Thursday, November 12, 2009

Swift Winds Buffet Nashville

The winds of change were blowing at gale force strength Wednesday night (Nov. 11) in Nashville. Nineteen-year-old Taylor Swift bested stalwarts Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley to win country music’s top honor, the Country Music Association entertainer of the year award.

2009 CMA Awards - Press Room

Swift is the youngest ever winner of the award and the first female to win since Shania Twain claimed the trophy in 1999. She also stymied Chesney, who had hoped to move ahead of Garth Brooks all-time by claiming his fifth crown.

Swift, who opened the show with “Forever & Always” and also performed “Fifteen” surrounded by a swaying chorus of teenagers, was emotional when accepting the trophy. “I will never forget this moment,” she said.

The award was as much a tribute to her success as an album and ticket seller as it was to her pop culture appeal. Her Nov. 7 appearance as host and musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” brought the show its best ratings of the season. Next year she’ll appear in the movie “Valentine’s Day,” which follows on the heels of her cameo in “Hannah Montana: The Movie.”

“Everything that I have ever wanted has just happened to me,” she said as her parents hugged in the audience. “Every single person in that category let me open for them. Thank you.”

Asked backstage what could be left to accomplish, Swift replied, “I never imagined that the unattainable thing that I’d held in my mind, my imagination, would happen to me at 19. I couldn’t be more grateful. But I love a challenge, and right now the challenge is to find the next challenge.”

“And a child shall lead them,” Paisley, the show’s co-host and winner of two awards, said backstage. “I couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s the biggest artist in music. It's hands down.”

Country Music Hall of Famer Barbara Mandrell praised Swift, who is only the third female to win the entertainer award since Mandrell won in 1981. “I think it’ll be exciting to watch where she takes it,” Mandrell said.

It was a clean sweep for Swift at the 43rd Annual Awards. She also took top album honors for “Fearless,” which she co-produced with Nathan Chapman, the female vocalist award—besting three time winner and the show’s co-host Carrie Underwood—and top video for “Love Story.”

The turning tide was not limited to Swift. Lady Antebellum, last year’s new artist winning trio, took home single of the year honors for their No. 1 single, “I Run To You." They also won top vocal group, unseating Rascal Flatts, who had won the award every year since 2003. “That was a complete shock,” Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley said backstage. “Rascal Flatts, [those are] some big shoes to fill. We don’t quite feel worthy.”

Meanwhile, Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker was named top new artist. “I’m a country singer now,” he told reporters. “This is my day job.”

AT 43-years-old, Rucker is more than twice as old as Swift. His album, “Learn To Live,” has just crossed the million sales mark this past week.

Rucker wasn’t the only country convert at the event. Kid Rock performed with Jamey Johnson, Daughtry played with Vince Gill, Dave Matthews dueted with Chesney and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons appeared with Brooks & Dunn, who were making their last appearance on the show as a duo before splitting in 2010.