By Grady Smith
Updated November 09, 2011 at 02:00 PM EST

Tonight, the 45th Annual CMA Awards will bestow their highest honor, the Entertainer of the Year award, to either Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, or a pre-surgery Keith Urban.

Host Brad Paisley scored the title last year, while Taylor Swift picked up the prize in 2009. Keith Urban’s one and only EOTY award came in 2005. Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean are newcomers to the category, but both seem like major contenders, not just consolation nominees.

EW caught up with Aldean, who’s had a banner year thanks to the double platinum album My Kinda Party featuring hit singles “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” and “Tattoos on this Town,” and a sold-out tour with Luke Bryan, which was recently extended into 2012.

How is the star feeling about possibly receiving country music’s highest honor?

“I’m not one of those people who usually says, ‘I’m just excited to be nominated,’ because it sounds so ridiculous,” says Aldean, “but in this case, with it being that award, I can honestly say that I am.” He quickly adds, with a competitive edge in his voice, “Still, that’s not saying that I don’t want to win it, because I want to!”

But if Aldean couldn’t win the award, he admits that he’d like to see Keith Urban take the trophy home. “He’s just a great musician,” the singer says. “I was out on tour with him a few years ago, and I got a chance to watch him perform every night, and to me, he’s an entertainer. He’s a good singer, he’s a great player, he’s a good entertainer—he’s the total package, and I found myself watching every night and being entertained. So if I had to pick somebody — and I couldn’t win it — I would definitely pick him.”

Who do you think deserves the CMA award for Entertainer of the Year? Will Aldean score a win on his first nomination? Or should a veteran like Paisley or Urban take home the prize? Sound off in the comments!


Grady on Twitter: @EWGradySmith