home watching these very awards and watching all these other people win and having the best night of their life, and this is the best year of my life,” the Associated Press reports.
Backstage, the singer, who also won the Horizon award (given for most significant creative growth), said she said was happy just to be nominated, let alone win two trophies. “I would have taken male vocalist if they had given it to me,” she joked.
That prize went to Keith Urban for the third year in a row. Urban, who had to drop out of the awards show after checking into rehab last month, received a standing ovation when his name was announced.
His prize was accepted by Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, who read a letter from Urban in which in which he thanked his friends and family and wife Nicole Kidman. “To my wife, Nicole, I love you,” Urban said the in the letter. “I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing you all soon.”
Added Dunn: “We love you Keith – good luck, brother.”
Dunn himself, along with partner Kix Brooks, cohosted the show and took home three awards for their song “Believe”: single, song and video of the year,
Kenny Chesney took the night’s top award, entertainer of the year, which he’d also won two years ago. The singer, who last year was briefly married to Renée Zellweger, said: “This year has in ways been the most emotionally satisfying year and also the most emotionally draining year of my life. There have been so many ups and downs, it’s been like a huge emotional roller coaster ride.”
The vocal group award went to Rascal Flatts, and singer Gary LeVox said, “I thank God for giving us a stage to stand on and perform on every night.”
Besides Urban, the most buzzed-about nominee was former Dancing With the Stars contestant Sara Evans, who dropped out of the reality show amid a headline-making divorce. Although she didn’t win female vocalist of the year, she performed her hit, “Real Fine Place to Start.”