- Associated Press - Sunday, April 1, 2012

Carrie Underwood kicked off the Academy of Country Awards with a hard-charging blast of rock `n’ roll and a sexy black and magenta mini-dress.

Underwood’s single “Good Girl” was a warning shot to those looking for a lot of twang out of Sunday night’s awards in Las Vegas.

The ACMs are a celebration of what country has become, with arena rockers like lead nominees Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean being joined by a wave of 20-something upstarts who’ve incorporated new sounds into the genre. Non-country acts like Lionel Richie, KISS, Marc Anthony and LL Cool J were scheduled to join in the fun.

Among those exciting new acts in the spotlight for the first time is Chris Young. The 26-year-old hitmaker had a prime slot on the show, playing his song “Save Water, Drink Beer” behind Underwood, and is up for male vocalist and single record of the year for “Tomorrow.”

While the odds maker in him agrees he has “a chance” to win male vocalist of the year against Chesney, Aldean, Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton _ all entertainer of the year nominees as well _ he’s probably going to save his cash for the blackjack table and the slot machines.

“I’m not going to put any money on myself on myself on this one,” he said in advance of the show. “I don’t know how safe a bet that particular bet is.”

The smart money says this won’t be the last time Young shows up in the category, though. One of country music’s fastest rising stars, he’s also nominated for single record of the year for “Tomorrow” and is on a hot streak few can match with five straight No. 1s.

Young leads a group of 20-something nominees who are grabbing attention at the 47th annual ACMs, including already established acts like Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, and newcomers like top new artist nominees Scotty McCreery, Brantley Gilbert and Hunter Hayes are horning in on the fun.

Aldean and Kelly Clarkson won the first award handed out Sunday, taking vocal event of the year for their collaboration “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” while Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” won video of the year. Thompson Square were given the vocal duo or the year award during a concert Saturday night.

Swift joins the quartet of country’s leading men in the chase for the academy’s top award, the fan-voted entertainer of the year. Chesney is going for his fifth win, which would move him into a tie for second most trophies in that category with Alabama behind Garth Brooks’ six. Swift is the reigning entertainer of the year.

Reba McEntire and Shelton returned as co-hosts and the Zac Brown Band headlined the ACM Fan Jam, a satellite show at nearby Mandalay Bay where some performances will originate.





Get your latest country music news at https://www.twitter.com/AP(underscore)Country. And follow AP Entertainment Writer Chris Talbott at https://www.twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.



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