The 50th Annual CMA Awards: Who Will Win?

It’s that time of year again, where country music fans sit through three hours of mediocre jokes and performances to find out who rocked the arbitrary time period between July of last year to June of this year. Ready or not, the CMAs are upon us!

As an amateur blogger, I am contractually obligated to give you my half-baked opinions on who will win the various awards. However, I know next to nothing about how these awards are chosen, and a lot of the categories are not really amenable to proper analysis (seriously, how do you measure  who the best vocalist is?), so I shall settle for the next big thing: Take a couple swigs of the nearest beverage, and go with my gut. Here goes nothing…

Entertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

There are a lot of one-dimensional performers here: Bryan is the incumbent and a radio darling, Brooks is a legend who rules the touring circuit, Stapleton is a critical darling who sells albums by the truckload, and Urban…well, Urban plays a pretty mean guitar. However, with a platinum album in Storyteller, a #2 and two #1 singles, and a wildly successful tour, Carrie Underwood scores high marks in every category, and deserves to take home the association’s highest honor.

Male Vocalist Of The Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Tim McGraw
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

This is a tough one, as all five nominees are worthy of the honor. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is finally the year that Dierks Bentley breaks through and takes home the prize, because he’s long overdue for it.

Female Vocalist Of The Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

In contrast, female vocalist is an easy one to call. Ballerini’s too new, Lambert had a down year, Morris is just filling a slot (#shotsfired), and Musgraves was on the side of the last milk carton I bought. Carrie Underwood runs away with this one.

Single of the Year

  • “Die A Happy Man” (Thomas Rhett)
  • “Humble And Kind” (Tim McGraw)
  • “My Church” (Maren Morris)
  • “Nobody To Blame” (Chris Stapleton)
  • “Record Year” (Eric Church)

“Die A Happy Man” spent more weeks at No. 1 than all of the others combined. This one’s a no-brainer.

Song of the Year

  • “Burning House” (Cam, Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhaskar)
  • “Die A Happy Man” (Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, Joe Sprague)
  • “Humble And Kind” (Lori McKenna)
  • “Record Year” (Eric Church, Jeff Hyde)
  • “My Church” (busbee, Maren Morris)

I feel like this category weighs the artistry of the song a bit more than the Single category, so “Burning House” and “Humble And Kind” have real shots to win here, but…“Die A Happy Man” basically lapped the field this year. You just can’t ignore a force of nature like that.

Album Of The Year

  • Black (Dierks Bentley)
  • Hero (Maren Morris)
  • Mr. Misunderstood (Eric Church)
  • Ripcord (Keith Urban)
  • Storyteller (Carrie Underwood)

Of the five nominated albums, I’ve only heard Black, and I wasn’t overly impressed with it, so…yeah. Then again, a single artist seems to ride a wave of momentum to multiple awards more often than not, so given my previous selections, I’m predicting this year’s CMAs get hit by a Carrie Underwood tidal wave, and Storyteller gets the win.

New Artist Of The Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris
  • Old Dominion
  • Cole Swindell

What the #$%& is Cole Swindell doing in this category?! Don’t get me wrong: Swindell is a perfectly good singer, and You Should Be Here might be the best album I’ve heard all year. The man’s been on the scene since 2013, however, so he really shouldn’t qualify for a “new artist” award.

Neither Morris nor The Brothers Osborne are serious contenders, so I would give the award to Ballerini by a nose over Old Dominion. Swindell will probably win, however, proving that the system is rigged, and that the media and the FBI obviously conspired to have dead people stuff the ballot box for Swindell.

Vocal Duo Of The Year

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida-Georgia Line
  • Joey + Rory
  • Maddie & Tae

In a perfect world, Joey Feek would claim the award and bring the house down with a heartfelt speech in memory of his wife Rory, and we would all flip one last collective middle finger to the cancer that killed her. Sadly, this isn’t a Disney movie, and the truth is that Florida-Georgia Line is the only true contender here.

Vocal Group Of The Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Old Dominion is too new, Rascal Flatts is too old, Zac Brown made a ton of enemies with their last album, and…wait, didn’t Lady Antebellum just go on hiatus? I’m not a huge fan of Little Big Town, but they definitely deserve to win this year.

Musical Event Of The Year

  • “Different For Girls” (Dierks Bentley and Elle King)
  • “Home Alone Tonight” (Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild)
  • “The Fighter” (Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood)
  • “Think Of You” (Chris Young and Cassidee Pope)
  • “You Are My Sunshine” (Morgane Stapleton and Chris Stapleton)

Good grief…can we just declare that no one deserves the award this year? No? Fine… I would vote for “Think Of You,” but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these collaborations win. They’re all equally underwhelming.

Musician Of The Year

  • Jerry Douglas
  • Paul Franklin
  • Dan Huff
  • Brent Mason
  • Derek Wells

Wow, I actually recognize some of the names on this list! My experience is that you never bet against a good dobro player, so I’m picking Jerry Douglas here.

So there you have it: My un-informed, ill-advised CMA predictions for 2016! You can see just how wrong I am tomorrow night at 8/7c on ABC. (Or you can be like me and watch the World Series instead.)

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