The country star earned the prestigious entertainer of the year award for the third year in a row – fourth time overall – at the Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday at Nashville's Sommet Center.
"As much as tonight is about awards, I really believe that being able to stand up here is more about great songs," a teary Chesney, 40, told the crowd, after surprise guest Shania Twain announced his victory. "This is my fourth time standing up here, and I'm really humbled by it."
Chesney was nominated seven times at the award show, but left with only the night's top honor.
The Carrie and Brad Show
Four-time nominee Brad Paisley didn't just host and perform at the ceremony – he was one of the night's major winners. The singer took two awards, including male vocalist and music video of the year for "Waitin' on a Woman."
Paisley, 36, also opened the show on a high note, trading guitar licks and verses with Keith Urban on the uptempo "Start a Band," the night's first major performance.
The singer's co-host, Carrie Underwood, also had a big night – and not just because of her six wardrobe changes during the telecast. The former American Idol champ was named female vocalist of the year for the third year in a row. (Remarkably, Underwood, Chesney and Paisley won the same top honors at 2007's CMA Awards.) Accepting the award after belting out the emotionally rending "Just a Dream," Underwood, 25, joked, "Mama, it's real hard to sing when you're in the second row crying."
Another big winner: Lady Antebellum, who walked away with the artist of the year trophy. Taylor Swift, who won in 2007, presented the group with their award. "Last year it was the highlight of my senior year when Carrie Underwood presented me with the Horizon Award," she said.
(For the Best Dressed Stars of the night, click here.)
Hollywood Comes to Nashville
Bringing a little Hollywood glamour to Nashville, Nicole Kidman revealed the first winner of the evening with Hugh Jackman. The Australia stars presented George Strait with single of the year for "I Saw God Today." The country veteran later nabbed album of the year, for Troubadour.
Nashville native Reese Witherspoon was also on hand as a presenter. "I'm having just the greatest time," the actress said before naming Paisley male vocalist of the year.
The PerformancesKellie Pickler ran through her revved-up "Best Days of Your Life," backed by an electric string section. Co-written by her close friend Swift, the breakup song stood in stark contrast to last year's tearjerker performance of "I Wonder," about her absent mother.
Similarly, double-nominee Miranda Lambert strayed from her rabble-rousing image, singing the introspective "More Like Her" and playing acoustic guitar.
And Kenny Chesney teamed up with reggae group the Wailers for "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven."
Photo Special: Best Dressed Stars!
Photo Special: The Night's Best Moments
Tony R. Phipps / FilmMagic
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