Last week we reminded you who all the nominees were. Now it’s time to reveal our predictions as to who is likely to walk away with the awards later this week – and who we think ought to win.
Entertainer of the Year
Razor X: Despite Taylor Swift’s win last year, the Entertainer of the Year awards is usually given to a seasoned veteran, which makes Keith Urban and Brad Paisley the two serious contenders. Despite having the third highest number of career CMA nominations after Alan Jackson and George Strait, Paisley has yet to win the top award. His turn has probably come this year.
Occasional Hope: It’s fascinating to see so many relatively new names in contention this year; it marks a real change in the CMA’s mindset as traditionally this highest honor has been reserved for more established artists. Last year’s win by Taylor Swift may be responsible for that change. In some ways, I think Lady A have a good claim, as they’ve dominated sales charts and had some international success, but I would like Brad Paisley to finally get it this year, and I believe he will. He’s been nominated for years without winning, and for the last two or three I’ve been thinking surely this was his year. I think his time to win this award is running out, but this should be his year.
J.R. Journey: Our current Spotlight Artist is currently tied with Kenny Rogers for most nominations without a win in this category. But I think Brad Paisley’s unsuccessful bids for country music’s top award will end this year. He’s had a great year commercially, but he’s had those in years past too. His edge this year comes mostly from the lack of seriously strong competition. Only Lady A and Miranda Lambert could stop him this year, and I think Lady A is still a ways from being fully embraced by Nashville. So barring a full-Lambert sweep in all her categories (which I also think is sorta unlikely), I think 2010 is Brad Paisley’s year for this trophy.
J.R.: Again, the lack of another stand-out contender is Brad’s biggest advantage in the Male Vocalist race. Keith Urban continues to perform well at radio and retail, but hasn’t had a monster hit in some time now. Shelton and Bentley are still newbs to this category and don’t have the label muscle behind them to win. A victory for Brad Paisley this year will give him four consecutive wins, still one behind five-time winners Vince Gill and George Strait.
OH: I’m delighted to see Dierks Bentley get nominated this year, having taken a rare artistic risk with his bluegrass influenced Up On The Ridge. I would love to see him win, but suspect it will go to Brad Paisley again.
Razor: Aside from Dierks Bentley, none of these artists released anything that really excited me during the past year. George Strait and Blake Shelton are the two best vocalists in the group; I’ll say that Strait should win simply because I liked his material this year better than Shelton’s. However, I think this category is wide open this year, and any one of the nominees has a shot at winning. My instincts, which haven’t always been reliable in the past, are telling me that this will be a good year for Brad Paisley.
Razor: Out of all of this year’s nominees, Miranda Lambert‘s career has picked up the most momentum. Taylor Swift didn’t release a new album during the eligibility period. Reba McEntire has enjoyed a resurgence, but I think her award-winning days are, for the most part, behind her. Martina McBride had another lackluster year; I’m not sure why she was even nominated. Carrie Underwood has an outside chance of winning; I’m betting that the Association will opt for a fresh face this year.
J.R.: It’s a sad state of affairs when there aren’t even five legitimate hit-makers or artistic stand-outs to fill out this ballot. Unlike seat-filler Martina McBride, the trio of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Reba McEntire continue to have solid radio hits and release gold and platinum albums, but none have done anything substantial or memorable this year. Miranda Lambert, on the other hand, had her major breakthrough with the multi-week #1 ‘The House That Built Me’ and cemented her status as a superstar with her first headlining tour and the release of her third critically-acclaimed album. For all that, and her leading the nominations, Miranda seems like the logical choice to win.
OH: This is Miranda Lambert’s time to shine. She’s had a really big year, and although she won’t win Entertainer, this one should be hers.
OH: This seems to be a very poppy category this year. It’s far too early for the Band Perry to expect to win, and Little Big Town has too low a commercial profile despite their recent comeback. I think Lady Antebellum are the ones to bet on, but the Zac Brown Band (the most rootsy of the contenders and a very talented group who would be my choice) could give them a battle.
Razor: I think Lady A and the Zac Brown Band are the only two serious contenders for Vocal Group this year. I greatly prefer the Zac Brown Band, but Lady A‘s crossover success will probably secure the award for them.
J.R.: There are only two real contenders this year, so I’ll just talk about their merits. With the undeniable, and somewhat unlikely, massive crossover success of the Need You Now album, Lady Antebellum will likely walk away victorious in this and other categories this year. Lady A picked up this award last year, dethroning six-time winners Rascal Flatts. But their debut album had more flair than their current release and the Zac Brown Band has certainly released more interesting and original-sounding music (in and outside the eligibility period), making them my favorite.
Razor: Many people are predicting that Brooks & Dunn will win this award one more time for sentimental reasons, but I think everyone is pretty much over the news of their break-up by now. Joey + Rory are the only ones in this group that I think are worthy of a win, but there is no way they can compete with the commercial powerhouse that is Sugarland.
J.R.: Brooks & Dunn could gain enough nostalgia votes to give them an edge in this race, but the pair not going out with a bang would make them a poor choice considering their limited success in their final year. Even though Sugarland had a weaker year than usual, they’re still the only superstar duo country music has to offer currently, and were highly visible during the past 12 months.
OH: Brooks & Dunn’s inclusion just shows how small the pool is in this category; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them nominated again next year. Steel Magnolia have made a breakthrough this year on the radio, but still have to release an album. Sugarland had a fairly quiet year with relatively poorly received singles but are a touring juggernaut, and should edge the win. I love Joey + Rory, but they won’t win.
OH: The CMA has a history of rewarding “new” artists rather late. How can this not go to the Zac Brown Band, when they’re also nominated as Entertainer? I like Chris Young the most of these artists – he has an outstanding voice, and although I don’t think his material has lived up to that apart from his superlative Voices EP of covers earlier this year, this award is at least partly for potential, and he would get my vote.
Razor: Chris Young is by far my favorite among this group of nominees, but the Zac Brown Band is the most commercially successful so I’m predicting that they will take home the award.
J.R.: It’s a stretch to call them new, I know. But since the Zac Brown Band are the only nominees here also up for the night’s top prize, I’d say they have a definite advantage. Plus they’re smoking hot right now, and have been all year.
Razor: Dierks Bentley released one of the year’s best albums, but it is probably too much outside the mainstream to win. I’m guessing that Miranda Lambert will sweep most of the categories in which she’s been nominated, including Album of the Year.
OH: Up On The Ridge is by far the most interesting of these albums, but probably the last successful commercially. Twang was decent but not Strait’s best work; Revolution has some good songs but the production/mixing is a fatal flaw. Need You Now is utterly bland and mediocre pop apart from the title track, and Play On is too glossy and poppy for me and has produced some horrid singles. But I think Need You Now will win based on its commercial power, with Revolution the biggest competitor.
J.R.: A mainstream country artist taking a detour to make a bluegrass-hybrid project is a ballsy move, but Dierks Bentley pulled it off with Up On The Ridge, and though limited, has garnered more commercial success than I bet even he anticipated. So my vote would go for him. But as for commercial success, Lady A’s sophomore album Need You Now completely dominated the Country Albums chart the first half of the year, and will likely end 2010 as the year’s best-selling album in any genre. It’s hard for the CMA to ignore that.
OH: I think the two Lambert singles will cancel each other out. Equally amazingly, I only dislike one of these singles, ‘Hillbilly Bone’ (and even that is bearable). I think Lady A’s international success with ‘Need You Now’ should give this the edge to win. It may be pop, but it’s very good pop, and by far the best thing the otherwise over-rated group has done. I think it would be my choice too.
Razor: Having two Miranda Lambert singles competing in the same category will likely result in some vote-splitting that may give an advantage to Lady A.
J.R.: ‘The House That Built Me’ . Songs like this only come along once in a blue moon. CMA voters have traditionally been on top of this category with regard for heartstring songs. Miranda’s breakthrough hit fits the heartstring bill better than the rest. Plus it’s a better song than the other contenders.
Razor: ‘The House That Built Me’. This type of nostalgic song is exactly the type of thing that CMA members like to vote for.
OH: I find it rather strange that ‘Toes’ beat out the moving, and much better-written, ‘Highway 20 Ride’ as the Zac Brown Band’s contender in this category. I think ‘Need You Now’ will do the double, but ‘The House That Built Me’ is a better song.
J.R.: ‘The House That Built Me’ I expect the song to sweep both Single and Song categories. And it should.
OH: My pick is Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack for their exquisite reading of the Vern Gosdin classic ‘Till The End’. I suspect the win will go to Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins for ‘Hillbilly Bone’, even though it was far from the best work by either artist.
Razor: ‘Till The End’ is about as perfect as it gets, but I’m guessing that it is at a disadvantage since it has yet to be released as a single. ‘Hillbilly Bone’, however, was a huge hit and for that reason it will probably win.
J.R.: The Adkins/Shelton song is the only real hit here. Chesney hit the top 10 with his collaboration with Dave Matthews, but that disappeared as quickly as it came. I expect voters to award Adkins and Shelton’s quirky combination, but personally, I prefer the Jackson/Womack take on the country standard ‘Till The End’.
Razor: I don’t have any strong feelings about this category, but I’m guessing that the humor and the guest appearance by Jamey Johnson will give ‘White Liar’ an advantage.
OH: I think ‘Hillbilly Bone’ could win this.
J.R.: I don’t watch them as much as I used to, but I have been keeping up with CMT’s Top 20 via DVR the past few months, I liked ‘White Liar’ a lot. Jamey Johnson as the preacher was a clever touch as well.
Razor: I’m making my prediction based solely on the fact that there are four guitarists competing, which may result in some vote-splitting and give Paul Franklin an edge. And I think he should win because I’ll go with a good steel guitar player every time.
OH: I’d like to see Paul Franklin win for the same reason, but he’s a many-time nominee who’s never won, and I’m not sure there’s any reason for that to change. My prediction is Brent Mason.
J.R.: Mac McAnally I’m thinking name recognition from the recent Chesney duet will work in Mac’s favor.