Miranda Lambert was the reigning queen of Wednesday's Country Music Association Awards, but Luke Bryan marked a long-earned breakthrough by winning entertainer of the year.
The win was Bryan's first CMA, despite his multiple hits, top-selling albums and top-grossing tours.
"Well, first of all, I never met Garth. Hey Garth," Bryan said, hugging the legend, who presented the top award.
"I hope I can have enough time to say everything that's on my mind," an emotional Bryan said, thanking God, his fans, and his teary-eyed wife in the audience at the Bridgestone Arena. "I have some angels in heaven, my brother and sister are making this night possible for me."
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Wednesday night marked a breakthrough for Bryan, who was also snubbed at the recent Grammy Awards.
Still, Lambert, who was nominated in nine categories, was the night's big winner: The fiery singer took home four trophies, including album of the year for "Platinum" and single of the year for "Automatic." She stole the night with fashion choices that were winners, too, and performances. She sang twice onstage, including a country-tinged version of "All About That Bass" with breakthrough singer Meghan Trainor, where Shelton looked up and bopped his head.
Lambert won her fifth consecutive female vocalist of the year, and Shelton repeated the record for male vocalist of the year.
"Let me just say that before I say, I really thought Luke was going to win this," he said. "This means so much to me ... this is a big night for my family."
The night featured a number of collaborative performances: Shelton sang with Ashley Monroe; the Doobie Brothers performed with Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, Jennifer Nettles and Hunter Hayes; George Strait and Eric Church performed "Cowboys Like Us"; and pop diva Ariana Grande sported a mini top and skirt as she sang the hit "Bang Bang" alongside Little Big Town, who won vocal group of the year.
But the night's best collaboration was Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. The white-hot duo, hosting the CMAs for a seventh time, earned laugh after laugh for jokes that ranged from Ebola to Taylor Swift to Underwood's baby bump.
Swift's switch to pop from country was referred to as "Post Pardon Taylor Swift Disorder," or PPTSD.
"President Barack Obama doesn't care about PPTSD!" Paisley yelled. Underwood followed with: "I'm pretty sure it's why the democrats lost the senate."
Underwood and Paisley sang a version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," calling it "Quarantine." Paisley also earned roaring laughter when he noted that the ABC series "Black-ish," which airs Wednesdays, would not be airing because of the CMAs.
"If you were expecting to see the show 'Black-ish,' this ain't it ... I hope you're enjoying 'White-ish,'" he said.
The song of the year went to Musgraves, who won for "Follow Your Arrow," which she co-wrote with Brandy Clark, who is openly gay and was among the contenders for new artist of the year.
"Oh my goodness! Do you guys realize what this means for country music?" Musgraves said, as Clark and songwriter Shane McAnally stood behind her. "Our genre was built on simple good songs about real life and that's what this was."
Vince Gill earned the Irving Waugh award of excellence, while Dierks Bentley's "Drunk On a Plane" won music video of the year, Florida Georgia Line won vocal duo of the year for a second time and Brett Eldredge was named new artist of the year.