The Country Music Association gave Taylor Swift the Pinnacle Award at its annual awards ceremony Wednesday night, honoring her recordings’ worldwide audience. George Strait was named the entertainer of the year, winning the award for a third time at the age of 61. Miranda Lambert won the award for the female vocalist of the year, and Kacey Musgraves was named the year’s best new artist.

For music critic Chris Richards, Musgraves is a welcome reprieve from the rambunctious sound of most of popular country music:

Musgraves, a 25-year-old Texan who sings with the quiet authority of speech, was nominated for six awards — leading the pack alongside superstar Taylor Swift. She walked out of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena with the one that mattered most: new artist of the year.

Clutching her trophy, the singer-­songwriter said: “I can’t even put it into words” — which was tough to believe, considering her gift for articulating the disappointments of young adulthood at a time when so many other country stars are drowning them in Southern Comfort.

The night’s performances felt only somewhat emblematic of the escapist, party-hard ethos dominating country airwaves, but it still got plenty loud. . . .

On a night of boisterous performances, hers was quiet, a little timid, like conversation with someone you’re just getting to know.

She played her new single, “Follow Your Arrow,” a controversial song that mentions marijuana and a same-sex kiss but is ultimately about being free: “Just follow your arrow wherever it points.”

On a night when country music huddles together tightest, the wisest words came from its newest star.

Chris Richards

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley hosted the ceremony, cracking a few jokes about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare:

“Hey, do you have that Obamacare?” Underwood asks when Paisley says he needs to see a doctor

“Oh, it’s great. I started signing up last Thursday, and I’m almost done.”

The two then fumble with a laptop in an attempt to sign up.

“Why’s it spinning?” Paisley asks. “Why’s it smoking?”

Aaron Blake

Find a complete list of winners at Wednesday night’s ceremony here. Watch the winning artists perform here.