"We just cried our eyes out backstage," Charles Kelley said on stage at L.A.'s Staples Center while accepting record of the year. "I can't believe we're standing up here again."
Meanwhile in an upset, rockers Arcade Fire bested Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Katy Perry and Eminem, winning the night's biggest honor, album of the year, for their third album, The Suburbs. The band, who performed a rollicking version of "Month of May" earlier in the telecast complete with bicycle-riders, immediately took the stage again and sprinted through an anthemic version of "Ready to Start" after collecting their award from Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
Ten-time nominee Eminem picked up best rap album for Recovery during the ceremony. "Okay, this is crazy," he said as he received a standing ovation. "Thank you to the fans."
In another unexpected choice, jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding was named best new artist despite a strong (and starry) showing in the category. Her competitors included Justin Bieber and Drake.
Six-time nominee Gaga offered an aerobic performance of her new single "Born This Way" early in the show, and also won best pop vocal album for The Fame Monster.
British rockers Muse nabbed best rock album for The Resistance, and lead singer Matthew Bellamy gave a shout-out on stage to his pregnant girlfriend Kate Hudson.
As always, the three-and-a-half hour telecast offered an eclectic array of performers. Mick Jagger prowled the stage and brought down the house during his tribute to the late Solomon Burke, while Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson opened the show with an all-star tribute to Aretha Franklin.