NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Florida Georgia Line was experiencing the power of a song at the Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night, taking two early trophies thanks to the overwhelming popularity of "Cruise."
With their mothers in attendance, the duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley scored single and vocal duo of the year. Their quick tally was more proof the so-called bro country movement is the sound of the moment in mainstream country. FGL kicked off the show performing a fist-pumping medley with Luke Bryan, and very quickly returned to the stage to take the trophy for single of the year for their "Cruise" remix featuring Nelly. They also played the new song "Round Here."
Meanwhile, Kacey Musgraves — who, along with Taylor Swift, led all nominees with six — won the new artist trophy, besting a field including Florida Georgia Line.
"This first year for me has just been undescribable," said Musgraves.
Hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley got the show going on a jovial note as they took the stage with their opening skit, first joking about feuds in music. They got Bryan and Zac Brown to hug it out after their mild feud over song trends in Nashville. They joked about Juliette Hough's misguided blackface Halloween costume, urging Darius Rucker to start his own feud with the singer. They skewered Obamacare to a Nashville audience that roared with approval.
Then, they brought out the guys from the hit show "Duck Dynasty" and parodied Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," with Willie Robertson doing a little twerk for Underwood.
Swift tied Florida Georgia Line with two trophies after her "Highway Don't Care" collaboration with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban won musical event and music video of the year before the show began. Lee Brice's "I'd Drive Your Truck," about a fallen soldier whose father still drives his truck, won song of the year.
Swift later performed a somber, acoustic version of her hit "Red" with Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Sam Bush. And Jason Mraz joined Hunter Hayes for a stroll around Bridgestone Arena while performing "Everybody's Got Sombody But Me."
Swift is nominated for her third entertainer of the year award, the night's top honor. She also is still up for album of the year and female vocalist. And though it won't show on her official tally for the night, the 23-year-old pop star will be presented with the CMA's Pinnacle Award. The award goes to artists who take country music to a worldwide audience. Garth Brooks is the only previous winner; he won in 2005.
With smart songwriting, a progressive bent and a strong sense of self like country's other top women, Musgraves made an auspicious mainstream country debut this year with her album "Same Trailer Different Park." She's up for album, female vocalist, new artist and single of the year. And she scored two song of the year nominations for co-writing Lambert's hit "Mama's Broken Heart" and her own "Merry Go ‘Round."
Meanwhile, veteran George Strait is going for his third entertainer of the year award as he retires from the road. Voters could easily make an argument for any of the five entertainer of the year nominees. Strait is the sentimental choice. Swift's popularity has helped expand the boundaries and fan base of country music. Blake Shelton is a five-time nominee who only seems to get more popular. Jason Aldean is about due for the award as a major architect of country's modernization and a touring titan. And Bryan is arguably country's hottest star after winning the rival Academy of Country Music's entertainer trophy in April.