It’s award time again, with the Academy of Country Music due to hand out its trophies for achievements during 2009 on Sunday April 18. Here are our predictions of the likely winners:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
This category is fan-voted this year (as it has been for the last couple of years). This year, though, the number of nominees has been substantially increased.
Taylor Swift: our unanimous pick
Zac Brown Band
Occasional Hope: Fan-voted. No further comment required.
Razor X: Since this is a fan-voted award, the only two serious contenders are Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Underwood won last year, and since Swift has had a more successful year, I’m going to predict that the momentum is in her favor.
J.R. Journey: I think she’s ahead of the pack in this race by a large enough margin to safely call her the early winner. With it being fan-voted yet again, Taylor’s younger, internet-savvy fan-base would give her the edge even if she didn’t already have it.
Meg: Taylor will get it due to fan voting, and it’s not as though she hasn’t worked equally hard as the other nominees, or harder.
TOP MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Brad Paisley: J.R., Meg
Darius Rucker: Occasional Hope
George Strait: Razor X
Meg: Brad’s got this one. He’s come into his own as a performer, writer, and entertainer with great musicianship and great vocals.
J.R.: Major tours, a critically acclaimed album and an impressive run of chart-topping singles are just Brad’s commercial qualifications for his victory here. When he wants to be, he’s also a mighty fine statesman and torch-bearer for traditional country.
Razor: After three consecutive wins in this category for Brad Paisley, I’m guessing that the Academy will want to give this award to someone else this year. Urban is the only serious competition.
OH: If Darius wins it will be seen as a surprise victory, but I think he just could get it. He does have an interesting tone, has scored some big radio hits, and sold exceptionally well. And it all seems to be about commercial impact these days. Plus, you need at least one surprise at any award show.
TOP FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Taylor Swift: another unanimous decision
Lee Ann Womack
Razor: As much as it pains me to say it, I think that the momentum is clearly on Taylor’s side, following her sweep at the CMAs.
OH: The ACMs haven’t rewarded Taylor as much as the other awards yet, but they’ve always been the most commercially based. I know there’s been a bit of a backlash against Taylor’s sweeping the board elsewhere, especially at the Grammy’s, underlined by her woeful live performance there – but I think she’s still in the middle of her run.
J.R.: Whether or not the naysayers get in a huff about the semantics of the award’s title with the word ‘vocalist’, Swift is by far the genre’s front-running ambassador lately. She’s the Garth Brooks of this millennium. I don’t think she’ll slow down soon either.
Meg: Sales and Taylor’s star status will win out, though she’s not the best vocalist. Still, Taylor has the ability to touch young hearts which is something that’s sometimes missing at radio these days. Carrie’s probably a close second to Taylor due to her continued string of #1s and continued strong sales, as well as being a better vocalist than Taylor.
TOP VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Lady Antebellum: another unanimous choice
Little Big Town
Randy Rogers Band
Zac Brown Band
OH: A shoo-in, as they have massive buzz and impressive sales despite rather lacklustre material, and actually lead the nominations here.
Razor: Rascal Flatts seem to have finally peaked, and Lady A has clearly been on the upswing this year.
J.R.: I have to say I’m really happy that an act has finally dethroned Rascal Flatts as the top group in country music. I’d rather the Zac Brown Band be as white-hot as Lady Antebellum, but with great songs and a fresh sound, I wouldn’t begrudge the harmonizing trio their glory either.
Meg: They’re flying at the moment, and have great vocals that are winging them higher.
TOP VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR
Brooks & Dunn
Joey + Rory
Razor: Brooks & Dunn are really winding down instead of finishing on a strong note. Joey + Rory haven’t had enough success at radio and their label doesn’t have enough clout to make a win happen for them. MG hasn’t done anything very exciting, and Steel Magnolia has yet to have their big breakthrough. I’m not sure why they even appear on this list.
J.R.: Nostalgia about their split aside, Brooks & Dunn haven’t done anything to merit a win this year. Meanwhile, Sugarland put 2 singles on the top of the charts, sold over a million albums and have a major headlining tour under their belts. Plus, that Jennifer Nettles has the best set of pipes to hit Nashville since Miss Reba came to town.
Meg: There really isn’t another one that comes close, other than Brooks & Dunn and their last pieces of new material didn’t carry the same spark as in years past. Besides, B & D will be honored with their own tribute show to be broadcast later this spring.
OH: : This category is usually the weakest in terms of genuine contenders, and although there are a number of new duos on the scene lately, it’s still the case that there is one duo dominating the category. This year, it’s Sugarland. Commercially they’ve been by far the most successful of these duos, now that Brooks & Dunn have basically run their course. Anyone else winning would be the biggest upset of the evening.
TOP NEW ARTIST
Another fan-voted category
Luke Bryan: Meg, J.R.
Joey + Rory
Gloriana: Occasional Hope
Meg: Most familiar with Luke’s material as it gets more airplay. His fan voting campaign is creative and will drum up the votes for this one, too.
OH: Gloriana have already benefitted in fan-voted awards from touring with Taylor Swift. I think the effect will spill over to this one.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
American Saturday Night — Brad Paisley (produced by Chris DuBois and Frank Rogers): J.R.
Lady Antebellum — Lady Antebellum (produced by Victoria Shaw and Paul Worley)
Play On — Carrie Underwood (produced by Mark Bright): Occasional Hope, Razor X
Revolution — Miranda Lambert (produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke)
The Foundation — Zac Brown Band (produced by Keith Stegall and Zac Brown)
Razor: In the absence of a Taylor Swift nomination, the two serious contenders are Underwood and Lady Antebellum. I’m guessing that the Academy will favor Carrie over Lady A.
J.R.: This category, as usual, is the most competitive. You could make a case for any of the five contenders to walk away with the trophy, but I think the Academy will award this one to Brad.
OH: I feel the opposite – to me all these records are flawed in some way, and none is really great. This one’s a tricky choice. Will they go with critical acclaim or commercial success? But the ACMs seem to love Carrie. I think they’ll want to recognize her somewhere.
Meg: To be honest, this category could go several ways in my opinion. Don’t know that I can make a pick or prediction in this one! These three are great albums that are true to the artists that made them and have been hits with critics and fans. My guess is that it will probably go to either American Saturday Night or The Foundation based on numbers of singles at #1, but Revolution is a great album and deserves to be considered, too.
SINGLE RECORD OF THE YEAR
‘Need You Now’ — Lady Antebellum (produced by Lady Antebellum and Paul Worley): J.R., Occasional Hope, Razor X
‘People Are Crazy’ — Billy Currington (produced by Carson Chamberlain and Billy Currington): Meg
‘Red Light’ — David Nail (produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke)
‘Toes’ — Zac Brown Band (produced by Keith Stegall and Zac Brown)
‘White Liar’ — Miranda Lambert (produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke)
J.R.: It’s the only one that I really like a lot, was the biggest hit among them, and the group is white-hot right now – scoring more nominations than any act this year. Couple that with the song’s success on the pop charts – it hit #1 on the Adult and Top 40 charts in addition to being a country chart-topper, and you’ve got your biggest contender. The ACM isn’t shy about rewarding such successes either.
OH: I agree. I think this should and will win.
Rob: Since commercial success seems to be the biggest factor in determining award winners these days, I’m predicting that the biggest hit on the list will win.
Meg: It made my top ten list and I do like this song as a story song. Apparently others have given its stats this past year too.
SONG OF THE YEAR
‘Cowboy Casanova’ — Carrie Underwood; composers: Mike Elizondo, Brett James, Carrie Underwood
‘Need You Now’ — Lady Antebellum; composers: Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott
‘People Are Crazy’ — Billy Currington; composers: Bobby Braddock, Troy Jones: J.R., Occasional Hope
‘White Liar’ — Miranda Lambert; composers: Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert
‘You Belong With Me’ — Taylor Swift; composers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift: Meg, Razor X
J.R.: It’s the most traditional-sounding and the song’s writers are legends themselves, so I think this one has the best chance of winning the ‘best lyrics’ competition.
OH: I have a feeling this silly number will win.
Meg: Taylor is a great writer more than a singer. She reminds me of Dolly in that regard. Sales and story will put this one on top.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
‘Boots On’ – Randy Houser: J.R.
‘Need You Now’ – Lady Antebellum: Meg
‘Welcome To The Future’ – Brad Paisley: Occasional Hope
‘White Liar’ – Miranda Lambert
‘You Belong With Me’ – Taylor Swift: Meg, Razor X
J.R.: It is a cute clip and the others aren’t anything memorable. I’m hoping music videos make a comeback as a promotional tool. Until then, I’m a bit bored with them.
Meg: I’ll predict one of these two (‘Need You Now’ or ‘You Belong With Me’) to win due to popularity, the power of the story and the overall production. Most likely the latter.
VOCAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
‘Hillbilly Bone’ — Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins (produced by Scott Hendricks): Meg, Razor, Occasional Hope X
‘Honky Tonk Stomp’ — Brooks & Dunn featuring Billy Gibbons (produced by Ronnie Dunn and Terry McBride)
‘I Told You So’ — Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis (produced by Mark Bright): J.R.
‘I’m Alive’ — Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews (produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney)
‘Seeing Stars’ — Jack Ingram featuring Patty Griffin (produced by Jack Ingram and Jeremy Stover)
Meg: Not the greatest artistic venture of the millennium but fun and popular and their voices sure blend.
Razor: This is the kind of dreck that ACM voters seem to like these days.
OH: It’s a big hit, and spreads the awards love around a little. Plus they’ve been invited to perform it on the show.
J.R.: It seems like this single is too old to meet the eligibility requirements, but I guess not. This was always one of my favorite Randy Travis songs and I was happy to hear that Carrie included him on her release.
Who do you think will win?