By Zackary Kephart
NASHVILLE, TN – One of country music’s biggest nights is just around the corner. The 52nd Annual CMA Awards will air Nov. 14 on ABC, and once again they’ll be hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. Most fields are wide open this year, making predictions that much harder to conjure. Predictions for this year’s awards are below, with bold names indicating those who will likely win the respective award.
Entertainer Of The Year
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, but it’s still too hard to tell whether or not he has a shot.
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. 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 off the impression that he’ll walk away with this award. It’s a tough call.
Male Vocalist of the Year
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. Thomas Rhett’s 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
It’s thrilling to see a female name on this list, however Lauren Alaina is far from a new artist. Chris Janson is in the same boat. Midland is too much of an oddball pick to really take seriously for this award. While both Luke Combs and Brett Young have exploded on the scene in the past year, this award should go 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.
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. With Hunt’s recent alienation of his music career, this song likely won’t win.
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.” The latter should likely take it since it feels like the bigger hit. 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.”
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 was a huge hit. There’s no debating the winner here.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae
The CMAs have enjoyed giving this award to Brothers Osborne in recent years, but Florida Georgia Line have had a big year, so perhaps this is their year to reclaim their throne.
Female Vocalist of the Year
With Carrie Underwood’s recent comeback and new album, it’s hard to see how this award shouldn’t go to her. Miranda Lambert is the safe bet here, but her recent controversies could hinder her win this year.
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”
For as much as the CMAs love Chris Stapleton, “From A Room Vol. 2” is his least commercially viable project so far, so it’s a dark horse candidate. “Golden Hour” and “The Mountain” also join this camp. Thomas Rhett is now a superstar in the genre, so “Life Changes” will likely win here.
Vocal Group of the Year
Little Big Town
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 probably deserve to win. Still, one can never resort to logic when predicting these outcomes.
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
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney
“Meant To Be,” Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line
As mentioned before, the CMAs are likely looking to make some sort of “statement” this year amidst the wave of sexual abuse claims. With that said, there’s a question as to how far they’ll be willing to go with 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.