Tonight is country music’s biggest night. The 46th annual Country Music Association Awards will air at 8:00 p.m. on ABC, and it’s already shaping up to be a great show.
Why? Well, because the CMA Awards are always a great show. In an overcrowded field of country awards (ACAs, I still haven’t warmed up to you), the CMA Awards remain the most prestigious — and most entertaining — of the bunch.
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who have become quite the formidable comic duo, are returning for a fifth year as hosts (check out their interview about the show here), and performances from stars like Kelly Clarkson and The Band Perry, both of whom will perform new singles, as well as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean will keep the night rocking.
But at the center of the awards are still, believe it or not, the actual awards! We’ve already given you our thoughts on all the nominations (as well as all the snubs and surprises), but now let’s handicap who might win in the major categories.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
I think it’s Jason Aldean’s year to take the main prize. Just look at what he’s accomplished! The man sold 2.8 million copies of My Kinda Party, which spawned five No. 1 hits — not to mention the 409,000 copies of Night Train he just sold in that album’s first week — and he’s been selling out stadiums and delivering raucous performances across the country. Taylor Swift has won this award twice, and while I’ll be the first to tell you how incredible her Speak Now tour was, the outright poppiness of her single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” may have deterred some traditionally country voters. That vote may go instead to stalwart favorite Kenny Chesney, who toured with Tim McGraw on the Brothers of the Sun tour all summer long.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
“Pontoon” is the most fun choice — it’s certainly the edgiest, most interesting song, sonically, of the bunch — but did it come out too late for voters to really fall for it? I’m thinking Eric Church’s “Springsteen,” with its wide-open feel, might win here. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” was a career-defining song, but it feels ancient compared to the rest of the category. Blake Shelton’s “God Gave Me You” is probably the safe choice here, but for the sake of my colleague Mandi Bierly — I’m going with Springsteen.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
For the love of all music that is fun to listen to, please don’t let Lady Antebellum’s Own the Night take this prize. And Luke Bryan’s tailgates & tanlines, while fun, feels a bit too old to win. Dierks Bentley’s Home may not have sold enough copies to earn votes. In all likelihood, this will go to Miranda Lambert’s Four The Record, which is a strong, soulful collection. Miranda, may not be as endearingly under-appreciated as she once was, but the woman still knows how to make a great album.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Again, I think it’s Jason Aldean’s year to win the prize, but voters love Blake Shelton — he and Miranda seem to have gained instant clout when they wed. Between “Honey Bee,” “God Gave Me You,” and his time on The Voice, he’s certainly made his pop culture mark, but touring is such a big factor on the CMA Awards, and Shelton is stuck in his rotating chair on NBC, so that could limit his potential. Eric Church has had the best year of his career by far, successfully pushing his album Chief past the platinum mark, but I think his time to shine will come with his next disc.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Though I think Miranda Lambert has this one locked up — her powerful single “Over You” (which I’m guessing wins Single of the Year, the songwriting award) was a monster hit — it would be nice to see Carrie Underwood win something at the awards show she so dutifully hosts every year! Still, I won’t make the argument that Blown Away is better than Four The Record. It’s not. (Also, I’m still bitter than Kellie Pickler, who released the terrific 100 Proof, wasn’t nominated, yet Kelly Clarkson, who had only released a lone country remix, was. I love Clarkson, but come on.)
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
In a perfect world, Little Big Town would take the win in this category easily (I’m already betting they win this next year), but the expert harmonizers may have broken out a bit too late in the voting cycle to topple Lady Antebellum, who could coast to another victory. Everyone loves the Zac Brown Band, but somehow, they just don’t ever seem like contenders for glossy awards like these. It must be the beanies!
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
If I were a betting man, I’d choose Kip Moore. Wait — he’s not even nominated?! How did that happen? In that case, I see this as a dead heat between Hunter Hayes, the cherubic songwriting wunderkind whose instrumental skills and vocal ability have earned the respect of the Nashville scene, and Brantley Gilbert, the rough-and-tumble rocker whose bringing electric guitars onto country radio at warp speed. Due to the crossover success of “Wanted,” I’m giving this one to Hunter Hayes.
Who do you want to see take home a trophy? Stay tuned to EW for full coverage — including a winner’s list, a full recap, and a fashion gallery — of the CMA Awards tonight!
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