Entertainer of the Year
The usual solid, yet unspectacular group. The lack of Carrie Underwood will have all her fans fuming as usual and everyone else will bark at the inclusion of Swift, a two time winner and the incumbent, for her increasing lack of country credibility.
Will Win: Taylor Swift – I’m betting on the safest choice this time around. She’s the most likely to pull off a win, her third. Chesney may’ve had the biggest tour, and Aldean is on fire right now, but Swift has the lock on this category.
Should Win: Luke Bryan, but he wasn’t nominated. As an all around entertainer, he’s so much better than Aldean, the only one who stands to keep the award out of Swift’s hands.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Kelly Clarkson, really? I adore her but she hasn’t fully embraced a career in country music…yet. But she did score a #21 hit with the country version of “Mr. Know It All” so her nomination is somewhat, albeit very marginally justified. McBride is a snoozer scoring her 14 consecutive nomination and 15th overall as her career takes a downward spiral.
See, this is what happens when all the great female artists of late (Kimberly Perry, Jennifer Nettles, Shawna Thompson) are members of duos and groups.
Will Win: Lambert – she’s at the top of the heap and the countriest of the big 3
Should Win: While I’d love to see this award go to Clarkson, she’s a pop singer who’s done a bang up job covering country songs in concert. That’s it. I’ll say Lambert because of her intuition with Pistol Annies
Male Vocalist of the Year
Another somewhat standard list until you take into account Urban is here in place of the red hot Dierks Bentley. His exclusion, which comes on the heels of three back-to-back #1 hits is shocking. Urban should’ve joined Brad Paisley and been made to sit this one out this year.
Will Win: Shelton – there’s seemingly no stopping him right now despite one mediocre single after another.
Should Win: Bryan. While I love Church, Bryan is the most exciting male vocalist to come along in years and a personal favorite of mine.
Vocal Group of the Year
The Band Perry
Eli Young Band
Little Big Town
Zac Brown Band
On chart hits alone, all five deserve to be here this time around. It’s nice to see the exclusion of Rascal Flatts as their already bland material has only gotten worse in recent years.
Will Win: Lady Antebellum – is there any reason to bet against them?
Should Win: Little Big Town – Their latest single “Pontoon” isn’t just their biggest single, but its country music’s song of the summer. Zac Brown Band has also yet to score a deserving win, but LBT has been waiting for their time in the spotlight for far too long.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Big & Rich
Love and Theft
The Civil Wars
Another interesting list. Sugarland shot themselves in the foot with Incredible Machine and thus are the least likely to repeat in this category. Love and Theft just scored their first #1, and Thompson Square have the ACM momentum.
Will Win: Thompson Square – they’ve yet to repeat the monster success of “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” in their last two tries, but they’re far from one hit wonders. Shawna may not be the most flashy female vocalist, but she’s the most akin to the genre’s traditions.
Should Win: The Civil Wars – there isn’t a more ear catching duo in country music right now
New Artist of the Year
Love and Theft
If we ever needed proof country music is in a rut, this is it. No one on this list has proven truly outstanding in anything they’ve done to date, and none have displayed the integrity to correctly push the genre forward.
Will Win: Brice, Gilbert, and Hayes are so even I can’t predict between the three. That may give Thompson Square the edge.
Should Win: Thompson Square – of this group, they’re the best of the bunch
Album of the Year
Luke Bryan, Tailgates and Tanlines
Eric Church, Chief
Miranda Lambert, Four the Record
Dierks Bentley, Home
Lady Antebellum, Own the Night
The significance of this category is huge. For the first time since his MCA debut When I Call Your Name, Vince Gill isn’t nominated. Guitar Slinger was one of the best country records of 2011 and deserved to be on this list. Also missing are George Strait’s Here For A Good Time, despite the fact his last two albums won, and Pistol Annies for their excellent Hell on Heels.
But rest assured, we get Own The Night. The category wouldn’t be complete without it now would it?
Will Win: Own The Night - if its good enough to get a Best Country Album Grammy, than it can’t loose here, right?!
Should Win: Chief – The Church album is the best of this list and the most original commercial country album of 2011. Four The Record was good, but nowhere near the caliber of Chief.
Song of the Year (Award goes to songwriters)
“Even if It Breaks Your Heart” – written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay
“God Gave Me You” – written by Dave Barnes
“Home” – written by Dierks Bentley and Jon Randall Stewart
“Over You” – written by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
“Springsteen” – written by Eric Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell
Another boring list. The exclusion of “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” is a travesty, and George Strait should’ve been honored for his songwriting contributions to Here For A Good Time. But the inclusion of “Springsteen” is all that matters to me.
Will Win: “Over You” – I can already see Lambert and Shelton accepting this together and I’m very happy about it
Should Win: “Springsteen” – its the best song of this bunch hands down
Single of the Year (Award goes to artist and producer)
Jason Aldean, “Dirt Road Anthem”
Blake Shelton, “God Gave Me You”
Dierks Bentley, “Home”
Little Big Town, “Pontoon”
Eric Church, “Springsteen”
Aren’t the nominations for Aldean’s awful rap over? Shelton, meanwhile, has been nominated for one of his grossest productions ever. Bentley’s patriotic anthem is wonderful, and Church’s ode is his best single yet.
Will Win: I’m leading towards, “Home” but could also see “Springsteen” sneak in a win. But as far as singles of the year go, “Pontoon” is about as big as it gets
Should Win: “Pontoon” – sure its frivolous, but unlike the Aldean hit its harmless fun, and LBT deserve anything the CMA decide to throw their way
Musical Event of the Year
“Dixie Highway,” Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band
“Feel Like a Rock Star,” Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw
“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” Willie Nelson featuring Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson
“Safe and Sound,” Taylor Swift featuring the Civil Wars
“Stuck on You,” Lionel Richie and Darius Rucker
The most thought out and interesting list, by a wide margin. The Jackson duet is his most exciting song from Thirty Miles West, the Swift duet is the most compelling single of her career, and the Nelson song is an hilarious classic in the making. The reworking of Richie’s classic suits him and Rucker well while the only clunker is the awful excuse for Chesney and McGraw to sing together on stage this past summer.
Will Win: “Feel Like A Rockstar” – the CMA can’t resist when two genre superstars team up
Should Win: “Safe and Sound” – putting Swift aside, its the most compelling track and another reason why The Civil Wars are currently the genre’s best duo.
Music Video of the Year
Eric Church, “Springsteen”
Kenny Chesney, “Come Over”
Miranda Lambert, “Over You”
Little Big Town, “Pontoon”
Toby Keith, “Red Solo Cup”
Of these, Church has the best video, followed by LBT. What’s so remarkable about the whole “Pontoon” thing is LBT haven’t caved into any pressure to act like 20 year olds. They’re being completely themselves all the while making millions.
Of the others, The Keith video is stupid fun, Chesney is all sex and no substance, and Lambert is as boring and depressing as the song.
Will Win: “Red Solo Cup” – as stupid as the song, but captures it perfectly
Should Win: “Pontoon” – lets have fun with this one, and this video is pure fun in the sun. But if Church only ones award, it’ll likely be this one
Musician of the Year
The award I know the least about, but all talented musicians. Can’t go wrong with any of them.
Will Win: Mac McAnally – too strong to bet against
Should Win: Sam Bush – for some variety