Kenny Chesney ties Brooks' ACM record
But singer doesn't approve of academy's Internet voteLAS VEGAS -- Despite a new voting procedure, Kenny Chesney is still the Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year. He won for the fourth straight year Sunday night, tying Garth Brooks for the record.
For the first time ever, the entertainer award was voted for by fans on the Internet, who came to the same conclusion the industry has. "This one is really extra special because long before I had a hit record, the fans came to the shows," Chesney said. "I'm honored to be up here for the fourth year in a row."
Still, Chesney made it clear backstage that he thinks the academy made a mistake by making the award fan-voted. Calling the process a "sweepstakes," he said, "I think it's complete disrespect of the artist. It shouldn't be about pushing people's buttons on the Internet. We need to be careful about how we give this award away in the future."
"I think the fans should be a part of the it," Chesney said, "but not the one award every artist sacrifices to achieve." Chesney had the top country tour of 2007, selling over 1.1 million tickets and grossing over $71 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Meanwhile, Miranda Lambert was the surprise winner of album of the year award for "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." "I was sitting behind Kenny Chesney and I just don't feel right taking this," she said from the stage.
The critically acclaimed album has sold 408,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, but has only spawned two top 20 singles, "Famous in a Small Town" and "Gunpowder & Lead," which she performed on the show. "I've never had a top 10 hit," she added backstage. "I am a little left of center. I'm completely surprised."
Sugarland took home an ACM hat for single and song of the year for "Stay." The song peaked at No. 2 in January on Hot Country Songs. The duo introduced producer Byron Gallimore as "part therapist and magician."
"It was shocking," the duo's Kristian Bush said of the wins backstage. The duo later debuted their sticks-in-your-head new single, "All I Want To Do," which will appear on their July 22 release "Love on the Inside."
Brad Paisley, whose most recent album, "5th Gear," has sold 1 million copies, took home male vocalist honors for the second straight year. "A singer is nothing without inspiration," Paisley said before thanking his wife, actress Kimberly Williams Paisley and son William Huckleberry Paisley. Meanwhile, top video honors went to Paisley's "Online," which was directed by "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander.
With temperatures topping 100 degrees outside, Carrie Underwood kicked off the show inside with an inspired performance of "Last Name," her current top 10 single, before taking top female honors. Just over a week earlier, Underwood was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Held at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, the show was hosted for the tenth time by Reba McEntire, who performed with top vocal duo winners Brooks & Dunn on "Put a Girl in It."
Garth Brooks was honored with the Crystal Milestone Award for his career achievements and performed a medley of hits, including "The Thunder Rolls," "Friends in Low Places," "We Shall Be Free," "The Dance" and "Ain't Goin' Down (Til The Sun Comes Up)."
Taylor Swift took home top new female honors, besting gal pal Kellie Pickler. "Kellie, I love you," Swift said from the stage before dedicating the award to her mother.
Initially wearing a hoodie, which was torn off by two male dancers to reveal a black dress, Swift sang "Should've Said No," her new single, before being drenched by a cascade of water falling from above the stage. "This is a performance I've been dreaming up since I was 10," Swift said backstage. "I've never had that much fun on stage."
Rascal Flatts, who was honored with an ACM/Home Depot Humanitarian Award, also won top vocal group. Meanwhile, Tracy Lawrence, along with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, picked up the vocal event trophy for "Find Out Who Your Friends Are."
George Strait, who celebrated his 56th birthday at the show, performed two songs back-to-back, his recent No. 1 "I Saw God Today" and "Shiftwork" with Chesney.
Eddy Arnold, who passed away at age 89 on May 8 and who was honored with an ACM pioneer award in 1984, was feted by Paisley and Underwood, who performed "Make The World Go Away."
Jack Ingram, who spent years on the Texas circuit before breaking out nationally with "Wherever You Are" in 2006, picked up the top new male trophy. "It's been a long road to stand in front of as the new male vocalist of the ACM. Dreams come true, never give up," he said.
"I've put in a lot of miles and a lot of hard work and I'm proud of the work I've done," he added backstage.
Lady Antebellum, whose debut single, "Love Don't Live Here," recently reached the top 10 on Hot Country Songs, scored the top new group or duo award only a year after being signed to Capitol Nashville. "Everything that's happened over the last year has been unbelievable," the group's Dave Haywood said backstage. "Being here now is the icing on the cake."