My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

ACM Award predictions

The Academy of Country Music is announcing its annual awards live on TV on Sunday. Here are our predictions and hopes for the ceremony:

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift

Jonathan: First off, let the Carrie Underwood backlash begin. And end. I agree with the fans who love her, but she didn’t make enough of a splash in 2011 to be considered here. At least you need to release a solo single. I agree with this list as it features most of the big players in country music right now. I would’ve included Zac Brown Band here as musicianship should win out over star power. But I can’t say any of these artists don’t deserve it from a numbers perspective.
Will Win: Taylor Swift – it’s still a fan voted award and she has the largest fan base for these kinds of contests.
Should Win: Blake Shelton – not because of his radio hits but because he’s the only one here to ascend to the next level in 2011. He makes country music look cool on The Voice, too. He may not have a strong catalog of singles but we could do far worse in Hollywood’s ideal of country music.

OH: I think I would also lean to Blake Shelton here. Chesney, Aldean and Swift have all had bigger tours and more impressive sales, but Blake has been representing country music to a mass audience thanks to his TV exposure. However, this being a fan-voted category, I think Taylor Swift will be Sunday’s winner, with only the fast-rising rocker Jason Aldean likely to challenge.

Razor X: Taylor Swift has this one in the bag, as it’s fan voted again this year.

Note: Voting is still open for anyone who wants to make their contribution.

Male Vocalist of the year

Jason Aldean
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Chris Young

OH: Chris Young is by far the finest singer in this category, and I am absolutely delighted to see his name in the list of nominees after years relegated to New Artist categories. He deserves to win, but I feel Jason Aldean’s commercial success is likely to push him to the title.

Razor X: I’d like to see Chris Young win, but I think it will come down to a two-man race between Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean. And since I really don’t want Aldean to win, he probably will.

Jonathan: Wait a minute, no Keith Urban? I just noticed he’s out of the Entertainer race, too. Wow. Well, I can’t say it’s surprising seeing that he’s been coasting for a while now by singing the same song with every single. But it’s still worth noting. Good for the ACM to acknowledge Chris Young. While he most likely won’t win, he’s still one of the strongest male vocalists in all of country music right now. And he’s Country. I’m glad someone has elevated him to this level.
Will Win: Blake Shelton – he has two Male Vocalist trophies from the CMA but he’s yet to win here despite five straight #1 singles. It’s his year.
Should Win: Chris Young – apart from Kenny Chesney, he has the best catalog song for song than any of the other acts combined. And he has that voice to go along with it.

Female Vocalist of the year

Sara Evans
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Jonathan: A retread of the CMA list from last November. And it’s a boring list at that. Sara Evans has already won here so I’m not as crazy about seeing her win a second trophy although it would be nice. “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” has put Martina McBride ahead of Lee Ann Womack this year and while the radio airplay justifies her nomination, the song doesn’t.
Will Win: Miranda Lambert – it’s her category to lose
Should Win: Miranda Lambert – on the strength of Pistol Annies alone. Female Vocalist of the year

Sara Evans
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Jonathan: A retread of the CMA list from last November. And it’s a boring list at that. Sara Evans has already won here so I’m not as crazy about seeing her win a second trophy although it would be nice. “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” has put Martina McBride ahead of Lee Ann Womack this year and while the radio airplay justifies her nomination, the song doesn’t.
Should Win: Miranda Lambert – on the strength of Pistol Annies alone.
Will Win: Miranda Lambert – it’s her category to lose.
BUT Taylor Swift has yet to win here. She’s the worst vocalist of this group by a wide margin, BUT she has one Female Vocalist trophy from the CMA. That could give her an edge.

Razor X: Underwood and Evans have been pretty quiet for most of the year, so I’m going to rule them out. I cannot fathom why Martina was even nominated this year. That leaves Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. Obviously, I’d prefer to see Lambert win and I’m guessing that she will.

OH: A predictable and uninspiring lineup which underlines how hard it still is for female artists to break through – because realistically, who else could one nominate? Sunny Sweeney is the only name I can think of (and I wish she was on the list, but one big hit in 2011 probably wouldn’t be enough anyway. I think Miranda Lambert is the most likely to win – she still seems to be on a critical wave of approval, and her Pistol Annies offshoot lent her some added credibility.

Vocal Duo of the Year
Love and Theft
Montgomery Gentry
Steel Magnolia
Thompson Square

Razor X: This should be a wide open category this year since Sugarland hasn’t had a big hit on the radio recently, but none of the other acts are playing in the same league as Sugarland. I’m as perplexed by the Montgomery Gentry nomination as I am about Martina McBride’s nomination for Female Vocalist. Sugarland will win.

OH: The ACM should take a leaf out of the Grammies’ book and combine this category, which nearly always has to scrape the barrel to come up with five realistic nominees, with either Group or Vocal Event. I think Thompson Square could just pull an upset over Sugarland – surely the backlash over their dreadful last album has to have an impact soon, and no one else has a chance.

A joke. Love and Theft haven’t had a hit in years and “Runaway” wasn’t even a huge hit when peaked a few years ago. Steel Magnolia just broke up and left their label, so they’re out. Sugarland may have the touring stats but their last album was terrible and “Tonight” tanked. The only legitimate contender here is Thompson Square.
Will Win: Sugarland – by default. They’re the only superstars in this category
Should Win: Thompson Square – They have the hits to justify a win and after they sang “Christmas In Dixie” on the GAC special in December, they have the goods, too.

Vocal Group of the year

The Band Perry
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

Jonathan: Five legitimate superstars. Each had huge hits within the last year. This is a tough race for who should win. But it’s safe to say Rascal Flatts are out. They haven’t won in years and “Easy” should do very little to change that. But of course, this isn’t even the race it should be. Lady Antebellum will win. I’d bet my life savings on it. End of story.
Will Win: Lady Antebellum – like they’d give it to anyone else, anyway?
Should Win: Zac Brown Band – They’ve gone 0 for 12 at award shows despite churning out #1 hit after #1 hit. It’s time to wake up and let them have their day.

OH: I agree with Jonathan’s assessment. The popular but bland juggernaut that is Lady A will defeat the artistically adventurous and infinitely more deserving Zac Brown Band. The only other act with any kind of chance is The Band Perry, and I think they may need another year before they start picking up this kind of award.

Razor X: The Zac Brown Band are my favorites in this category, but Lady Antebellum seems to be outperforming all the others in terms of commercial success, so I predict that Lady A will win.

New Artist of the Year

Brantley Gilbert
Hunter Hayes
Scotty McCreery

OH: Fan voted, so this one could be interesting. Teenager Scotty McCreery, of course, is coming off a triumph in the voting-led American Idol, and has sold well even with limited airplay so far, so he probably has it in the bag. On the other hand, Brantley Gilbert seems to have some very intense, driven fans on the Internet. My vote would go by default to Scotty, as at least I like his voice and have some hope for the future, even if his material has been flat and uninspiring. I can’t stand either of the others.

Jonathan: In terms of hits, Brantley Gilbert is the only one to even hit the top ten, let alone top the charts. Too bad his big hit is terrible. On the songwriting side, he’s also co-wrote many of Jason Aldean’s hits (including “Dirt Road Anthem”) so in terms of modern country, he seems like the clear winner. BUT, this award continues to be fan voted so the winner will be Scotty McCreery. He’s just off of winning American Idol so the fans should pull for him here. Hunter Hayes is likable, but I’m not sold on the whole “plays every instrument on his debut album” kick his label has been banking on. He just isn’t unique enough for me.
Will Win: Scotty McCreery – if Julianne Hough can take home this award in a fan vote, Scotty is a shoo-in.
Should Win: Brantley Gilbert – “Country Must Be Country Wide” is an awful song and the songs he wrote for Jason Aldean aren’t any better. But in comparison to the other nominees, he’s had the most overall success. If the fans want to give this to the biggest star among the nominees, it would be Gilbert hands down.

Razor X: Another meaningless fan voted award. I don’t really care who wins this one. I’ll just take a random guess and go with Brantley Gilbert.

Album of the Year
Chief – Eric Church (EMI-Nashville)
Four The Record – Miranda Lambert (RCA)
Hemingway’s Whiskey – Kenny Chesney (BNA)
My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean (Broken Bow Records)
Own The Night – Lady Antebellum (Capitol Records Nashville)

Jonathan: This list should be much more interesting. Lady Antebellum shouldn’t even be here for sake of quality. I’d put Vince Gill‘s Guitar Slinger in that slot. In place of Jason Aldean, I’d put Pistol AnniesHell on Heels. That would at least make this category exciting. In terms of how the academy is going to vote, I’m not quite sure who is going to win. Miranda Lambert has won for her last two projects and has a real shot. Jason Aldean won the CMA and is riding that momentum here. But of course, Lady Antebellum are still the second coming. I would love to see Eric Church take it home but I don’t know if he’ll pull in enough votes to take it home. He’s in the spot Lambert was in a few years ago when she was just exploding. But it could happen.
Will Win: My Kind of Party – the force of “Dirt Road Anthem” isn’t likely to be stopped.
Should Win: Chief – Lambert won for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when no one thought she had a prayer. There’s a strong likelihood they could give it to the underdog.

OH: I’m not a big fan of any of these records, even Lambert’s, although I applaud her artistic spirit. I think Aldean has the best chance of winning.

Razor X: I haven’t listened to any of these albums. I’ve heard clips of the Miranda Lambert album and didn’t care much for it. I think it will come down to Kenny Chesney and Lady A. Lady A’s crossover success probably gives them an advantage.

Single Record of the Year

‘Crazy Girl’ – Eli Young Band (Republic Nashville)
‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’ – Jason Aldean With Kelly Clarkson (Broken Bow Records)
‘Red Solo Cup’ – Toby Keith (Show Dog-Universal Music)
‘Tomorrow’ – Chris Young (RCA)
‘You And Tequila’ – Kenny Chesney Featuring Grace Potter (BNA)

Rzor X: “Tomorrow” is my clear favorite among these nominees, but I’d be happy with a win for “You and Tequila“. I fear that the overblown and bombastic “Don’t You Wanna Stay” will get the trophy.

Jonathan: You have the party anthem (“Red Solo Cup“) against the song derogatory to women (“Crazy Girl“). Thank goodness for Chesney and Potter who show what a good drinking song is made of. It’s the best of this bunch along with Young’s “Tomorrow.” But really, how can a category featuring “Red Solo Cup” even be taken seriously?
Will Win: “Red Solo Cup” – if it wins, I don’t think I could handle it, but really, does any other song have even a remote shot?
Should Win: “Tomorrow” – It’s his best single to date and a phenomenal vocal performance

OH: ‘Tomorrow‘ is the best song and the best sounding record, so it ought to win, but probably won’t. At least it got a nomination. I think the win might go to Kenny Chesney as he’s a big star still and not likely to win his other categories.

Song of the Year

‘Crazy Girl’ – Eli Young Band (written by Lee Brice and Liz Rose)
‘Home’ – Dierks Bentley (written by Brett Beavers, Dierks Bentley, and Dan Wilson)
‘Just A Kiss’ – Lady Antebellum (written by Dallas Davidson, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott)
‘Threaten Me With Heaven’ – Vince Gill (written by Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Dillon O’Brian and Will Owsley)
‘You And Tequila’ – Kenny Chesney Featuring Grace Potter (written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter)

Finally, an excellent category. Well, only if you take out Eli Young Band and Lady Antebellum. It’s nice to finally see Dierks Bentley score something and I hope he becomes the next big thing this year. Will Win: “Just A Kiss” – It’s Lady Antebellum. Why would you vote against them? They win everything.
Should Win: “Home” – Sure I love Vince Gill’s “Threaten Me With Heaven.” But it doesn’t excite me like other songs on Guitar Slinger enough to warrant this award. I wouldn’t be upset in the least if it wins. But I’d be ecstatic if Bentley takes it home.

Razor X: I’d like to see “Home” win this one, but I’d be happy if “Threaten Me With Heaven” got the trophy. I also wouldn’t mind seeing “You and Tequila” win, which I expect it will.

OH: I’d be happy with ‘Home’ or ‘Threaten Me With Heaven’ winning. ‘Home’ could have a chance, but I think Matraca Berg and Deana Carter will take it away for ‘You And Tequila’.

Video of the Year
Homeboy – Eric Church
Just A Kiss – Lady Antebellum
Mean – Taylor Swift
Red Solo Cup – Toby Keith
Tattoos On This Town – Jason Aldean

Jonathan: The only great clip here is “Mean.” The CMA Video win, “You and Tequila”, wasn’t even nominated. I liked the romantic aspects of “Just A Kiss” enough to root for it, but all and all this is an awful list. I have a feeling Toby’s atrocious “Red Solo Cup” will win out, though, as it has the most attention of any of these videos.
Will Win: “Red Solo Cup” – but that doesn’t mean I want it to.
Should Win: “Mean” – the best of this god awful bunch.

OH: I didn’t care for ‘Mean‘ which I found narratively muddled. The Aldean video brings nothing new or interesting to the table, and I felt bringing military families into the video when they aren’t mentioned in the actual song was fundamentally dishonest. The Lady A video is pleasant enough but I hated the “it was just a dream” reveal at the end.

Red Solo Cup is deceptively silly and deliberately absurd. It was a genuine viral success, and although I wouldn’t want to watch it again, I think it was much more artfully crafted than it appears to be, so I actually wouldn’t mind it winning. But my pick would go to Eric Church’s gritty video for Homeboy. I didn’t like the song at all when I first heard it because I felt it came across as condescending and overly concerned with superficial aspects of the brother’s rebellion. But the visual treatment makes Eric look sympathetic and concerned, and the brother’s bad choices are well realised. If a video’s ultimate achievement is making you appreciate the song itself better, this one does it well.

Razor X: I’m not going to make a prediction for this category. I haven’t seen any of these videos, aside from a few snippets of “Mean”. I don’t like any of these songs.

Vocal Event of the Year

Country Boy – Aaron Lewis Featuring George Jones & Charlie Daniels
Don’t You Wanna Stay – Jason Aldean With Kelly Clarkson
Old Alabama – Brad Paisley Featuring Alabama
Remind Me – Brad Paisley Duet With Carrie Underwood
You And Tequila – Kenny Chesney Featuring Grace Potter

OH: The only one I actually like is the Chesney/Potter duet, which is the best thing Chesney has done in years. But I have a feeling the overwrought Paisley/Underwood effort will take it – here we have two big stars who have no realistic chances in their other categories – I think this will be their consolation prize.

Jonathan: Take out Aaron Lewis and you have four real contenders. In terms of quality, Chesney and Potter have the best song. It isn’t a traditional “duet” but it is an exquisite pairing. Paisley and Underwood are great together but this song lacks excitement. Plus, I have a strong feeling Paisley will cancel himself out. I’m rooting for Jason and Kelly all the way.
Will Win: “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Should Win: “You and Tequila

Razor X: I’m guessing the Paisley vote will be split between “Old Alabama” and “Remind Me”, which is good because neither one of them deserves to be here. “Country Boy” is not a great performance, despite the big-name guest artists, and it doesn’t have a major label to lobby for it. That leaves “Don’t You Wanna Stay” and “You and Tequila”. I’d like to see “You and Tequila” win, but “Don’t You Wanna Stay” probably will.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

2 responses to “ACM Award predictions

  1. Ben Foster March 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I’m not perplexed by McBride’s Female Vocalist nomination. She did release a new studio album in 2011, had a Top 20 hit with “Teenage Daughters,” and had an even bigger hit with “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.” That isn’t necassarily going to bag her the trophy, but it does mean that McBride’s nomination is warranted. Furthermore, with female artists being perpetually scarce on country radio, there are really no other women outside this line-up who have had enough success to unseat her.

  2. Ken Johnson April 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I forced myself to watch last night’s ACM Awards and was reminded what I don’t like about today’s alleged country music – just about everything!

    This program is exhibit “A” that without extensive studio manipulation most of the current batch of singers would not receive airplay. Horrible vocals and they were not caused by technical issues. Most of those folks simply cannot sing. Weak, straining voices that struggle to find the right key. And most songs have lyrics that are completely unmemorable. Country songs used to speak to the heart and to the emotions. I heard almost none of that last night.

    Also I realize that times change, tastes change, styles change. But for God’s sake most of the male acts dressed like roadies or looked like they escaped from a truck stop. Few acts looked professional or like they belonged onstage. If you’re gonna be a star at least TRY to dress the part. (And I don’t mean sequins & nudie suits) The audience was better dressed than the majority of the performers.

    In the reality-show-meets-awards-show category a marriage was conducted onstage during Martina McBride’s performance. The back story was a couple who had each lost their first spouse due to tragic circumstances and then met through a support group. The show directors cut back & forth between the ceremony and the live song reducing a touching moment to a disconnected contrived mess. I felt bad for the newly wedded couple.

    When I saw KISS presenting an award I realized how completely off-track the program had become. What in the hell does KISS have to do with country music? I realize that some of today’s country acts may be fans but that doesn’t give KISS any country credibility. In the context of a country awards program it looked very strange.

    Host Reba McEntire’s attempts at “hip” humor fell flat. Irreverent lines coming out of the mouth of a 57-year-old country icon just didn’t work. Her co-host Blake Shelton demonstrated that you better bring your “A” game if you’re gonna duet with Lionel Richie. Richie sounded great but Shelton….not so much. Richie was there because he just recorded a new album of duets with country artists that will be featured as a CBS-TV special on April 13th.

    I felt that I wasted the better part of my evening.

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