Category Archives: ACM Awards

ACM Awards: Predicted Winners

As we gear up for the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards, the writing staff of Country Universe have prepared our predicted winners among this year’s nominees. Check out our Personal Picks as well, and share your own predictions in the comments. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the festivities this Sunday, starting at 8 EST.

ACM 2009: Country Universe Predicts the Winners

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: For as much as the industry favors male acts, it’s the female acts who really post the big numbers.  I think that the fans having a say will put Underwood over the top, though the industry is certainly behind her, too.  The depth and breadth of her appeal warrants the win.

Leeann: I know how zealous Carrie Underwood fans are.  So, I’d be shocked if she doesn’t win it.  I like the way Lynn said it though.

Dan: You know, I really have no idea. It’s not going to be George Strait, and I probably wouldn’t anticipate a win for Keith Urban this year. At first I was going with Chesney by default, but the arguments for Underwood’s win are too good to ignore, so I’m changing to her.

Lynn: If the fans are truly allowed to have their say…Ms. Underwood, please watch your step on the way up to receive your first Entertainer of the Year award.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Dan, Lynn, Kevin
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Leeann: I can’t decide between Chesney or Paisley.  If I had to choose, I’d guess Paisley, since he’s gotten used to winning this one.

Dan: Tough call. I’ll put it between Paisley and Chesney, and I’ll give Paisley the edge.

Lynn: Paisley by default. Yes, his last album was an instrumental, but he was easily the most visible of these artists over the past year.

Kevin: I could see Strait sneaking in there, but I don’t see how things have shifted in a meaningful enough way to end Paisley’s run.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Heidi Newfield
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Dan, Lynn, Kevin, Leeann
  • Lee Ann Womack

Dan: There’s always that chance of a Miranda or Taylor upset, but I think Carrie’s still got this.

Lynn: Given a choice among these ladies over the course of the past year, I can’t imagine this award not going to Underwood.

Kevin: It’s a race between Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, and it’s hard for me to imagine Underwood losing a vocalist race to Swift.

Leeann: I’d be an idiot to predict anyone other than Underwood.

Top Vocal Group

  • Lady Antebellum – Lynn, Kevin
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts – Leeann, Dan
  • Randy Rogers Band
  • The Lost Trailers

Lynn: With previous ACM and CMA wins under their belts, and a big Grammy nod earlier this year, I wouldn’t bet against Lady A for the win. I could be wrong, but I think Nashville is dying to hand this award to a band other than Rascal Flatts, and Lady A is visible, popular and photogenic.

Kevin:
I think that voters have finally found an alternative to Rascal Flatts, who have dominated this race for so many years.

Leeann: Lady A could take this one.  However, if I want to be safe, I should just predict Rascal Flatts.

Dan: If Lady A hadn’t released such a sluggish second single, they could be posing a serious threat by now. They’ve definitely got a shot, but I’d guess the Flatts still have it.

Top Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn


Kevin:
This must finally be the year that Brooks & Dunn loses, right? Sugarland is long overdue.

Leeann: Sugarland.  They’re clearly the hottest duo right now.

Dan: Sugarland, although Brooks & Dunn could still keep it.

Lynn: Sugarland has the momentum.

Top New Artist

  • Julianne Hough- Leeann, Lynn, Kevin
  • Jake Owen
  • Zac Brown Band – Dan

Leeann: Hough will get this one, because I have a feeling she’s got the strongest and most organized fan base, thanks to a popular television show.

Dan: Fan voting = I have no idea. But just for the sake of having a bet, I’ll say Zac Brown Band. They’re well-liked by audiences; maybe their grassroots support will push them over.

Lynn: Fan voting = Julianne Hough (= Dancing With the Stars = 20 million viewers per week = Lots of Free Publicity).

Kevin: I also think Hough will win because of the nature of her fan base.

Album of the Year

  • Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
  • Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift – Leeann
  • That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson
  • Troubadour – George Strait  – Dan, Lynn, Kevin
Dan: I can kind of see anyone but Montgomery Gentry winning here, but at the end of the day, Strait is probably the best all-around bet.

Lynn: Ditto Dan.

Kevin:
The Single/Album races just seem to be going Strait’s way lately.

Leeann:
I’ll go out on a limb and predict Taylor Swift.  I’m sure the industry wants to give her an award and this is the most plausible way to do it.

Single Record of the Year

  • “Gunpowder & Lead” – Miranda Lambert
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
  • “Johnny And June” – Heidi Newfield
  • “Waitin’ On A Woman” – Brad Paisley – Dan
  • “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins – Lynn, Kevin, Leeann

Lynn: I might have to go with Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Admittedly, I have a poor track record when it comes to predicting country music awards shows, but I’d be willing to wager at least…nope, can’t do it, I really am bad at this. Second choice is “Gunpowder & Lead” (although it came out 1 single and a year ago!)

Kevin: I’m torn between Paisley and Adkins. The ACM likes to go with the biggest hit, and I guess that’s “You’re Gonna Miss This.”

Leeann: I guess I predict Trace Adkins.  It’s the dullest song of the choices, but the one that seems to tug the hardest on the heartstrings of the assumed average country music listener.

Dan: Paisley’s sentimental hit seems like the strongest bet to me, although I feel a little sheepish with everyone else pulling for Adkins.

Song of the Year

  • I Saw God Today – Leeann, Dan, Lynn
    George Strait
    Composers:  Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
  • In Color – Kevin
    Jamey Johnson
    Composers:  Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto
  • Johnny And June
    Heidi Newfield
    Composers:  Deanna Bryant, Heidi Newfield, Stephony Smith
  • Waitin’ On A Woman
    Brad Paisley
    Composers:  Don Sampson, Wynn Varble
  • You’re Gonna Miss This
    Trace Adkins
    Composers:  Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller

Kevin: I’m guessing “In Color” or “I Saw God Today.” It doesn’t help that when Strait won this award, he shared it with Johnson for “Give it Away.” I’ll say “In Color”, though it might result in my defeat in the final tally.

Leeann:
I can’t see why “I Saw God Today” won’t win, even if it makes me cringe a little.

Dan: If I had to guess, it’s a race between “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “I Saw God Today,” with “In Color” playing dark horse. I guess I’ll say “I Saw God Today.”

Lynn: I think Strait will pick up an ACM trophy to go with his CMA one for “I Saw God Today.”

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ACM Awards: Personal Picks

As we gear up for the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards, the writing staff of Country Universe have prepared our personal picks among this year’s nominees. Check out our Predicted Winners as well, and share your own personal picks in the comments. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the festivities this Sunday, starting at 8 EST.

ACM 2009: Country Universe’s Personal Picks

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann
  • George Strait – Lynn
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Dan
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: I haven’t been as happy with the standard-bearing superstar of country music since the heyday of the Dixie Chicks, so I’m definitely pulling for Carrie Underwood. She strikes the perfect balance of contemporary relevance and reverence for tradition.

Leeann: I’m always pulling for Paisley to win an Entertainer award, but I’d be happy to see a female win it as well, especially since Underwood’s not undeserving at this point.

Dan: None of these artists has impressed me recently from an artistic standpoint, although Strait has been less grating than the rest. But I think I’m going to say Carrie Underwood, simply because it’d be cool to see a woman win, and I think it might give her the freedom to take more artistic risks (if she chooses).

Lynn: I’m pulling for Strait to win this year. The ACMs put out a promo the other day that was essentially a glamour magazine photo shoot with three cute blonde singers. I’ll be honest…I didn’t want to watch the show after seeing that. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I’d be more interested in watching the show if the promo had Strait sitting in a chair singing one of his classic tunes. I’m tired of the promotion of style over substance. Paisley, Underwood and Urban aren’t necessarily guilty of this, but I hope Strait wins just to remind everyone to keep it real.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann
  • George Strait – Dan, Lynn, Kevin
  • Keith Urban

Leeann: This is a tough one.  I have not been impressed with any of these artists in the last year.  So, I’m going to have to choose by voice alone, which gives Paisley the slight edge over the others as far as my taste runs.

Dan: The big-hitters have had a lame year. Strait was the only one who didn’t let me down too bad, although I can’t say I’m a big fan of “River of Love”, either.

Lynn: I noted in a discussion the other day that Strait’s album is no longer on my iPod. But…it at least made it to my iPod. Which is more than I can say for Urban, Paisley, Keith and Chesney’s most recent outings.

Kevin: There’s a cyclical process I go through that includes taking George Strait for granted and then suddenly realizing just how good he is again. I’m in the latter part of the cycle again.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert – Dan, Lynn, Leeann
  • Heidi Newfield
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Lee Ann Womack – Kevin

Dan: Miranda Lambert released arguably the two riskiest singles of the past year (“Gunpowder & Lead” and “More Like Her”), and she somehow got radio to play them both. There isn’t a more inspiring mainstream artist out there right now, at least for my money.

Lynn: M I R A N D A   L A M B E R T ! ! (Was that subtle enough? :P )

Kevin: I’d be happy to see Underwood or Lambert win, but since Womack has never won before, she’s my personal pick this year.

Leeann: I hate to be so predictable, but Miranda Lambert is my clear pick.  I choose her with Lynn’s exuberance and Dan’s reasoning.

Top Vocal Group

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town – Lynn, Dan
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Randy Rogers Band- Kevin, Leeann
  • The Lost Trailers

Lynn: If those are my only choices, I’m pulling for Little Big Town. It’s too bad we can’t write-in nominations…

Kevin:
I’m with Leeann on this one.

Leeann: My personal vote goes to the Randy Rogers Band.  I love Rogers’ voice and dig their music in general.

Dan: I love me some Randy Rogers Band and am thrilled to see them nominated, but I like Little Big Town’s current album better than theirs, so I’ll side with LBT.

Top Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory – Leeann, Lynn
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Dan


Kevin:
I don’t understand why Sugarland isn’t all over this ballot. They’re one of the best acts in country music today.

Leeann: Out of all of the nominations in all of the categories for the ACMs, I’m rooting for Joey + Rory most enthusiastically this year.

Dan: Sugarland is injecting pop-country with some much-needed personality, plus they don’t concern themselves with trivial things like “postmodern Appalachia,” right, Kristian Bush? :) On a side note, it’s great to see Joey + Rory here. They’re a bit too new for me to pick them right now, but I hope they become regular contenders for this award.

Lynn: Joey + Rory are my favorites to win here simply because they stepped into the Nashville limelight with class and character, bringing a certain genuine spirit, candor and down home realness along with good music.

Top New Artist

  • Julianne Hough
  • Jake Owen
  • Zac Brown Band – Leeann, Dan, Lynn, Kevin

Leeann: Zac Brown Band has a cool vibe about them that is hard to ignore.  While I’m not personally sold on them yet, they are clearly the most unique act out of the nominees here.

Dan: I still don’t care for “Chicken Fried,” but Zac Brown Band is one of the freshest acts to break at radio in recent memory. They’ve been playing around forever (it shows), have a number of solid songs on their current album, and seem like genuinely nice guys, too. Mainstream country needs more acts like them.

Lynn: I’m at a loss here. I listened to Zac Brown Band’s album for the first time the other day. It was part hokey and part cool. I truly didn’t know what to make of it, but I am curious to see where they head next, and that has to be worth something.

Kevin: I was going to go with Jake Owen, but then I realized I had him confused with Luke Bryan, who made the “Country Boy” video I like so much. So I’ll go with Zac Brown Band instead.

Album of the Year

  • Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
  • Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift
  • That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson  – Dan, Lynn, Leeann
  • Troubadour – George Strait – Kevin
Dan: As it happens, I really like both Johnson’s and Swift’s. Despite their vast differences, both albums are fully-realized artistic expressions that convey a believable sense of who their creators are and how they view the world, even if we as listeners can’t always relate to the particular subject matter (hard drugs, divorce, Joe Jonas, etc.). That said, I think Music Row needs more Johnson than Swift right now. So I’m pulling for That Lonesome Song.
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Lynn: Ditto Dan (although I’m not quite as enamored with Swift’s album).
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Kevin: Underwood’s album has grown on me with time, but the only album of these five that I really enjoy from start to finish is George Strait’s Troubadour.
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Leeann: Jamey Johnson clearly has the most interesting album here, though I’ll give Swift some credit too.  It’s odd that any of us would put Johnson and Swift in the same category, but one thing I can say about their efforts as opposed to the others is that it’s obvious that their albums were labors of love for them while the other albums seemed more thrown together.

Single Record of the Year

  • “Gunpowder & Lead” – Miranda Lambert – Lynn, Kevin, Leeann, Dan
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
  • “Johnny And June” – Heidi Newfield
  • “Waitin’ On A Woman” – Brad Paisley
  • “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins

Lynn: I was impressed with “In Color,” but this is an easy call: “Gunpowder & Lead” kicked arse!

Kevin: I’m splitting my vote between Single and Song, with the edge going to Miranda Lambert here.

Leeann: I just enjoy “Gunpowder And Lead” the most out of these choices.  I like “In Color”, but the appeal really hasn’t stuck with me over time. I still crank “Gunpowder And Lead” when given the chance, however.

Dan: Catch me on another day and I might say “In Color,” but I think “Gunpowder & Lead” is destined to become a classic, even if it’s more southern rock than country.

Song of the Year

  • I Saw God Today
    George Strait
    Composers:  Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
  • In Color – Leeann, Dan, Lynn
    Jamey Johnson
    Composers:  Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto
  • Johnny And June
    Heidi Newfield
    Composers:  Deanna Bryant, Heidi Newfield, Stephony Smith
  • Waitin’ On A Woman – Kevin
    Brad Paisley
    Composers:  Don Sampson, Wynn Varble
  • You’re Gonna Miss This
    Trace Adkins
    Composers:  Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller

Kevin: The final verse of “Waitin’ on a Woman” gets me every time. It’s easily my favorite Paisley song since “Whiskey Lullaby.”

Leeann:
“In Color” is the best and most intricately written song out of the bunch.

Dan: “In Color” is the only one of the bunch that really engrossed me the first time I heard it, which is kind of my litmus test for song quality.

Lynn: “In Color” is the most interesting song of the group (with “Johnny and June” actually being one of my least favorite big singles in recent years).

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ACM Top New Artist Winners

header_acm-awards1The winners have been announced for three of the Top New Artist categories at this year’s ACM Awards:

  • Top New Male Vocalist: Jake Owen
  • Top New Female Vocalist: Julianne Hough
  • Top New Vocal Duo or Group: Zac Brown Band

Jake Owen’s victory is something of an upset, as he was nominated against James Otto and Jamey Johnson, two men who received multiple Grammy nominations. Johnson still has a shot at some ACM awards this year, as he’s nominated in three other categories: Single, Song and Album of the Year. Owen is nominated for Vocal Event for his part in Sugarland’s multi-artist “Life in a Northern Town.”

Julianne Hough was chosen over Sarah Buxton and Ashton Shepherd, while Zac Brown Band won over the Eli Young Band and the Lost Trailers.

Owen, Hough and Zac Brown Band will compete for the Top New Artist award during the three-hour telecast on Sunday, April 5. We’ll be live-blogging, of course. Look for our predictions and personal picks later this week.

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ACM Announces Album of the Year Nominees

george-strait1This year’s nominees for ACM Album of the Year have been announced.

The nominees are:

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All
  • George Strait, Troubadour
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride

George Strait’s nomination in this category gives him the opportunity to win all three industry awards for Album of the Year, having already won the Grammy and the CMA trophies for Troubadour. The last album to win all three was Fly by the Dixie Chicks, back in 2000-2001.

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The 44th Annual ACM Awards Reaction, Part Two (Fail Blog)

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In honor of FAIL Blog (the perfect workday distraction), here’s my take on the Academy of Country Music Awards nominations. Opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and do not represent the views of other contributors to Country Universe.

WIN- Carrie Underwood, Entertainer of the Year

A Grand Ole Opry induction, four No. 1 singles and best-seller status on the concert trail. Serious credentials for the reigning female vocalist, ensuring her a well-deserved Entertainer nod.

WIN- Miranda Lambert, Single of the Year (“Gunpowder and Lead”)

Lambert’s vengeful stand against domestic violence is amply rewarded with an appearance in the Single category. Her spicy snarl is an intimidating match for a clever, caustic lyric.

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The 44th Annual ACM Awards Reaction, Part One

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The Academy of Country Music revealed its nominees for the 44th annual awards show slated for Sunday, April 5. Album of the Year nominations will be announced in March, likely to coincide with the presentation of the Best New Artist nominees.

Brad Paisley- Paisley is the leader of the pack with six nominations. His video clip, “Waitin’ on a Woman,” (with legendary television star, Andy Griffith) is Paisley’s bid at a fourth Video of the Year victory. “Waitin'” is also in the running for Single and Song of the Year, and Paisley is a considerable threat to dethrone four-time champion Chesney for Entertainer of the Year.

George Strait- In a separate ceremony, Strait will be recognized as the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade, but his support runs deep even in the present day. He will bid for Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist, as well as Video of the Year for “Troubadour,” his first clip since 2006’s “The Seashores of Old Mexico.”

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44th Annual ACM Awards Projections

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On Wednesday, February 11, the Academy of Country Music will unveil the nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony. Last year, the usual suspects prevailed. Brad and Carrie repeated in the Vocalist categories, Brooks & Dunn claimed their 14th Vocal Duo prize and Kenny Chesney earned his fourth consecutive Entertainer of the Year award. As a prelude to the nominations announcement, here’s my projected slate for this year’s ceremony. (Favorites are in bold.)

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Sugarland
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

Prognosis: The “no girls allowed” edict will likely be lifted.  Underwood is the genre’s most prominent ambassador, and Sugarland’s rise to the high ranks has both commercial and critical support.

Note of interest: “The winner shall be determined by a combination of votes from the membership of the ACM and viewer voting.”

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Kenny Chesney's Not a Fan of ACM's Fan-Voted Entertainer Award

2008 ACM Entertainer of

the Year Kenny Chesney has gone on record to protest this year’s change that made the category fan-voted:

“The entertainer of the year trophy is supposed to represent heart and passion and an amazing amount of sacrifice, commitment and focus,” he said. “That’s the way Garth won it four times, that’s the way I won it, that’s the way (George) Strait won it, Reba (McEntire), Alabama all those years. That’s what it’s supposed to represent.”

He said his complaint is directed at the industry, not the fans — and that the method amounted to “complete disrespect” of the artists, saying the academy turned the award “into a sweepstakes to see who can push people’s buttons the hardest on the Internet.”

I think he makes a good point. Thoughts?

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ACM 2008 Live Blog

ACM Live Blog

11:02 From the comments: Jonathan notes that the AP says Tracy Lawrence won Vocal Event.   That settles the final open question of the evening.   All of you in the comments helped make a boring show interesting. Have a good night!

10:58 Any idea who won Vocal Event?

10:57 Kenny just mention what I think he mentioned about his parents?

10:56 Like I said when that whole foot thing happened, I don’t want to hear anybody complaining about this win!

10:55 Entertainer: Kenny Chesney

10:53 Where’s Dolly Parton?

10:52 Okay. I totally thought that was Dr. Phil in a biker fetish outfit.

10:50 Wasn’t Dolly supposed to perform?

10:48 I think the two straight wins for Carrie at ACM and CMA (and Grammy) were a given. It will be interesting to see if she can be a three-time winner this fall and next spring.

10:45 Female Vocalist: Carrie Underwood.

10:44 “Country music legend Dwight Yoakam.” That both pleases me to hear and makes me feel old.

10:43 What’s with all the oddly colored microphones?

10:41 LeAnn Rimes is singing “Family.” I was hoping for “What I Cannot Change.” The sound mix just doesn’t favor loud songs like this, as the lyrics get lost in the shuffle.

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ACM Awards 2008: Personal Picks

As has become our annual custom, Country Universe will be live-blogging this year’s ACM awards, which air on CBS Sunday, May 18 at 8 pm Eastern. The ACM’s are always an interesting show, with a bigger emphasis on commercial success than the CMA’s or the Grammys. Reba McEntire is back as host, and while she was a little too tart in 2006, she was pure class in 2007, so here’s hoping for a repeat performance on her part.

The ACM’s are mixing it up a bit this year by making Entertainer of the Year fan-voted, which gives Rascal Flatts their best shot yet at winning the award, even if their reason for coveting it has been taken away. As has surprisingly been the case the past few years, the veterans that no longer get the stage at the CMA’s can be found at the ACM’s, with this year featuring a performance by living legend Dolly Parton.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s nominees, along with personal picks from both Country Universe writers in every category. Tune in tomorrow night, and drop in on our live blog. I bet we can top the comment thread from the Grammys in February!

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Rascal Flatts
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Kevin’s Pick: Keith Urban

I don’t think there’s a better all-around entertainer these days than Keith Urban. His live show is electric, his songwriting top-notch and as his latest hits collection has proved, he’s been an unfailingly consistent recording artist, managing to make his music more interesting while still turning out the hits. This year’s race is going to come down to the fans with the most dedication, but using the criteria that the award calls for, my pick is Urban.

Leeann’s Pick: Brad Paisley

Since I have not been to a live concert of any of these artists, I have to make my choice by recollecting the concerts that I’ve either viewed on television or heard via a radio broadcast. Therefore, I cannot claim to know what it is actually like to be at their concerts. So, my choice is somewhat based on how I imagine their concerts would be.

My choices in this category vascilate between Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. Both entertainers are known for their energetic shows and incredible guitar prowess. I, however, choose Brad Paisley when it comes right down to it. I think his concerts have a good mixture of energy, talent and humor that does an excellent job of keeping an audience entertained.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Rodney Atkins
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Leeann’s Pick: Keith Urban

To me, the clear choice is Keith Urban. He has a unique voice that is instantly recognizeable. Not only does his gritty, soulful voice wrap perfectly around any song of his choosing, he has proven his ability to step back as a complementary background vocalist as well, as evidenced by his vocal appearances with Rhonda Vincent and Trisha Yearwood.

Kevin’s Pick: Keith Urban

Rodney Atkins is the only artist nominated who has yet to win this award, and this is his first nomination. Kudos to him for making the race on the strength of his very successful second album, but I don’t think he’s yet reached the caliber of the other four contenders. Since those other four have already won this, I’m going with Urban, who continues to grow as a vocalist. It’s a shame, however, that Josh Turner and Gary Allan aren’t in the running.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • LeAnn Rimes
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

Kevin’s Pick: Carrie Underwood

There’s quite a bit of turnover in this category, with LeAnn Rimes and Taylor Swift joining the party. Rimes made the best album of her career, while Swift has spent most of this year at the top of the charts with her debut disc. Miranda Lambert is making far better music than the rest of the lineup. But Carrie Underwood is still the finest singer out there right now, and I think she deserves to repeat. She’s had another great year.

Leeann’s Pick: LeAnn Rimes

Except for one nominee, this is a tough category to judge. Nevertheless, my ultimate choice has to be LeAnn Rimes. While her voice was impressively mature as a 13-year-old singer of “Blue”, she has surpassed all of my hopes for her vocal maturity. Twelve years later, her voice has gained a richness and depth that is greatly deserving of this award.

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