Miranda Lambert won album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday night, the third of her young career, while Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson won two trophies, including single record of the year, for "Don't You Wanna Stay."
Lambert shouted "Seriously?" to her fans as she picked up the trophy for "Four the Record," beating out a field that included Kenny Chesney, the night's top nominee with nine.
"I own every record in this category and I've been listening and listening, thinking I'm not going to get it," said Lambert, who got a hug from her grandmother and close friends Lady Antebellum before accepting her award. "Every record is amazing, and I'm so thrilled. I will never take this trophy for granted. My albums are my babies. It's what makes me wake up in the mornings."
Celebrated as one of country's hottest young stars, she's always had a special relationship with ACM voters. They've rewarded her time and again. She joins Alabama and George Strait with three wins in that category, though both acts have more trophies than her because each also won as producers of those albums.
Lambert's win wasn't the only surprise of the evening. The Eli Young Band's smash "Crazy Girl" brought the Texas quartet its first win in Las Vegas, for song of the year, and it was something of an upset over superstar acts like Chesney and Lady Antebellum (though the trio did win vocal group of the year). EYB lead singer Mike Eli hoped the group's win was an inspiration for people who hope to someday do the same thing.
"I have dreamed this moment my whole life and I can speak for the rest of these guys up here that they have, too," Eli said. "For those of you watching on television, if you're sitting here and thinking, 'I'm dreaming about this moment and I want to be here,' follow your dreams believe in yourself and do it."
It was the second big upset of the awards — Thompson Square took vocal duo of the year over Sugarland in an early award. Other pre-show winners were Aldean and Clarkson, who won vocal event of the year for their "Don't You Wanna Stay," and Toby Keith for video of the year for "Red Solo Cup." ''American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery won the fan-voted new artist of the year.
Aldean told the crowd he trusted his instincts when he was trying to sort out what to do with "Don't You Wanna Stay," which became a steamy, soaring duet that shows Aldean is capable of keeping up vocally with Clarkson.
""I kind of thought it needed a female vocal on it and Kelly was the first name I threw out," Aldean told the audience. "And I'm really glad I did because she came in and made a great song, and just took it to a great place."
Added Clarkson: "Thank y'all so much for welcoming me from the pop world!"
Carrie Underwood kicked off the night with a hard-charging blast of rock 'n' roll and a sexy black and magenta mini-dress for hew new single "Good Girl," a warning shot to those looking for a lot of twang out of the show.
The ACMs are a celebration of what country has become, with arena rockers like lead nominee Chesney being joined by a wave of 20-something upstarts like Taylor Swift, Lady A, double nominee Chris Young, Brantley Gilbert and Hunter Hayes, who've incorporated new sounds into the genre.
Swift joins Aldean, Chesney, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley the chase for the academy's top award, the fan-voted entertainer of the year. Chesney is going for his fifth win, which would move him into a tie for second most trophies in that category with Alabama behind Garth Brooks' six. Swift is the reigning entertainer of the year.
From Underwood's rockin' new single to KISS in full makeup awarding Lady Antebellum with yet another trophy, the ACMs showed off the modern flavor of country with all sorts of multi-genre mashups.
LL Cool J and Keith Urban banded together to salute veterans, co-hosts Shelton and Reba McEntire skewered Randy Travis and wondered whether Swift actually went on that rumored date with Tim Tebow, and Toby Keith walked through the crowd as he sang "Red Solo Cup" with the help of Carrot Top.
Actor-comedian-banjo player Steve Martin joined Rascal Flatts on "Banjo" for a brief tribute to country pioneer Earl Scruggs, who died last week.