It’s that time of the year again. Nominations for the 52nd Annual CMA Awards were announced Tuesday, Aug. 28 on Good Morning America.
Once again the CMA Awards will be hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley and will air Nov. 14 on ABC.
For the first time ever, I will be giving my own thoughts and predictions on this year’s awards below. I encourage you to do the same in the comments section. Please keep in mind that this list is my best attempt at looking at this through an objective lens, although truthfully it’s more like 75 percent objectivity fused with 25 percent personal opinion.
Bold names indicate names I think will win the award. Underlined names indicate names I want to win the award (which I don’t talk about in my thoughts … for the most part). I’ve left some categories with no bold or underlined names because I either can’t decide or have no personal preference either way.
Entertainer Of The Year
Like most writers and bloggers, I too am shocked not to see Garth Brooks’ name among those five. As such, it’s hard to say exactly who will win this award. Keith Urban gets nominated for seemingly everything and never wins, so it’s safe to say he won’t win the biggest award of them all. Chris Stapleton is of course the favorite of the CMAs (to unbearable degrees for some by this point), but he’s been nominated for this before and hasn’t won. Kenny Chesney is a surprising name to see here, and while I’d love to see him win and wouldn’t count him out, it’s still too hard to tell whether or not he has a shot. I’d label him the dark horse candidate.
Really, it’s between Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, and quite frankly even Bryan doesn’t have much of a shot here. His What Makes You Country album hasn’t sold nearly as well as past projects (perhaps because of the December roll-out which is always a bad idea). Aldean on the other hand has had monster singles back-to-back, a surprising feat considering it’s usually only his lead singles that perform on that level. This could just be his year to collect that award. Still, the fact that Bryan isn’t nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year does give me reason to think maybe he’ll get this award to make up for it. It’s a tough call.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Chris Stapleton (could also win)
While I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these names win, this award will likely go to Chris Stapleton who is the industry favorite for this award. In terms of pure power, it’s hard to say he hasn’t earned it. Luke Combs is unfortunately too new, and Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban are dark horse candidates at best. I enjoy Thomas Rhett personally, but his strengths lie more in his charisma than his vocal power. Still, his star only continues to burn brighter, and with the fatigue of Stapleton wins, this could be Rhett’s year.
New Artist of the Year
I’m thrilled to see a female name on this list, however Lauren Alaina is far from a new artist (her debut album, Wildflower came out in 2011). Chris Janson is essentially in the same boat (pun intended). Midland is too much of an oddball pick to really take seriously for this award (especially considering their followup singles haven’t performed well). While both Luke Combs and Brett Young have exploded on the scene in the past year, I’d have to give this to Combs. For one, he’s already nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, and two, he’s got the complete package of sales, airplay, personality and critical acclaim. This should easily be Combs’ award to take home.
Song of the Year
“Body Like A Back Road” – Sam Hunt
“Broken Halos” – Chris Stapleton
“Drowns The Whiskey” – Jason Aldean w/Miranda Lambert
“Drunk Girl” – Chris Janson
“Tequila” – Dan+Shay
“Body Like A Back Road” is an odd inclusion considering it was nominated last year. Plus, for an award that promotes song quality, regardless of one’s own personal opinion on the song, can anyone really say this is something we’ll remember ten years down the line? It’s a fun song (to you maybe … ), but it really shouldn’t win. With Hunt’s recent alienation of his music career, I can’t even seriously see it winning. It feels more like a way to garner his attention in the vein of say, Taylor Swift.
The other four nominees are certainly worthy enough in terms of their smash success, but in terms of pure, raw quality, it’s hard to go wrong with either “Broken Halos” or “Drowns The Whiskey.” I’d opt for the latter since it feels like the bigger hit when both songs feel equally good artistically. Still, this is ultimately another tough call to make. The CMAs also love Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” so it’s hard to count them out. They could also try to make a “statement” by pushing for “Drunk Girl,” which I think they will. It could go to anyone really and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Single of the Year
“Broken Halos” – Chris Stapleton
“Drinkin’ Problem” – Midland
“Drowns The Whiskey” – Jason Aldean & Miranda Lambert
“Meant To Be” – Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha
“Tequila” – Dan+Shay
While any country music fan knows that the “historical” chart run of “Meant To Be” is all a sham, it’s hard to deny that it truly was a huge hit. Aside from that song and “Tequila,” I wouldn’t mind the winner of this award, but there’s really no point in debating this one.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae
I remember when this was the easiest award to guess. Ironically enough, objectively I’d have to pick Florida Georgia Line over Brothers Osborne this year. While some would say they’ve fallen in the aftermath of bro-country, judging by their sales … that’s not the case in the slightest. As said above, “Meant To Be” was a monster hit, and “Simple” is selling well too despite its recent airplay struggles. Still, the CMAs have enjoyed giving this award to the brothers over them in recent years, and while I have no personal problems with that (I’d prefer the Brothers Osborne to be honest), I do have to wonder if Florida Georgia Line don’t deserve it more this year.
Elsewhere, the competition between those two duos could become so split down the middle that it ends up going to Dan + Shay. All I know is, while it’s nice to see Maddie and Tae, they (as well as Sugarland) don’t stand a chance.
Female Vocalist of the Year
With Carrie Underwood’s recent comeback and an album on the way, it’s hard to see how this award shouldn’t go to her. Normally I’d pick Miranda Lambert as the safe bet here, but her recent controversies could be what finally does her winning streak in at this year’s awards. I’ve love to see Kacey Musgraves win but we all know the chances of that happening. Maren Morris could also be a very good candidate to win this award given her last two years. It’s also nice not to see them resort to including offbeat names like Martina McBride or Reba McEntire just to fill out this category this year. With that said, there’s obviously a lot more work to do with that.
Album of the Year
Chris Stapleton, From A Room: Vol. 2
Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
Keith Urban, Graffiti U
Thomas Rhett, Life Changes
Dierks Bentley, The Mountain
Aside from Graffiti U, there really isn’t a bad pick in the bunch here. For as much as the CMAs love Chris Stapleton, I can’t see them giving him this award simply due to it being his least commercially viable project so far (again, December releases are never a good idea). Golden Hour is (sadly) a dark horse pick at best, as is The Mountain. My bet is on Life Changes winning it simply due to the fact that, like it or not, Thomas Rhett is now a superstar in the genre. Then again, given that I see him collecting the award for male vocalist, perhaps From A Room: Vol. 2 or The Mountain have their shots after all. This is another category that’s hard to know 100 percent.
Vocal Group of the Year
Little Big Town
Old Dominion (could also win)
On one hand, Little Big Town wins this all the time, and even in off years, the CMAs will still award artists despite that. Still, of the groups here, the only ones who have made any sort of relevant impact on the genre this year are Midland and Old Dominion. Midland seems too niche to collect this award, and with Old Dominion on the rise and continuing their hot streak, they honestly probably deserve to win.
With that said, I’m still going to predict Little Big Town simply because logic always gets thrown out the window with these award shows.
Musical Event of the Year
“Burning Man,” Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne
“Dear Hate,” Maren Morris ft. Vince Gill
“Drowns The Whiskey,” Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert (could also win)
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney
“Meant To Be,” Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line
With the inclusion of “Drunk Girl” from before, I agree with other writers who say the CMAs are looking to make some sort of “statement” this year. With that said, there’s a question as to how far they’ll be willing to go with that. I think that if “Drunk Girl” wins, “Dear Hate” won’t and vice-versa. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” really doesn’t feel like a serious contender for this, nor does “Burning Man” given how new it is. Hopefully nobody sees the alliance of Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line as a good musical event but stranger things have happened …
Still, given how often I’ve seen “Drowns The Whiskey” on this list now, I can definitely see it picking this award up as well.
I won’t pretend like I have any clue who could win Music Video of the Year or Musician of the Year so I’ll just remind you all again to leave your thoughts below … unless you’re a fellow writer who also wrote your piece on this (because there’s only a million of these articles floating around).