The major country music awards are scattered through the year, so a new one seems to come along every few months. The Academy of Country Music is presenting its awards for achievement in 2010 in Las Vegas on April 3 on a televized show hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton. The West Coast based ACMs don’t have quite the prestige of the CMAs, awarded in November, but they have one advantage, in that their eligibility period is the previous calendar year, where the CMA and Grammy organizations have a strange mid-year cutoff which can make it hard to work out exactly what is eligible. On the downside, a few years ago in a misguided attempt at currying popularity with the public, the ACM decided to allow an online fan vote to determine the Entertainer of the Year and New Artist titles. This has been partially modified this year.
Entertainer of the Year
Occasional Hope: There were loud squawkings from the fans of Carrie Underwood when she was omitted from the nominations this time, having won the title for the past two years. This is a partially fan-voted category this year, and with Carrie’s absence factored in, I think Taylor Swift is a slam-dunk for the victory, with her enormous and youthful fanbase. Surprise nominee Jason Aldean has earned platinum status for his last two albums and a string of top hits, so although I am underwhelmed by his heavy rocking brand of country, he might just have enough of a fanbase, and have the commercial impetus to impress the industry enough to achieve a surprise win. But the talented Miranda Lambert had a great year last year, and she would be my personal choice.
Razor X: This seems like it will be Miranda‘s year. If the award were entirely based on fan votes, Taylor Swift would be a very strong contender, but I think that because industry votes will be counted as well, they’ll offset the fan voting.
J.R. Journey: I’m assuming the members will win the battle in the combination membership/fan voting for the Entertainer race this year. Paisley may well hold his own in the online voting pools too, but I think he’ll outdistance the others as the overall vote-getter.
Top Male Vocalist of the Year
O.H.: Brad Paisley has won this title for the last four years. I can’t see anyone pushing him out this time either. I can’t say I feel very enthusiastic about this category despite the underlying talent of those nominated. None of the nominees produced particularly memorable music in 2010 – Blake Shelton may be the reigning CMA Male Vocalist and half of country music’s favorite courrent love story, but I think the ACM likes to differentiate itself from the CMAs occasionally. I liked ‘Twang’, but it under-performed at radio.
J.R.: In addition to his co-hosting duties, Blake Shelton seems poised to finally unseat Brad Paisley as the reigning Male Vocalist this year.
R.X.: Blake Shelton . Again, I think the ACMs will follow the CMA’s lead. It’s time for some new blood in this category and I just can’t see the award going to Aldean. At least I hope not.
Top Female Vocalist of the Year
Lee Ann Womack
J.R.: This is a tough race, as 4 of these nominees have had a successful enough year to earn them the trophy. And if McEntire, Swift, or Underwood beat out reigning champ Miranda Lambert, I wouldn’t be surprised.
R.X.: Miranda Lambert. She is on a hot streak. Underwood hasn’t had any blockbuster hits this year big enough to swing things her way, and I’m not sure why Womack is nominated at all this year. Reba has an outside chance at winning but I think the voters will go for someone who hasn’t won this award before.
O.H.: Personally, I’d give it to Lee Ann Womack, purely on the strength of two album cuts: her duet with Alan Jackson on ‘Til The End’ on his Arista swansong, and her fantastic ‘Liars Lie’ on the Country Strong soundtrack. However, she has no chance of actually winning and was rather lucky to get nominated, so I’ll be happy with the likely win for Miranda Lambert. ACM voters like her – she won last year – and she had an even better 2010.
Top Vocal Group of the Year
Little Big Town
Randy Rogers Band
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band
O.H.: I think Lady A will do it. Although their follow ups to monster hit ‘Need You Now’ (last year’s ACM Single and Song of the Year) were terribly bland, they still did well at radio, and their album is one of the big sellers of the year.
R.X.: Lady Antebellum . Like Miranda, they seem to be on a hot streak, though I’d rather see the Zac Brown Band win.
J.R.: Lady A snagged this prize from Rascal Flatts last year, effectively ending their six-year run. But I think the Zac Brown Band‘s increased visibility, coupled with their strong West Coast Country influences, put them a step ahead with the Academy.
Top Vocal Duo of the Year
The JaneDear Girls
Joey + Rory
O.H.: This is often the weakest category in country award shows, underlined with the inclusion of the utterly dreadful JaneDear Girls, who appear to be devoid of artistic merit of any kind and only had one (awful) single released during the eligibility period. My favorites, Joey + Rory, should win on artistic merit, but have no chance due to limited commercial success. Montgomery Gentry did so poorly they were dropped by their label last year. I think Sugarland are the runaway winners, as although their last album was (rightfully) panned across the board, it has sold well, and they had a big hit with the irritating ‘Stuck Like Glue’.
R.X.: Despite releasing an absolutely horrible album, I think Sugarland are still the favorites to win this award. None of the other nominees have had enough commercial success to be considered true contenders. I’d like to see Joey + Rory win, but that’s not going to happen.
J.R.: It’s strange not to see Brooks & Dunn in this category, but they wouldn’t have bested Sugarland anyway.
Top New Artist
The Band Perry
J.R.: It’s a stretch to call Eric Church a new artist anyway, and The Band Perry had a much bigger year, and are multiple nominees this year as well. That usually spells win.
O.H.: The Band Perry seem to have the buzz to win this fan-voted category. It is a travesty that Chris Young (an infinitely superior vocalist) lost out to Church in the New Solo Vocalist sub-category, so although I haven’t been quite convinced by Kimberly Perry’s breathy vocals, I’m rooting for them in this category.
Album of the Year
Dierks Bentley, Up On The Ridge
Kenny Chesney, Hemingway’s Whiskey
Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
Taylor Swift, Speak Now
Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give
R.X.: Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but it’s hard to make a case for any of the other nominees against this standout album.
O.H.: The Guitar Song is the best of these albums, but I doubt it will win. Swift’s poppy Speak Now will probably win.
J.R.: This is another tough category to call, but I think Swift‘s universally-acclaimed set has the edge; it’s the only one of these albums to earn both critical and commercial success in major proportions.
Single Record of the Year
Easton Corbin, ‘A Little More Country Than That’
Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson, ‘As She’s Walking Away’
Kenny Chesney, ‘The Boys of Fall’
Lee Brice, ‘Love Like Crazy’
Miranda Lambert, ‘The House That Built Me’
J.R.: I’m predicting Lambert, and this song, to sweep the Single and Song categories this year. Rightfully so, I might add.
R.X.: ‘The House That Built Me’. Lambert’s winning streak at the CMAs will likely spill over to the ACMs.
O.H.: I think Easton Corbin might just sneak in with this.
Song of the Year
‘A Little More Country Than That’ – written by Rory Lee Feek, Don
Poythress, Wynn Varble; performed by Easton Corbin
‘As She’s Walking Away’ – written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrettey;
performed by Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
‘The House That Built Me’ – written by Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin;
performed by Miranda Lambert: Razor X. Occasional Hope
‘If I Die Young’ – written by Kimberly Perry; performed by The Band Perry‘Love Like Crazy’ – written by Tim James, Doug Johnson; performed by Lee Brice
O.H.: ‘The House That Built Me’ should win, and probably will, unless the voters are swayed by ‘If I Die Young’.
J.R.: The Band Perry‘s chart-topper could be a surprise winner, but I’ll stick with ‘House’ as my pick.
R.X.: ‘The House That Built Me’. This song has more of an emotional impact than the others, which will make it difficult to beat.
Video of the Year
‘The Boys of Fall’ – Kenny Chesney
‘Hillbilly Bone’ – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
‘The House That Built Me’ – Miranda Lambert
‘Only Prettier’ – Miranda Lambert
‘Stuck Like Glue’ – Sugarland
J.R.: The guest-star power of ‘Only Prettier’ gives it a visibility the other videos don’t have, even though Sugarland made the most entertaining clip, ‘The House That Built Me’ was a much bigger hit, and Chesney’s inspired a documentary (or was inspired by a documentary, I forget the order).
R.X.: I think ‘The House That Built Me’ will win based on the strength of the song, and not necessarily because the video itself is inherently better than the others
O.H.: I don’t have a strong opinion on these. They might give this to Blake and Trace as Blake is hosting, and this is an example of a video which added charm to a song which was in sore need of it.
Vocal Event of the Year
‘As She’s Walking Away’ – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
‘Blue Sky’ – Emily West featuring Keith Urban
‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ – Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow, and Miranda Lambert
‘Cold Beer’ – Colt Ford featuring Jamey Johnson
‘Good to Be Me’ – Uncle Kracker featuring Kid Rock
R.X.: ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ . This may be wishful thinking again, but it seems like more of an “event” than any of the other collaborations, though I wouldn’t mind if the Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson won. It would also be nice to see Emily West get some attention, but I think that’s a long shot.
O.H.: The Zac Brown Band song must be the favourite as the only one of the bunch also to get nominated in the Single and Song category, and I think it’s my pick, particularly as with his exit from Arista I think Alan Jackson’s career is slowing down and this could (regrettably) be his last chance for an ACM award – unless his new tieup with Capitol imprint EMI can revitalize his career. It would also be great to see Loretta getting some recognition again. As long as Colt Ford or Uncle Kracker/Kid Rock don’t win, I’d be happy with any of the other three.
J.R.: It’s the only real hit here, but still, hit songs aren’t always the winners in the Vocal Event race. Since it’s the best performance as well, I think Zac Brown and Alan Jackson will be victorious.
Who are your tips to win?