One of the more interesting times to visit Las Vegas is the weekend of the annual Academy of Country Music Awards-people watching is always a world-class sport in Sin City, but this draw takes on a star-studded slant around the third week of May. Country stars are notorious for their down-to-earth attitudes, so it's likely that one will find themselves throwing dice next to, say, someone like Jennifer Nettles at the craps tables (it won't be Taylor Swift, for obvious reasons)...or jamming after hours at a club with Big & Rich. Combine this with the general over-the-topness of the Nashville scene, and Vegas becomes the perfect setting for one hell of a good time. Everyone's feeling fine, the chips are flying, tourists are hanging out at the resort elevators hoping to grab a picture of Carrie Underwood emerging in full hair and makeup. The actual awards show is limited to the lucky few with tickets, but the general public is free to (attempt to) rub elbows with the glittery. Which makes everything a little more fun.
Let's take a look at the winners to see who was a sure bet and who was a bit of a wild card at tonight's show:
TOP NEW FEMALE VOCALIST: Taylor Swift. Okay, not much to say here. Love Sarah Buxton and Kellie Pickler sure can cry at the drop of a hat (plus she's got Idol cred), but did anyone really think Taylor didn't have this sewn up in the bag?
TOP NEW MALE VOCALIST: This one was more of a balanced hand. Luke Bryan and Jake Owen are both fine, nice-looking young men with perfectly solid charting singles. As is Jack Ingram. We think Jack must have won due to his cover of "Lips Of An Angel," which surprisingly translates much better as a country song than a, well, Hinder song.
TOP NEW VOCAL DUO OR GROUP: Okay, Lady Antebellum were getting awards nominations before they even released an album. Unfair advantage...but we heartily support this group and were thrilled to see the win (despite this being one of the least shocking wins of the night).
TOP VOCAL DUO: Brooks & Dunn. They have to win something at every country awards show every year. We say this quite seriously. Anyway, no surprise. (We secretly were betting on Halfway To Hazard. HAHA! Okay, okay, we'll quit being mean.)
TOP FEMALE VOCALIST: Carrie Underwood. Poor Martina, poor LeAnn. Didn't stand a chance.
TOP MALE VOCALIST: A toughish one. Anything with Kenny Chesney AND George Strait in it has to be a rough hand to play. Not to mention Keith Urban, a darling of the mainstream press. Who won? Good ol' Brad Paisley. Interesting.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: How on earth did Miranda Lambert pull this one over Kenny Frickin' Chesney? Not to mention Taylor Swift, who has solidly moved into the world of mega-pop at this point-but she's a relative newbie and Kenny, like Brooks & Dunn, must win something at every awards show every year. We are wiping the sweat off our brows.
SONG OF THE YEAR: Ibid.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR: Jennifer Nettles' real-looking tears should have won here, but we suppose everyone was more in the mood for a laugh. Brad Paisley got it with his goofy "Online" clip instead. Shoot, beating out Kenny AGAIN!
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: Here's the big kahuna of the night. No girls nominated for this one, please note-this ain't no sissy category; it's a job for a MAN. And..deep breath...YES! KENNY WON! We were getting worried there for a bit. Now we can lay a hand down at blackjack in good spirits.
The final best thing about the ACM Awards? We did mention it was in Vegas, right? So even the losers have a chance to get lucky. See you next year at the tables!