2017 ACM Awards: Predictions and Personal Picks

Here are our predictions and picks for this year’s Atrocity Academy of Country Music Awards.  The award show airs tonight.

The following winners have already been announced:

New Female Vocalist

Lauren Alaina

Cam

Brandy Clark

Maren Morris

New Male Vocalist

Kane Brown

Chris Janson

Chris Lane

Jon Pardi

Brett Young

New Vocal Duo or Group

Brothers Osborne

Dan + Shay

LoCash

Maddie & Tae

A Thousand Horses

Songwriter

Ashley Gorley

Luke Laird

Hillary Lindsey

Shane McAnally

Lori McKenna


Entertainer

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line – JK
  • Carrie Underwood – KJC
  • Keith Urban

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Carrie Underwood – JK, KJC
  • Keith Urban

Jonathan Keefe: Underwood deserved to win the biggest prize at the CMAs back in the fall and, once again, would be the only truly satisfying winner from this line-up. But, as with that awards cycle, the country music industry never fails to disappoint me with its sexism and behind-the-scenes politics, and Underwood isn’t represented by the management group that has dominated the ACM voting for the better part of a decade. There’s something strange about the number of nominations Florida Georgia Line earned— it almost seems like an over-reaction to the duo’s surprise loss in the Vocal Duo category at the CMAs— so I’m wondering if ACM voters are sending a message of support for whatever it is that they allegedly do well.

Kevin John Coyne: Carrie Underwood is already a two time winner in this category at the ACM Awards, and is the only nominee this year who escaped 2016 with all of her dignity intact. None of the five had a particularly notable 2016, so I think that this will be a close vote no matter what.

Male Vocalist

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley – JK
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton – KJC
  • Keith Urban

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley – KJC
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton – JK
  • Keith Urban

JK: Stapleton has new material on the way; yes, he’s the best singer in the field by an impossible margin, and I’m sure I’ll be back in his corner with greater enthusiasm come CMA time. Now, he’s my pick by default over an otherwise lackluster group. Bentley has been a perennial bridesmaid at awards shows for years now, but he’s been embraced for what is far and away his worst material to date and could be poised for a breakthrough win.

KJC: Again, not a noteworthy year for the nominees, with the exception of Thomas Rhett. His award is getting to sit at the big boys table at all.  I think Stapleton repeats, but my preference is Dierks Bentley, as an acknowledgment of his collective work to date.

Female Vocalist

Will Win:

  • Kelsea Ballerini – JK
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood – KJC

Should Win:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert – JK
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood – KJC

JK: Lambert released some of the finest material in her extraordinary career over the past year, which is truly saying something. She’d get my vote ahead of Underwood, the only other option I could fully support; and because I can’t complain about it loudly enough, had Sony released the brilliant “Choctaw County Affair” as a single like they should have, that would have made for a far tougher choice.

She’s still the prohibitive favorite to win this based upon her balance of strong commercial stats and generally positive reception, but I’m at least a bit concerned about a potential changing of the guard. Ballerini is a marginal talent who has embraced some of the genre’s most problematic gender politics, which means that radio, in turn, has fully embraced her. Morris, on the other hand, has been perhaps over-recognized with award show nominations, while radio hasn’t fully committed to making her a star. They’re both threats to win, but this slate of nominations, again, feels somewhat reactionary; that points to the woman who’s currently playing the boys’ club’s game the best.

KJC: It’s hard to bet against Miranda Lambert at the ACM Awards. But she has seven of these already, and Underwood’s win at the CMA Awards gives her a slight edge.

Vocal Duo

Will Win:

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line – JK, KJC
  • Maddie & Tae

Should Win:

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne – JK, KJC
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

JK: Looking at the overall list of nominees, it’s hard to imagine that Brothers Osborne will repeat their surprise win from the CMAs. With Maddie & Tae having released only one single (“Sierra,” which I liked with some reservations) within the eligibility period, that makes Brothers Osborne the better pick.

KJC: I guess Brothers Osborne should win? But Florida Georgia Line is all over the ballot, so they probably get the trophy.

Vocal Group

Will Win:

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town – JK, KJC
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

Should Win:

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town – KJC
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

JK: Lady Antebellum were on hiatus for the entirety of the eligibility period for these awards. Eli Young Band released only one single, which (rightfully) missed the top 40, during the eligibility period. As ever, there’s no reason why the Duo and Group categories shouldn’t be combined. Little Big Town will win because they’re the only choice that makes any sense at all.

KJC: Little Big Town is Brooks & Dunning this thing these days. With “Better Man,” they are the only nominee from last year with a bona fide hit during the eligibility period.

New Artist

Will Win:

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris – JK, KJC
  • Jon Pardi

Should Win:

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris
  • Jon Pardi – JK, KJC

JK: Like I said in our Grammy predictions, I think Morris has a world of potential, and “My Church” fully stands on its own merits. But, like Lady Antebellum coming off their first album, she’s been over-rewarded for work that is good but maybe not that good. Still, she’ll win in this category. I didn’t love any of the albums released by these three acts in 2016, but they each had solid moments, and each deserves to have won their respective semi-final categories.

Sidebar: The idea that Kane Brown and Chris Lane were semi-finalists for New Male Vocalist over Drake White or William Michael Morgan is just bat-shit. As is the fact that the ACMs— who, once upon a time, thought far enough outside the box to nominate the likes of Kelly Willis, Shelby Lynne, and Sunny Sweeney for New Female Vocalist—could only come up with four nominees for that category this year when Aubrie Sellers and Margo Price were right there.

KJC: Jon Pardi is the only nominee that I find remotely enjoyable, but “My Church” gives Maren MOrris the edge.

Album

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Black
  • Florida Georgia Line, Dig Your Roots
  • Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings – JK, KJC
  • Maren Morris, Hero
  • Keith Urban, Ripcord

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Black
  • Florida Georgia Line, Dig Your Roots
  • Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These WingsJK, KJC
  • Maren Morris, Hero
  • Keith Urban, Ripcord

JK: Surely to God, the voters can’t mess this up. There’s an ambitious, incisive near-masterpiece of a double-album up against two messy pop albums and two albums that should hang their heads in embarrassment even to be in the company of the others.

KJC: I’m taking a risk in the Female Vocalist category by betting against Miranda Lambert, but I can’t bring myself to do it in Album, since she has won this for four albums running. The Weight of These Wings is the only quality album in the running, so if she wins again, it’s very deserved.

Single

Will Win:

  • Florida Georgia Line, “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Vice”
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind” – KJC
  • Maren Morris, “My Church”
  • Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” – JK

Should Win:

  • Florida Georgia Line, “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Vice” – JK, KJC
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris, “My Church”
  • Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

JK: I could see any of the five winning except for the one that would get my vote. Urban was dominating at radio for most of the voting period, and he simply has too big a haul of nominations to walk away empty-handed. That recency could give him the edge, but Morris just won a Grammy for the terrific “My Church” and “Humble and Kind” has some notable wins to its credit, as well. “H.O.L.Y.” would be a nightmare, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see it win, either.

KJC: I think that this is Tim McGraw’s clearest shot yet for “Humble and Kind,” and while I do believe it is the best song nominated, I think that the brilliant production makes “Vice” a better overall single.

Song

Will Win:

  • “Blue Ain’t Your Color” – written by Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, and Steven Lee Olsen; recorded by Keith Urban
  • “Die a Happy Man” – written by Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur; recorded by Thomas Rhett
  • “Humble and Kind” – written by Lori McKenna; recorded by Tim McGraw – JK, KJC
  • “Kill a Word” – written by Eric Church, Luke Dick, and Jeff Hyde; recorded by Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens
  • “Tennessee Whiskey” – written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove; recorded by Chris Stapleton
  • “Vice” – written by Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne; recorded by Miranda Lambert

Should Win:

  • “Blue Ain’t Your Color” – written by Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, and Steven Lee Olsen; recorded by Keith Urban
  • “Die a Happy Man” – written by Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur; recorded by Thomas Rhett
  • “Humble and Kind” – written by Lori McKenna; recorded by Tim McGraw – KJC
  • “Kill a Word” – written by Eric Church, Luke Dick, and Jeff Hyde; recorded by Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens
  • “Tennessee Whiskey” – written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove; recorded by Chris Stapleton
  • “Vice” – written by Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne; recorded by Miranda Lambert – JK

JK: Lori McKenna has already been named as the winner for the Songwriter of the Year category, which points to support for “Humble and Kind,” which would make for a fine and deserving winner, though it would be my second choice behind Lambert’s heady, more structurally impressive “Vice.” Rhett’s song—last year’s winner for Single of the Year because these nominations aren’t already sufficiently embarrassing—could also upset since Ed Sheeran hit a new peak of popularity while the votes were being cast. That this is Church’s sole nomination is a travesty.

KJC: As I wrote above, “Humble and Kind” gets the edge as a song, and “Vice” as a single.  Either would be a worthy winner, as would “Kill a Word” and “Tennessee Whiskey.” As quality goes, this is the strongest category this year.

Video

Will Win:

  • Artists of Then, Now & Forever, “Forever Country”
  • Kelsea Ballerini, “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Vice”
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind”
  • Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away” – JK, KJC

Should Win:

  • Artists of Then, Now & Forever, “Forever Country”
  • Kelsea Ballerini, “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Vice”
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind”
  • Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away” – JK, KJC

JK: The video for “Forever Country” looks like something that a small town tourism commission would produce: It’s all soft-focus lighting and laughable green-screen effects, and it’s kind of embarrassing for everyone involved. Stapleton’s video is the only one deserving of the recognition.

KJC: “Forever Country” gives me the warm and fuzzies, but “Fire Away” is the best demonstration of the power that a music video can have.

Vocal Event

Will Win:

  • Artists of Then, Now & Forever, “Forever Country” – KJC
  • Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King, “Different For Girls” – JK
  • Kenny Chesney featuring P!nk, “Setting the World on Fire”
  • Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw, “May We All”
  • Chris Young featuring Cassadee Pope, “Think of You”

Should Win:

  • Artists of Then, Now & Forever, “Forever Country” – JK, KJC
  • Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King, “Different For Girls”
  • Kenny Chesney featuring P!nk, “Setting the World on Fire”
  • Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw, “May We All”
  • Chris Young featuring Cassadee Pope, “Think of You”

JK: I keep picking the godawful “Different For Girls” as my “Will Win” choice, and I keep being wrong; so I’m happy to choose it yet again here. “Forever Country” is the only one of these that I like at all, but “Kill a Word” is a glaring and indefensible omission.

KJC: “Forever Country” still amazes me, and once again, my personal pick is the only one of the five that I consider listenable in the first place.

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Congratulations to Lori McKenna.
    I haven’t heard Brad P mentioned anywhere but maybe he’ll be in the audience. Would love to have seen him join Carrie to mock trumpcare but i guess there was never any chance of that happening.

  2. It was announced last night while they played at Mandalay Bay that FLAGA won both Single of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year.

    Ugh.

  3. A couple of quick updates:

    Florida Georgia Line already has a couple of wins, as they’ve taken vocal collaboration (“May We All”, with Tim McGraw) and Single of the Year for “H*O*L*Y (a song so unintentionally hilarious, I simply smile just from typing the title). I can’t say I’m surprised with either of these, but it is kind of sad that they went with the worst possible nominee for Single of the Year (although it was probably the biggest hit, sales wise…if you make the industry money, they’ll vote for you).

    I don’t plan on watching too much of this of tonight, but the only award that intrigues me is Album of the Year. I really want to see Miranda win, not just because I think the album is fantastic and is extremely personal…but, because there’s such a huge difference in quality if I’m comparing this album to the other nominees (especially if we’re evaluating these albums as being “country”). Normally, I don’t get all that invested in these awards, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of the other nominees come out victorious, due to Miranda’s dwindling support at radio and in the industry. But, I agree with John and Kevin…this is the only quality album nominated, and it would be a shame to see it lose.

  4. Yeah, FGL winning Single of the Year means I may not even watch the show. I’ll read the reactions to see if any of the performances were good and check them out individually.

  5. As long as Carrie wins EOTY, nothing else matters as far as I’m concerned. Long, looooooong overdue for this award. Yes she won it twice, but fan vote was involved, and we all know it’s not even a contest if it’s up to the fans.

  6. Unconscionable that Margot Price, Aubrie Sellars and William Michael Morgan did not make the new artist lists. There us much better music out there than the ACMs suggest.

  7. Where the hell is Eric Church? He should probably WIN male vocalist and should at least be nominated for entertainer.

  8. I don’t know where some of you have been, but Keith Urban had a world tour in 2016. He’s done a lot and deserves it just as much if not more than Carrie. His RIPCORD album is fantastic and still selling good. Also he’s receiving award in a couple of days from Grammy’s On the Hill for his work in Music education for kids and donating instruments to schools. Take your blinders off and appreciate Keith a little. He works hard.

  9. How can the ACMs even act like they’re credible when the 2016 Single of the Year winner just won Song of the Year a year later? And who in the heck voted for it?!?!

  10. I just read Thomas Rhett also won Male Vocalist. LMAO!! Does he have some sort of management/label connection that aided that win?

  11. That list of winners – with the exception of 2-3 of them – is an abomination. I didn’t watch the ACMs this year out of fear, and these results mean I won’t even look at the results next year.

    Are we sure actual people are voting for these winners?

  12. I somehow watched more of it than I expected to…and it was bad…really bad…putridly bad.

    Miranda’s performance of “The Tin Man” with just an acoustic guitar was excellent, Chris Stapleton acquitted himself nicely in his performance , and I didn’t mind Maren Morris or Keith Urban’s solo performances (Blue Ain’t Your Color, even if being performed for the umpteenth time, is probably one of the 2-3 worthwhile things on Ripcord, and a better song than most of what was performed).

    But, the rest of the show…performances, hosting, and all…yikes. I don’t listen much to terrestrial country radio these days, which has given me a chance to get away from the current hits. But…if what was played on that show (and how it was played/sung) is any indication of the current state of mainstream radio…eventually, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble. It’s literally getting to the point that I don’t even think the audience that this music seems to be aimed at (15-27 year olds) is going to continue to buy/consume it…that age group is a fickle audience. We’re past the days of the 80s/90s, where fans became die-hards of specific acts, and bought every album that they put out, without listening to previews/reading reviews. Additionally a lot of the bro country/faux disco/mediocre sex jams that were performed tonight don’t even attempt to differentiate from each other anymore, nor even put in the fake banjo in an attempt to distinguish the songs as country. There’s just nothing that’s all that discerning or interesting about too many of these songs. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t know how much longer they can continue to turn a profit. Furthermore, terrestrial radio (which is having problems now) may have an even bigger issue on their hands in 5-10 years when the songs that are out now are expected to be the recurrents/classics of the future. I don’t know that a lot of this stuff even has a retro appeal, and I just cannot see a lot of people listening to “Move, “Lights Come On”, or “HOLY” in one year, let alone ten, unless it’s for totally ironic/mocking reasons (ala MST3K). Again…I think the country music hitching their wagon to these songs/artists may not benefit them in the long run.

    So, what’s the magic answer…I don’t know. Hopefully the country music industry figures something out. I’m not direly concerned about it, as I can find good music if I want to. But, like any human being, I’m nostalgic, and remember the good old days of finding a good new country music song on radio or TNN/CMT. I’m not ready to signal the death knell yet, but the country music industry needs to figure out if the strategy they’re using is going to benefit them in the long run. And most importantly, there needs to be a higher quality of music brought forth that emphasizes honesty, as opposed to being the fifth “your love is like a drug” type of song on the charts.

  13. So it looks like they totally blew it on almost every non-obvious category. Wish I could say I was surprised! The only semi-pleasant-surprise is FGL somehow losing Vocal Duo (a category which shouldn’t even exist).

  14. The WME bloc flexed its’ muscle last night. Miranda for album and FVOTY? I really wanted Carrie to get EOTY. Her Storyteller tour was unbelievable. I wouldn’t have minded if she had lost that award to Keith, but Jason Aldean? These awards have lost all credibility.

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