Tuesday, November 9, 2010

44th Annual CMA Awards - Who Wins?

Nashville is abuzz with excitement during preparation for country music's biggest event of the year.  I will be watching this year, more as a fan than as a critic.  Fortunately, we do have quite a few strong nominees in a show that has often been a disappointment in recent years.  We should have a good show this year!

Now it's time for me to put on my thinking cap, and decide who I personally think should be recognized this year, and who I expect will emerge victorious.

Entertainer of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Miranda Lambert
Brad Paisley
Keith Urban
Zac Brown Band

Most Deserving:  Miranda Lambert.  Over the past year, she has consistently released strong singles that have been embraced by fans, critics, and now even by country radio as well.  No one represented country music in 2010 better than Miranda Lambert.

Most Likely:  Brad Paisley.  Let's face it - we all know it's going to be Brad.  He didn't have nearly as big a year as Miranda, but he's the only longtime nominee in this category who has yet to take home the trophy.  I have a feeling the CMA is going to show more Paisley love this year.  With Carrie Underwood left out of this category, I'd say Brad's got it in the bag.

Male Vocalist of the Year
Dierks Bentley
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
George Strait
Keith Urban

Most Deserving:  Dierks Bentley.  He took a significant career risk in releasing a bluegrass album that had actual radio singles.  Top that, Paisley.

Most Likely:  Brad Paisley... possibly out of the force of habit.  Bentley bluegrass album aside, I highly doubt that the CMA is going to take this one away from Brad just yet.

Female Vocalist of the Year
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Most Deserving:  Miranda Lambert

Most Likely:  Miranda Lambert.  She's probably got this one all wrapped up.  Taylor was relatively quiet at radio this year.  Reba had a good year, but didn't match Carrie or Miranda.  Martina is essentially out of the running to begin with.  It's going to be between Carrie and Miranda.  Carrie continued her consistent trend of success this year, but I think Miranda has a slight edge thanks to her massive radio breakthrough with "White Liar" and "The House That Built Me."  Still, the CMA might give Carrie this award as an apology for leaving her out of the Entertainer of the Year category.

Vocal Group of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

Most Deserving:  Lady Antebellum.  They did put out a weak single with "American Honey," but they also reached their artistic peak to date with "Need You Now" - a massive crossover smash that ranks as a potential classic.  But Little Big Town may get a turn for this award when ACM season rolls around.

Most Likely:  Lady Antebellum.  At the very least, their enormous sales figures are going to net them the trophy.

Vocal Duo of the Year
Brooks & Dunn
Joey + Rory
Montgomery Gentry
Steel Magnolia

Most Deserving:  Joey + Rory.  I would vote for them on principle, since they released one of the strongest albums of the year.  But since radio still isn't playing them, I doubt that they'll be victorious against their more contemporary hitmakers.

Most Likely:  Brooks & Dunn... as a parting gift, if nothing else.

New Artist of the Year
Luke Bryan
Easton Corbin
Jerrod Niemann
Chris Young
Zac Brown Band

Most Deserving:  Zac Brown Band.  They have quickly become one of country music biggest attractions.  This is a formidable line-up, but the Zac Brown Band is the strongest competitor.

Most Likely:  Zac Brown Band.  Since they will likely be edged out of the Entertainer and Vocal Group categories, I expect that this is where the CMA will give them their due.

Single of the Year
Easton Corbin, "A Little More Country Than That"
Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"
Miranda Lambert, "The House That Built Me"
Miranda Lambert, "White Liar"
Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins, "Hillbilly Bone"

Most Deserving:  "The House That Built Me."  It's a great song to begin with, and the acoustic arrangement and strong vocal performance brings it to full potential.

Most Likely:  "The House That Built Me."  "Need You Now" will be its biggest competition, but I can't imagine picking any of these other nominees over this four-week number one hit.  "A Little More Country Than That" was a pleasant breath of fresh air, but it's simply not strong enough to unseat Miranda's "House."

Song of the Year
"A Little More Country Than That" - Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress, Wynn Varble
"Need You Now" - Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott
"The House That Built Me" - Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin
"Toes" - Zac Brown, Wyatt Durette, John Hopkins, Shawn Mullins
"White Liar" - Natalie Hembry, Miranda Lambert

Most Deserving:  "The House That Built Me."  Most of these nominees are good songs.  "The House That Built Me" is a great song.

Most Likely:  "The House That Built Me" - "Toes"?  Seriously?

Album of the Year
Dierks Bentley, Up On the Ridge
Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
Miranda Lambert, Revolution
George Strait, Twang
Carrie Underwood, Play On

Most Deserving:  Up On the Ridge.  Dierks was the only one in this group who took a significant career risk in releasing a bluegrass album, and a pretty dang good bluegrass album at that.  He stepped outside of the mainstream mold, and challenged country radio to play something drastically different from its usual favorites.  That deserves an award.

Most Likely:  Revolution.  Miranda is unstoppable this year, and I expect her momentum to continue into this category.

Musical Event of the Year
Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert, "Bad Angel"
Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews, "I'm Alive"
Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack, "'Til the End"
Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins, "Hillbilly Bone"
Zac Brown Band and Kid Rock, "Can't You See"

Most Deserving:  "Bad Angel."  Three of country music's most critically lauded stars performing on an ultra-cool bluegrass track - That is just impossible to outshine.  I like "Hillbilly Bone," but "Bad Angel" makes it sound like crap in comparison.

Most Likely:  "Hillbilly Bone."  The CMA will gravitate toward the one song that was the biggest radio hit.

Music Video of the Year
Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"
Miranda Lambert, "The House That Built Me"
Miranda Lambert, "White Liar"
Brad Paisley, "Water"
Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins, "Hillbilly Bone"

Most Deserving:  "White Liar."  The song tends to sit in the shadow of "The House That Built Me," but it should be recognized for it's remarkably clever and creative video with a surprise ending.

Most Likely:  "White Liar."  I could be going out on a limb here, since this is a formidable lineup, but I think the Jamey Johnson cameo should at least be enough to put "White Liar" over the top.

Musician of the Year
Paul Franklin (steel guitar)
Dann Huff (guitar)
Brent Mason (guitar)
Mac McAnally (guitar)
Randy Scruggs (guitar)

Most Deserving:  Paul Franklin.  I really have no business trying to pick a winner here, so I'll just give a shout-out to the good ol' steel guitar.  It's a shame that country music's signature instrument is becoming it's least-used and most underrated instrument.

Most Likely:  Mac McAnally.  The CMA will act on the force of habit in this category.

Those are my picks.  Sound off in the comments section, and tell me yours!

More CMA Picks and Predictions:
Country Universe
The 9513
My Kind of Country
All Things Country
Country Chart Talk, Part 1
Country Chart Talk, Part 2