LAS VEGAS – When Carrie Underwood took the gamble and tried out for "American Idol," she never imagined a night — or year — quite like this one.
Underwood made history Sunday night by becoming the first woman to win entertainer of the year twice at the Academy of Country Music Awards. She also has celebrated her 12th consecutive No. 1 single, the continued success of her album "Play On" and a premier headlining tour. Add in her impending wedding to NHL player Mike Fisher, and Underwood is living a fairy tale life at the moment.
"Whenever I was on 'Idol' I was just hoping to stay there for another week," Underwood said. "That was as far as my calendar would go and I don't think anybody could have possibly predicted any of this."
Lady Antebellum was the dominant winner, grabbing five trophies, and Miranda Lambert won three, but Underwood stole the show.
She won the fan-voted award in a category that included most of country music's major stars — Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, the Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban. Underwood also was recognized earlier in the evening with special trophy for achieving the "triple crown" of ACM wins — entertainer of the year, top female vocalist and top newcomer — in the course of her career.
"That just says everything about how great she is," Paisley said.
The theme of the night might have been crossover success. Lead nominee Lady A, the top-selling trio that includes Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, snapped Rascal Flatts' seven-year run as best vocal group and won song and single record of the year for the crossover hit "Need You Now" (they got two trophies for their single record of the year win because they also produced the record, and also got two trophies for their song of the year win because they composed it).
They're approaching the sale of 2 million albums and have reached the top of the all-genre charts on four different occasions since the January release of the "Need You Now" album.
"It's just wild, man," Kelley said. "You never know where a song can take you, and tonight is probably the pinnacle of our career."
Adding to the emotion for the group was wins by good friends Lambert and Luke Bryan. The trio broke into cheers backstage when Lambert won top female vocalist. A stunned Lambert hugged Underwood as she made her way to the stage. She also won album of the year for "Revolution" and video of the year for "White Liar," her first No. 1 single.
"I never cry and I cried tonight," Lambert said. "You cracked me, people."
Lady A openly lobbied for Lambert, even in categories where they competed, and celebrated the win of Bryan, who nabbed top new artist. Lady A's Kelley and Haywood helped their good buddy write his hit, "Do I."
"Everything about tonight was honestly just so fun," Kelley said. "If we could've gone down the list and scripted it ... "
Lambert also won top female vocalist, snapping Underwood's three-year run in that category.
Swift was shut out despite five nominations. It might have been the first awards show since her pop superstardom where she didn't take home a trophy.
She had a big performance, though: She began her rendition of "Change" while soaring over the crowd on a platform. She ripped off her white dress to reveal a black outfit underneath, made her way through the crowd and joined the Tritones, a college a cappella group, on stage for a spirited chorus. She then fell backward into a crowd of fans.
Paisley, after a performance of his single "Water" where he fell backward into a pool of water on stage, won top male vocalist of the year for the fourth consecutive time. He accepted his trophy while drying off with a towel.
And Brooks & Dunn, who are retiring after a summer tour, won best vocal duo for the 10th time in their two-decade long career.
"We are currently in therapy with Brett Favre trying to figure out how to waffle on this," Kix Brooks joked after the win.
AP Writer Oskar Garcia contributed to this report.
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