Picking the CMA Nominees: Male Vocalist of the Year

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July 26, 2009

The past two decades have only brought eight winners in the CMA Male Vocalist race, with only two of them – Toby Keith and Clint Black – winning only once.  Compare this to the Female Vocalist race, which has brought twelve winners during the same time frame, though even that race has become more streaky of late, with Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood combining for seven victories in the past eleven years.

Is it time for an overhaul in the Male Vocalist race? Yes and no. There’s no denying that some of the multiple nominees/winners over the past nineteen years remain the genre’s strongest male voices. Still, there’s room for some others at the table. The problem is that there are so very few of the genre’s male artists that are genuinely at the top of their game. Even most of the men listed below have had weak singles this year.

Still, if I picked the five nominees for the 2009 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, they would be:

Jamey Johnson

If Johnson earns fewer than five nominations at this year’s CMA Awards, I’ll be shocked. In fact, I think he’ll earn six, with the surprise nomination being in this category. These aren’t predictions, though, so I’ll state that while I’m not particularly a fan of Johnson, his success at retail with a traditional project that has only received airplay for one single is darn impressive. Along with Brad Paisley, he’s one of only two artists I’ve listed that were determined by genuine merit, not process of elimination.

Brad Paisley

The genre’s most consistent radio act and the reigning champion for the past two years. In a stronger year, I would think it’s time to move on from acknowledging him in this category and consider him more for Entertainer of the Year, but he’s still the presumptive favorite in this race. At the very least, he deserves another nomination.

Darius Rucker

Too soon? Possibly.  But replace his name with other candidates  – say, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins, or Blake Shelton – if you think they made better music this year.

George Strait

It’s hard to make the call about which perennial favorite – Alan Jackson or George Strait – deserves a shot this year, especially since neither of them are likely to contend for the win.  “Sissy’s Song” is better than any of Strait’s singles this past year, but all of Strait’s are better than Jackson’s other two – “Country Boy” and “Good Time.” Seeing “I Still Like Bologna” sent to radio puts me firmly in Strait’s corner, whose “River of Love” and “Troubadour” brought me listening pleasure this year.

Keith Urban

I don’t think that there’s a stronger singer in consistent rotation on country radio, even if his material has been slight this year.  A case could be made for Tim McGraw or Toby Keith getting this slot instead, but they’re dealing with the same problem: weaker material than they’ve generally been known for.

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  1. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    As with your picks for Entertainer of the Year, I don’t think the CMA is ready to not nominate some of the usual suspects again this year. That said, I think Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and George Strait are pretty much locks to get another nomination. That leaves just one slot open for a slew of other male artists that deserve one. I’d put my money on either Darius Rucker or Jamey Johnson. Darius, I think, has had more success during the past year with 3 straight number 1 singles (well I’m sure “Alright” will hit number 1 in the next couple of weeks) and his album has had fairly good sales. On the other hand, Johnson delivered one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the past year, which could end up leveling the playing field. If I had to pick just one, I’d go with Darius Rucker seeing he’s had better success on the charts.

    My list:
    Kenny Chesney
    Brad Paisley
    Daris Rucker
    George Strait
    Keith Urban

  2. Matt. BNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin,

    I like your picks but, like Aaron, I don’t see where the ‘usual suspects’ aren’t picked again. There is likely only one (or two) slots open.

    I’d say that these guys are locks:
    Paisley
    Chesney
    Strait

    And Keith Urban will duke it out with Aldean (headlining a tour), Rucker, Jamey Johnson, Billy Currington (he has 2 consecutive #1 hits this) year) and Alan Jackson.

    Of those I think it will likely be Urban or Johnson or Jackson and Aldean or Rucker or Currington.

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I’d be happy with this line-up, although I’d personally swap Darius for Blake Shelton, just because I can’t stand “Alright.”

  4. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I’d be surprised if anyone besides Johnson breaks through to the big race, just because it would mean knocking out Strait, Paisley, Chesney or Urban, all of whom are still coming up aces at retail (comparatively speaking, anyway). I guess there’s always the chance of a big shake-up, but I don’t see it happening quite yet.

  5. Brad, George, And Darius are the only one’s I’d say are locked for a nomination. Kenny and Keith are more than likely to get one, but I can see either being out, which would leave Billy C., Blake S., or Jason A. taking their spot.

    Either way Jason Aldean will probably be up there sooner or later, not that I want him up there, but he seems to be heading that way…. what happened to Dierks I thought he’d be up there by now?

  6. I’d give Trace Adkins a nomination this year. X was a very good record with some superb vocal performances.

    I’d also be very happy to see Jamey Johnson nominated in this category.

  7. gailNo Gravatar says:

    My picks:

    Keith Urban (he deserves a lock in as much as Chesney)
    Jason Aldean
    Brad Paisley
    George Strait
    Darius Rucker ( Can’t stand Alright either)

    I don’t think Chesney has done anything outstanding this year! Oh, I forgot, he cont’d his concert with a smashed foot. Yeah, he’ll probably win for sure now! Well if Brad wins EOTY then they’ll have to let Chesney win this or he’ll pout!

  8. LariatNo Gravatar says:

    I like the fact someone mentioned Trace Atkins – he is a first rate vocalist and should be nominated – my favorite to win is Brad – he just has it all and can sing all kinds of songs – So noms would be

    Brad Paisley
    Keith Urban
    George Strait
    Trace Atkins
    Jamey Johnson

    and Brad to win

  9. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I forgot about Trace Adkins.

    I agree that the usual suspects will end up nominated. I sure would like to see a bit of a shake-up though!

  10. Chris D.No Gravatar says:

    I bet Dierks Bentley will be nominated, off 2 straight #1′s and he is a good singer, even if his newer material is worse than his past stuff. Here’s the race I would pick:

    Brad Paisley
    Dierks Bentley
    Alan Jackson
    Jamey Johnson
    Keith Urban

    The only reason I booted Strait is because I just like these 5 better, and I love “Sissy’s Song” too much to not pick Jackson. Next year though, because of “Living For The Night”, I will be on Strait’s side. Unfortunately this lineup won’t happen because Kenny Chesney will get a nomination.

  11. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    I’d pick, George Strait, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Trace Adkins and Alan Jackson

  12. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    Will: Chesney, Johnson, Paisley, Strait, Urban
    Should: Johnson, Paisley, Blake Shelton, Strait, Urban

    This is the weakest collective output in the Male Vocalist category in years. Johnson and Paisley are the only two that really made a strong case for inclusion, and Paisley will pick it up for the third straight year. Urban’s album was underwhelming, but none of the other candidates made a strong stand at radio or retail. That new guard of Bentley, Josh Turner, Joe Nichols, etc. really dissipated, didn’t it?

  13. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    I am always surprised at how Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton are never nominated even with huge number one records. I think they are both very interesting vocalists. I know that many critics feel that their work is sub-par, but I find some of the others (Paisley and Keith Urban) to be hugely overrated.

    I am usually in synch with the critical consensus on artists, but with Bentley and Shelton, I often feel that I am alone in thinking that they are producing good stuff.

  14. GavinNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t see much of a change from past shows either.

    My picks:

    Brad Paisley (favorite to win)
    Keith Urban
    Kenny Chesney
    George Strait
    Jamey Johnson, Alan Jackson or Trace Atkins

    Toby Keith could sneak in as well.

  15. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    This ones kind of tough for me becausse lately not many male country singers have impressed me in the last year.
    My Picks/Wishlist:
    -Jamey Johnson
    -Alan Jackson
    -Darius Rucker
    -Keith Urban
    -Trace Adkins

  16. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Martin, I like Shelton and Bentley, but I feel that both of them have released their weakest albums to date.

    I’d pick, based on no critical guesses, but only personal preference:

    Brad Paisley
    Keith Urban’
    Blake Shelton
    Alan Jackson
    Jamey Johnson

  17. vpNo Gravatar says:

    I like your picks Kevin but I’m not a Johnson fan, so I think he is replaceable.

    Mine are;

    Brad
    Alan
    George
    Keith
    Blake

    Blake could be replace with Darius as well they both had a very strong year.

    Is Darius eligable for New Artist?

  18. DierksfanNo Gravatar says:

    Likely: Brad, George, Keith
    I wish: Dierks, Blake

    Dierks is definitely long overdue–Martin, you are NOT alone! Darius is too new.

  19. maxNo Gravatar says:

    i think dierks bentley should be up. he and his band are really awesome live!! finally he is releasing fun music again!! Free and Easy Down the Road I Go was the only fun, uptempo song from their last cd.

  20. MELNo Gravatar says:

    I think this is the list

    Brad
    George
    Alan
    Keith
    Kenny

    And Brad gonna win it if he doesn’t win this he will won Entertainer

  21. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    My Noms:

    Keith Urban
    Brad Paisley
    Darius Rucker
    Jason Aldean or Alan Jackson
    Kenny Chesney

    With Paisley taking home the win.

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