Miranda Lambert made history and ruled the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday (06Apr14), earning three top prizes, including Female Vocalist of the Year for the fifth time in a row. The House That Built Me singer became the only female artist to win the honour five consecutive times, edging out Reba McEntire, who won the award for four successive years, and seven in total.
Lambert also took home the Record of the Year prize for her song Mama's Broken Heart, as well as the Vocal Event of the Year prize for her duet with Keith Urban, We Were Us, which was handed out on the red carpet before the ceremony began.
Country music icon George Strait won the ultimate prize of the night for Entertainer of the Year, beating out Taylor Swift, Lambert, her husband Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. The latter two also co-hosted the event for the second year in a row.
Follow Your Arrow hitmaker Kacey Musgraves followed up her two Grammy wins in February (14) with the Album of the Year award for Same Trailer Different Park, and boasted, "I'm really proud to be a woman representing country music," in her acceptance speech.
For the second year in a row Jason Aldean picked up the Male Vocalist of the Year title, and other winners included The Band Perry (Vocal Group of the Year), Florida Georgia Line (Vocal Duo of the Year), Justin Moore (New Artist of the Year), Lee Brice (Song of the Year for I Drive Your Truck) and Highway Don't Care by Tim McGraw, featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban (Video of the Year).
Garth Brooks presented veteran singer Merle Haggard with the Crystal Milestone Award to mark his 50th anniversary in the industry, and George Strait and Lambert teamed up to sing a medley of his hits, including The Bottle Let Me Down and I'm a Lonesome Fugitive.
The achievement coincided with Haggard's 77th birthday, and Brooks led the entire audience in serenading the singer on his big day.
The ceremony was also filled with stand-out performances, including sets from George Strait, Darius Rucker, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow and Toby Keith.
In addition, a number of artists joined forces for special collaborations - Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan teamed up for a pyrotechnics and bicycle stunt show during their performance of This is How We Roll; Tim McGraw was joined by his wife Faith Hill for a duet of Meanwhile; Stevie Nicks joined Lady Antebellum for a rendition of Rihannon, and The Voice stars Shelton and Shakira gave the country night a Latin feel as they reworked her song Medicine.
Prior to Sunday's ceremony, Carrie Underwood was given the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award, Toby Keith and Ronnie Milsap were handed the Career Achievement Award, and Rascal Flatts were honoured with the Jim Reeves International Award for their success overseas.
The full list of winners is:
Entertainer of the Year: George Strait
Album of the Year: Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Vocal Group of the Year: The Band Perry
Male Vocalist of the Year: Jason Aldean
Song of the Year: I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice
Record of the Year: Mama's Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert
New Artist of the Year: Justin Moore
Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line
Vocal Event of the Year: We Were Us by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert
Crystal Milestone Award: Merle Haggard
Video of the Year: Highway Don't Care by Tim McGraw, featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
Gene Weed Special Achievement Award: Carrie Underwood
Career Achievement Award: Toby Keith and Ronnie Milsap
Jim Reeves International Award: Rascal Flatts
Country star Toby Keith has narrated a new documentary which chronicles the players and coaches of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team as they help citizens of his hometown deal with the aftermath of a devastating tornado. The American Soldier hitmaker has added his voice to OKC Thunder: Heart of the City, which will air on TV in America on Friday night (22Nov13).
Keith's hometown of Moore, Oklahoma was ravaged by the storm earlier this year (May13), and he helped raise $2 million (£1.3 million) for the victims during a charity concert in July (13), which featured performances by Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar.
In the new TV movie, basketball superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook visit the town to help with relief efforts and staged a training camp practice at a local high school.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Country music star Toby Keith returned to the rubble of his home town with a local Oklahoma TV crew earlier this week (beg01Jul13) to pay tribute to a beloved weatherman who kept him up to date with the May (13) storms. The Beer For My Horses singer was in Oklahoma the night before the tornadoes hit and had to watch the destruction of the 20 May (13) storm on an iPad app in a Nashville, Tennessee studio.
He quickly halted his recording plans and headed home to make sure his family and friends in Moore were OK - and he returned to the town with meteorologist pal Gary England this week as he prepared for his benefit concert in Norman this weekend (06Jul13).
Keith told the News9 weatherman, "I've got the News9 app on my iPad and so I got in the studio and started working and flipped it on.
"We sat and watched it (storm) as it crossed the interstate and 4th Street; I said, 'It's gonna get my sister...', and so we said, 'We have to start making arrangements to get back.'"
Keith told England that the frequent Oklahoma storms always bring back bad memories from his childhood: "We didn't have the storm shelters we have today... We had bunk beds and mum would wrap the mattresses around (them), put one on top, and we would just get in. We rode some out.
"There was (sic) big pieces of sheet rock and stuff coming through your window in the bedroom and the house was rattling... Those are bad memories."
The singer then thanked local news veteran England for his tireless storm reporting, insisting, "We lean on you for this," and adding, "You save a lot of lives."
Keith's tornado benefit concert on Saturday will feature performances from Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Trisha Yearwood and rocker Sammy Hagar.
Tickets for Toby Keith's upcoming Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert sold out in less than three hours on Friday (21Jun13). The 6 July (13) gig at the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman will feature performances by Keith, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar.
After learning all 80,000 tickets had been sold, Keith went online and posted: "As of this time, there are no #TKOKrelief tickets avail (available). Once we finalize production, it is possible that there will be addt'l (additional) tix (tickets) released!"
Blake Shelton's televised Healing in the Heartland concert in Oklahoma City in May (13) helped raise more than $6 million (£3.9 million) for the recovery effort in Moore, Oklahoma, which was left ravaged by a deadly twister.
Kings of Leon and The Flaming Lips will co-headline another show benefiting victims of the storms on 28 July (13).
Toby Keith, Ronnie Dunn and Garth Brooks' Oklahoma Twister Benefit concert will take place on 6 July (13). The trio will hit the stage at the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium alongside Mel Tillis, Brooks' wife Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson and rocker Sammy Hagar.
The charity gig comes several weeks after Keith's fellow Oklahoma native Blake Shelton staged his Healing in the Heartland concert at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City with his wife Miranda Lambert, Usher, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire.
The televised concert helped raise more than $6 million (£3.9 million) for the recovery effort in Moore, Oklahoma, which was left ravaged by a deadly twister last month (May13).
Kings of Leon and The Flaming Lips will co-headline another show benefiting victims of the storms on 28 July (13).
Singers Miranda Lambert, Reba Mcentire and Usher joined forces with Blake Shelton on Wednesday night (29May13) to help raise funds for the tornado recovery effort in his native Oklahoma. The Honey Bee hitmaker leaped into action last week (begs20May13) to organise the televised Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert after a twister ripped through the state, devastating the city of Moore and leaving at least 24 people dead.
Shelton got proceedings at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City underway with a touching rendition of God Gave Me You, followed by performances from Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Luke Bryan and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder.
Shelton's wife, Lambert, fought back tears as she highlighted the plight of animals caught up in the natural disaster by belting out The House That Built Me as images of rescued pets were beamed onto the big screens behind the stage, and McEntire reached out to first responders attending the concert to thank them for all their hard work.
She also made a small but poignant change to the lyrics of her Carole King duet, Everyday People, to reflect the tragic disaster of 20 May (13), singing, "They headed south... But not for sun/To Oklahoma where the storms had been", while Vince Gill dedicated Threatened Me With Heaven to the memory of the "24 people who didn't make it".
Shelton also called on pals Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys and Toby Keith to record video messages urging fans to dig deep and donate to non-profit organisation the United Way, with country couple Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks reminding viewers just how close thousands more locals came to facing death.
They said, "Sixteen minutes. That's the only warning these people had from the time the warning signs went off to when the tornado hit the ground. Sixteen minutes.
"It's gonna take time to recover and rebuild in Oklahoma but recover and rebuild, we will. And you can help speed that along with your donation. United Way is taking donations that are gonna be directly distributed to communities affected... It's gonna stay right here for the people that need it. Make that donation now... As Oklahomans, we're asking."
Shelton closed the show by teaming up with his The Voice co-star Usher for a heartwarming performance of Home, before making one last plea for funds: "I wanna thank all my friends who helped out tonight, but most of all, I wanna thank you at home, who took time out of your lives to join us for Healing in the Heartland and remember anything you can do to donate, will have an impact.
"To the people of Oklahoma, you're in our hearts."
Pop star Joe Jonas spent America's Memorial Day weekend (24-26May13) helping tornado survivors in Moore, Oklahoma pick up the pieces following last week's (20May13) storm disaster. At least 24 people were killed when a massive twister swept through the area on 20 May, destroying homes and levelling buildings, including two elementary schools.
Multiple celebrities offered their prayers and support on Twitter.com, with some donating money to relief funds, but the Burnin' Up hitmaker actually signed on to help volunteers by hopping on a plane and working alongside charity bosses at Convoy of Hope.
He tells CNN.com, "It's heartbreaking to see personal items that probably meant so much to them (tornado victims) and hearing that you only have minutes to leave your house, I can't even imagine... Just even taking a glimpse (around), it's devastating. It's very sad.
"It is a little bit encouraging to see how many people are around just helping with whatever they can. It's kind of a beautiful thing to see people coming together."
The 23 year old isn't the only artist helping to provide aid to those hardest hit by the tornado - Carrie Underwood has donated $1 million (£645,000) to the Red Cross' relief effort, while country singer Blake Shelton is staging an all-star benefit relief concert in the state on Wednesday (29May13), and Toby Keith went home to Moore last week (ends24May13) to tour the town with a TV camera crew.
Country star Toby Keith has heaped praise on his son-in-law for risking his own safety to aid in the tornado recovery efforts in his hometown of Moore, Oklahoma. A massive twister ripped through the town on Monday (20May13), leaving behind a wide path of destruction and a death toll of at least 24 people, many of them children, as two elementary schools were levelled in its wake.
Keith, who grew up in the area, just missed the terrible storm as he flew out to Nashville, Tennessee to record new music only hours before tragedy struck, but he returned on Tuesday (21May13) to assess the damage and comfort family and friends.
The singer gave journalist Matt Lauer of U.S. breakfast show Today a tour of the devastation on Wednesday (22May13), even showing viewers his sister Tonni's badly damaged home, which was covered in debris, before hailing his daughter's husband a hero for helping search and rescue teams look for survivors.
He said, "My son-in-law heard about it, knew about the school, drove over there, flipped his truck getting in, got out, beat the rescue first responders in, got electrocuted, run (sic) a nail all the way through his foot, and got in the tunnel, had a tunnel collapse on him and got inside and helped pull a couple bodies out."
The star is now urging members of the public to dig deep and donate to the cause, as thousands of people are left without homes.
And he's confident the town will recover after the tragedy: "As bad as this looks right now, these people are so resilient... They'll bounce back, homes will start going up quick and they'll prepare for the next one (storm)."
Country star Toby Keith's mother Carolyn and sister Tonni were among those who had to run for cover on Monday (20May13) when a deadly tornado touched down in his hometown of Moore, Oklahoma. A massive twister ripped through the community on Monday afternoon, leaving behind a wide path of destruction and a death toll of at least 24 people, many of them children as two elementary schools were levelled in the wake of the storm.
Keith, who grew up in the area, just missed the terrible storm as he flew out to Nashville, Tennessee to record new music only hours before tragedy struck - but others weren't so lucky.
On Monday night he told CNN.com, "I left today and I knew when we flew out of there (a storm was brewing). I could see it building back in the Southwest and it was just, man... I grew up in those neighbourhoods that got hit... My sister's house got hit. It's a mile north of my mother's house and the farm where I was raised.
"There's been so many tornadoes come through there, but I don't ever remember one hitting the elementary school right square on the button like this one did. That's devastating."
However, the singer is convinced the damage could have been much worse if not for the talented weather experts, who issued a rare tornado emergency warning to residents minutes before the storm hit: "Oklahoma's really good - they have great meteorologists, great weather centres. They prepare you for this. The (death toll) numbers could be much, much higher. It's devastating to see this count, because it usually isn't this high... but they did the best they could do, I'm sure."
Country star Bryan White's mother was also caught up in the deadly tornado - in a series of posts on Twitter.com, he wrote, "My Mom is in the closet again. F5 (grade-five tornado) on the ground in SW (Southwest) OKC (Oklahoma City)...Thx every1 4 your prayers."