There are three major country awards given by the music industry, and each particular show reflects the preferences of a different section of it.
The CMA Awards, given every fall, are the Music Row awards, where the Nashville music industry – labels, talent agencies, publishers and the like – have the most sway. There is also a sect of voters who favor strong traditionalism in country music, which has allowed for some surprising upsets over the years. Commercialism matters, but isn’t the only factor at the CMA’s. If a big act doesn’t have too much substance, they aren’t likely to win many CMA awards.
The Grammys, given every February, are the most prestigious musical honor. Voted on exclusively by artists, musicians, producers and engineers, the country categories have always been dominated by artists with technical merit – singer’s singers and musician’s musicians. Sales don’t mean much at all to these voters, but credibility does. Top winners for the genre include Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris.
Then there’s the ACM’s, the spring country awards show that actually predates the CMA’s but is generally regarded as less meaningful. ACM voters are primarly in the radio and concert booking fields, so commercialism is a huge factor here. The list of ACM winners from the past is almost exclusively populated by top-selling artists that are also radio favorites. This year’s nominations ensure that tradition will continue.
Here’s a rundown of this year’s nominees, along with my predicted winner and personal pick for each category:
Entertainer of the Year
- Brooks & Dunn
- Kenny Chesney
- Tim McGraw
- Rascal Flatts
- George Strait
Should Win: Kenny Chesney
Will Win: Rascal Flatts
The CMA may be hesitant to honor Rascal Flatts outside of the Vocal Group category, and they don’t have a chance in hell of winning a Grammy, but the ACM is just the type of show to give the highest honor to the act that’s selling the most records right now besides Carrie Underwood, who isn’t a nominee. They’re doing well on the road, too, but aren’t yet in the league of fellow noms Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. The latter continues to break attendance records and is actually selling out stadiums. Throw in another great year at radio, a top-selling album and music videos that are expanding the medium for the genre, and it should add up to his third consecutive victory. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.
Top Male Vocalist
- Kenny Chesney
- Toby Keith
- Brad Paisley
- George Strait
- Keith Urban
Should Win & Will Win: Brad Paisley
I’m not much of a fan of Brad, but he is long overdue in this category. He’s been a consistent hitmaker for almost a decade now, and has shown steady growth while many fast-rising stars have already disappeared. I think he’ll finally win it this year, foreshadowing what could be a very, very big night at the 2007 CMA awards.
Top Female Vocalist
- Sara Evans
- Faith Hill
- Miranda Lambert
- Martina McBride
- Carrie Underwood
Should Win & Will Win: Carrie Underwood
Sara Evans snuck in there last year to win, but her career has cooled considerably since. Underwood is the obvious winner, as she’s not only the genre’s top-selling artist, she’s also the best singer to boot.