Now that we’ve turned the clocks forward an hour and our calendars from March to April, it’s time to turn our attention to Las Vegas and the annual Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. CBS is carrying the show live Sunday Night (April 7) and it promises to be an eclectic mix of mainstream country music; hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. Look for Tim McGraw to sing his latest “Highway Don’t Care” with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, while Jason Aldean is rumored to be involving Joe Diffie in his performance of “1994.” Kelly Clarkson will be singing “Don’t Rush” and Bryan plans to debut a new single, “Crash My Party.” But I’m most excited to see what promises to be a buzzed about moment – Garth Brooks and George Strait collaborating for the first time to pay tribute to show producer Dick Clark.
Here are the nominees and predictions:
Entertainer of the Year
· Jason Aldean
· Luke Bryan
· Miranda Lambert
· Blake Shelton
· Taylor Swift - Jonathan Pappalardo
As a fan voted award, the logic would be on Taylor Swift to take this home. And while she’s the likely winner, I’m wondering if Blake Shelton’s Voice popularity may propel him to the podium instead. There has to be a chance someone besides Swift could take this home, right? Well, I’m not betting on it, but Shelton seems the most likely one to do it.
Male Vocalist of the Year
· Jason Aldean
· Luke Bryan
· Eric Church
· Toby Keith
· Blake Shelton - Jonathan Pappalardo
It’s nice to see Keith sneak in a nod here, as he’s still a gifted vocalist and “Hope On The Rocks” proves it. Aldean is just too weak a singer to make much of a significant impact and I can’t see the Academy embracing Church. So this as a two-way race between show co-hosts Shelton and Bryan, and I only see the ACM awarding it to Bryan if they want to shake it up. But they may see him as an eventual winner (like after he releases his next album) and go with Shelton again.
Female Vocalist of the Year
· Miranda Lambert - Jonathan Pappalardo
· Martina McBride
· Kacey Musgraves
· Taylor Swift
· Carrie Underwood
While I would love to see Musgraves take this home, she’s too new for such a prestigious honor. McBride’s a broken record at this point – she hasn’t had an impactful hit single in years and while Underwood is releasing some of the most ambitious songs of her career, she’ll likely be seen as old hat by this point. This is Lambert’s award to lose and Swift’s dominance in a completely different genre market isn’t going to change that.
Vocal Duo of the Year
· Big & Rich
· Florida Georgia Line
· Love and Theft
· Thompson Square - Jonathan Pappalardo
If Florida Georgia Line wins this award, I’m done. “Cruise” may’ve been one of the biggest hits of last year, but popularity hardly denotes quality. Thompson Square should repeat here and even though they aren’t as strong as they could be, they’re the best of this bunch outside of Sugarland.
Vocal Group of the Year
· The Band Perry
· Eli Young Band
· Lady Antebellum
· Little Big Town - Jonathan Pappalardo
· Zac Brown Band
After their come out of nowhere Grammy win in February, Little Big Town are the darlings of Nashville and that will continue with a win here. Their success is long overdue, as is a win in this category. Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry can have fun duking it out for second place.
New Artist of the Year
· Florida Georgia Line - Jonathan Pappalardo
· Brantley Gilbert
· Jana Kramer
This is really a toss up. Any of these three could win although Kramer has proven the most country minded of the nominees. She’s my favorite, but I’m not counting out Florida Georgia Line. It’s another fan voted award and “Cruise” is insanely popular.
Album of the Year [Award goes to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company]
· Blown Away – Carrie Underwood (19/Arista Nashville), Produced by: Mark Bright
· Chief – Eric Church (EMI-Nashville), Produced by: Jay Joyce
· Red – Taylor Swift (Big Machine Records), Produced by: Jeff Bhasker, Nathan Chapman, Dann Huff, Jacknife Lee, Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, Butch Walker, Dan Wilson
· Tailgates & Tanlines – Luke Bryan (Capitol Nashville), Produced by: Mark Bright, Jeff Stevens
· Tornado – Little Big Town (Capitol Nashville), Produced by: Jay Joyce - Jonathan Pappalardo
A good list of mainstream albums. Chief would seem the frontrunner since it already won the CMA Award, but this is the first race to include Little Big Town’s superstar making set. I’m going out on a limb and say Tornado will take this home.
Single Record of the Year [Award to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company]
· “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Eli Young Band (Republic Nashville), Produced by: Mike Wrucke
· “Over You” – Miranda Lambert (RCA), Produced by: Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf
· “Pontoon” – Little Big Town (Capitol Nashville), Produced by: Jay Joyce - Jonathan Pappalardo
· “Springsteen” – Eric Church (EMI-Nashville), Produced by: Jay Joyce
· “Wanted” – Hunter Hayes (Atlantic/WMN), Produced by: Hunter Hayes, Dann Huff
“Pontoon.” It won the CMA, a Grammy, and reversed the fortunes of a band too talented for the oblivion it was heading for. There’s no way they’ll lose, but if they do it’ll go to Hayes and his sophomore single “Wanted.”
Song of the Year [Award to Composer(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]
· “A Woman Like You” – Lee Brice, Composers: Phil Barton, Johnny Bulford, Jon Stone, Publishers: 3JB Music (BMI), Adios Pantalones (SESAC), Hears That Skyline Music (SESAC), Sixteen Stars Music (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
· “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Eli Young Band, Composers: Will Hoge, Eric Paslay, Publishers: Cal IV Songs (ASCAP), Will Hoge Music (BMI)
· “Over You” – Miranda Lambert, Composers: Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Publishers: Pink Dog Publishing (BMI), Sony ATV/Tree Publishing (BMI) - Jonathan Pappalardo
· “Springsteen” – Eric Church, Composers: Eric Church, Jeff Hyde, Ryan Tyndell, Publishers: Bug Music (BMI), Ole Purple Cape Music (BMI), Sinnerlina (BMI), Sony ATV/Tree Publishing (BMI)
· “Wanted” – Hunter Hayes, Composers: Hunter Hayes, Troy Verges, Publishers: Happy Little Man Publishing (BMI), Songs From The Engine Room (BMI), Songs Of Universal Inc. (BMI)
“Over You.” The ACM will follow in the footsteps of the CMA and bring Lambert and Shelton to the podium. Two genre superstars are just too hard to ignore. Their only competition, Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ wasn’t even nominated, so I just don’t see anyone else taking this home.
Songwriter of the Year
· Rodney Clawson
· Dallas Davidson (Already won, off-camera award)
· Josh Kear
· Luke Laird
· Shane McAnally
Davidson has already won; this is an off-camera award. But I would’ve gone with McAnally who seems to be on fire right now. His collaborations with Brandy Clark are killer.
Video of the Year [Award to Producer(s)/Director(s)/Artist(s)] *(Off Camera Award) [TIE]
·” Creepin’” – Eric Church, Producer: Iris Baker Director: Peter Zavadil - Jonathan Pappalardo
· Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves, Producers: Perry Bean, Kacey Musgraves Director: Perry Bean
· “Tornado” – Little Big Town, Producer: Iris Baker Director: Shane Drake
· “Wanted” – Hunter Hayes Producers: Stephanie Reeves, Eric Williams Directors: Traci Goudie, Patrick Hubik
· “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift, Producer: John Nguyen Director: Declan Whitebloom
· “The Wind” – Zac Brown Band, Producer: Ben Kalina Director: Mike Judge
Most of Zac Brown Band’s videos are distracting, with annoying concepts that take away from the song completely. “The Wind” is no exception. The Swift clip is awful and does nothing to portray her maturity and “Wanted” isn’t special enough to stand out from this pack. Church deserves this the most, as both the song and video for “Creepin’” are completely original. This is where he should get some much-deserved hardware.
Vocal Event of the Year [Award to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company] *(Off Camera Award)
· “Don’t Rush” – Kelly Clarkson Featuring Vince Gill (19/RCA/Columbia Nashville) Produced by: Dann Huff
· “Easy” – Rascal Flatts Featuring Natasha Bedingfield (Big Machine Records) Produced by: Dann Huff, Brian Kennedy, Rascal Flatts
·”Feel Like a Rock Star” – Kenny Chesney (Duet With Tim McGraw) (Blue Chair/BNA) Produced by: Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney – Jonathan Pappalardo
· “Let It Rain” – David Nail Featuring Sarah Buxton (MCA Nashville) Produced by: Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell
· “The Only Way I Know” – Jason Aldean With Luke Bryan & Eric Church (Broken Bow) Produced by: Michael Knox
What a terrible, terrible bunch of songs that equate to nothing more than empty opportunistic pandering. The only worthwhile songs here are “Don’t Rush” and “Let It Rain” and they are hardly ‘events.’ I bet Chesney/McGraw will take this home but if it wasn’t an off-camera award, than I’d say Aldean/Bryan/Church. The latter would make for ratings gold on stage, but it would be a wasted opportunity off-camera. In truth, though, I couldn’t care less about these nominees if I tried.