Category Archives: CMA Awards

CMA Live Blog 2011

THE WINNERS

Entertainer:  Taylor Swift

Female Vocalist:  Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist:  Blake Shelton

New Artist:  The Band Perry

Vocal Group:  Lady Antebellum

Vocal Duo:  Sugarland

Song:  “If I Die Young” – Kimberly Perry

Single:  The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”

Music Video:  Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter, “You and Tequila”

Musical Event:  Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”

Musician:  Mac McAnally

Correct Prediction Tally:

9:  Tara

6:  Ben, Dan

5:  Jonathan, Kevin, Leeann

 

10:02 – It’s been fun.  Thanks for being my live blog buddy this year, Leeann!

10:00 – Leeann:  Thank you for reading and participating. And thanks especially to Ben for doing such a great job of leading the live blog this year.

9:59 – Thanks for joining us, y’all!  This was so much fun!  See you at the ACMs!

9:59 – I’m happy for Taylor.  I love how she acts like a happy little kid.

9:58 – Leeann:  I think Brad and Carrie did pretty well this year. Brad stepped it up this year by not seeming as stiff and Carrie’s actually been decent to good all along.

9:58 – Tara wins the correct production tally by a landslide with nine correct predictions.

9:57 – Leeann:  Okay, I’m totally tuning in for CMA Country Christmas.

9:55 – ENTERTAINER:  Taylor Swift

9:55 – Leeann:  Whoa, Entertainer already? Will they end early?

9:54 – Carrie’s dress was AWFUL.

9:52 – I so want to see that new Dolly Parton movie.  Not that I expect it to be good.

9:49 – “Seriously??”  Miranda is so cute.  Nice little acceptable speech.  You can tell she genuinely did not expect this.  Taylor looked a little disappointed though.

9:48 – Leeann:  Aw yes…Country music’s power couple. Glad they don’t seem as tumultuous as past power couples though.

9:47  – FEMALE VOCALIST:  Miranda Lambert

9:47 – Will it be Miranda?

9:46 – Oh gosh, now they’re plugging Revenge too.

9:42 – I’d like to muster up more enthusiasm for Faith Hill’s return, but a OneRepublic cover was so not what I was hoping to hear from her right now, especially with it having been so long since she’s released any new music.  She’s singing well though.

9:42 – Leeann:  Fun that Carrie Underwood gets to introduce Faith Hill.

9:40 – The Glen Campbell tribute is easily the show’s best moment.  I suppose I could add a qualifying “…so far,” but I just might not.

9:34 – Leeann:  Not to be a total sap, but this takes on a certain significance for me because mygrandfather died from Alzheimer’s last month. He used to be the bass singer in a barber shop quartet, but he had to stop early on in the disease.

9:35 – My seven-year-old sister says “Is this still the CMA Awards?  ‘Cause it looks really old.”

9:32 – Leeann:  So far, the tribute is even more than I hoped it would be.

9:32 – I’m digging the retro vibe of this performance. (My parents are watching with me andsinging along)

9:29 – Leeann:  I have high hopes for the Campbell tribute. Yeah! There’s Vince Gill. I miss him as host.

9:29 – The Glen Campbell tribute.  This… is… beautiful.

9:28 – I heard it too, Leeann!  We’d better pinch ourselves just in case.

9:26 – Leeann:  Hark! Can it be that I heard them say that Vince Gill would be coming up soon?

9:25 – Am I the only one who, as soon as Martina McBride performs, immediately has to check @DrunkenMartina’s Twitter feed?  I can’t believe she’s not tweeting anything right now.

9:20 – Oh gosh, it’s Martina (“One of the greatest femalve vocalists of all time”) with the cancer song.  She is really beating this into the ground.  I’m getting tired of this song.

9:19 – Tara takes the lead with seven correct predictions!

9:18 – MALE VOCALIST:  Blake Shelton

9:17 – Hasn’t Reese Witherspoon presented this award before?

9:17 – Leeann:  Why, oh why does Jason Aldean always have to be so arena rock?

9:14 – Jason Aldean with “Tattoos On This Town.”  One of his more interesting songs, methinks, not that “Dirt Road Anthem” is difficult to top.

9:11 – Leeann:  Yes, the McCreery song was  actually tolerable.

9:07 – Pleasantly surprised to see McCreery singing what I thought was one of the most tolerable songs on his album.  Thank goodness it’s not “The Trouble with Girls.”

9:06 – NEW ARTIST:  The Band Perry

9:05 – Presented by Lauren Alaina and Jake Owen?  Are they randomly drawing presenter names out of a hat?

9:03 – Brad and Carrie singing “Remind Me.”  They’re turning in a pretty good engaged performance.  A bit too loud, but so is everything except Chesney and Potter.

9:02 – Checking in with the correct prediction tally (I hope I added this up right).  It looks like me, Dan, and Tara tied for the lead with four, followed by Jonathan and Leeann with two, and Kevin with one.

8:56:  That Chesney win was quite a surprise.  Not a single one of us predicted it.  Glad to see “Tequila” get some recognition though.

8:55: – MUSIC VIDEO:  Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter, “You and Tequila”

8:54 – There’s Kristian, faithfully standing off to the side.  This performance is okay, but The Band Perry was better, IMO.

8:52 – Sugarland with Matt Nathanson.  (Gasp) Was that a steel guitar I just heard?

8:50 – FAIL.

8:50 – VOCAL GROUP:  Lady Antebellum

8:49 – Oh LeAnn Rimes… that dress… oh no…

8:48 – I think so too.  But I like how the mid-song breakdown sounds live.

8:47 – Leeann:  I still think the fireflies verse is odd.

8:47 – With that mouth full of teeth, Kimberly looks like she could be a blonde Osmond.

8:46 – The Band Perry.  Hey, totally sounds like country music!  What are we watching again?

8:36 – He starts singing with Rascal Flatts, and stops sounding country.  Surprise.

8:34 – Aww, Tim McGraw’s singing along!

8:34 – Yay for Little Big Town!  Sounding awesome as usual.

8:33 – And the award for Most Audible Steel Guitar of the Night goes to… Lionel Richie. #Irony

8:31 – …And we have the requisite Little Jimmy Dickens cameo!  As Little Justin Bieber.  This I did not see coming, but it’s hilarious.  “It Ain’t My Baby, Baby” – Ha!

8:25 – Whoa, Detroit’s Edwards and Lee won a Radio Personality award.  I actually used to listen to them.  Back when I lived in Michigan.  And listened to radio.

8:24 – Ditto to that, Leeann.  I really enjoyed the simplicity of that performance.  Thank God he didn’t do “Reality” instead, though.

8:24 – Leeann:  I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone with Kenny Chesney and Eric Church being among my favorite performances so far

8:23 – First performance to have me actually starting to sing along, though Church came fairly close.

8:21 – Ah, “You and Tequila.”  This I can totally take. (LOL, Leeann)

8:19 – Crud!  My prediction hot streak comes to a grinding halt.  I had Swift pegged for this.

8:18 – ALBUM:  Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party

8:18 – Leeann:  Ha about Miss Piggy, Ben. You sound like an old man now. It’s his birthday today, btw, y’all!

8:17 – From the comments:  “Miss Piggy being there made my night. Anyone who doesn’t like The Muppets is a bad person.” – Brian :)

8:15 – Lady A is owning the night.  Bathroom break, anyone?

8:14:  “Hi-yah!”  Hilarious.

8:13 – Miss Piggy.  I heart Miss Piggy.  Even though she’ll never be the same without Frank Oz.

8:08 – MUSICIAN:  Mac McAnally

8:06 – Dumb as the song is, I find myself involuntarily bobbing my head to it.  Help.

8:05 – Joy.  Luke Bryan in a twanged-up spoof of Flashdance.

8:04 – Did Carrie recycle that dress from the video shoot for “Cowboy Casanova”?

8:01 – I don’t recognize the song, but I daresay this is one of Taylor’s less-grating live performances.

8:00 – Am I the only one half-expecting Taylor Swift to rip off that pink sweater halfway through the song?

7:59 – I just happened to pop over to the Engine 145 live blog, and I must say, Karlie and Juli are hot tonight!

7:54 – Chris Young.  Why “Voices”??  Why not “Tomorrow”??

7:52 – Shawna has a pretty voice, but other than that, I get nothing out of “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.”

7:51 – If so, Leeann, I’ll just have to turn my badge in along with yours.  The performance had an infectious energy to it.

7:50 – Leeann:  Is it wrong for me to think that the Eric church performances is one of the better performances of the night? Do I need to turn in my critic badge?

7:49 – Eric Church’s shades just kill me.  How bright can it be in there?  You’d think he’d gone blind.

7:48 – “Outlaw” Eric Church singing “Drink In My Hand.”  This song was made for a live setting.

7:47 – So I knew it was never going to the Civil Wars.  But I can dream, right?

7:46 – VOCAL DUO:  Sugarland (Surpise!  Not)

7:45 – ABC is wasting no opportunities plugging their programming here.  Do these award presenters even like country music?

7:43 – Enter country legend Natasha Bedingfield singing with Rascal Flatts.  Wearing a roll of pink fuzzy carpet, no less.

7:41 – Still worth noting that this is one of the few times in recent years when Kenny’s recorded an award-worthy song.  Gotta love Matraca Berg and Deana Carter.

7:40 – Leeann:  Oops!! That’s right about song of the year. My bad.

7:38 – Agreed, Leeann!

7:37 – Leeann:  Zac Brown Band doing “Georgia”is a highlight, as their performances tend to be at these things.

7:36 – (Song of the Year goes to songwriters, not artists)

7:35 – Leeann:  Good for the Band Perry, but it’s probably the first time I’d been pulling for Chesney to win an award.

7:32 – SONG:  Kimberly Perry, “If I Die Young”

7:32 – Kellie Pickler – always presenting, never receiving.

7:20 – Still don’t like the lyrics of “Baggage Claim,” but I’m finding myself digging the arrangement, and Miranda sure is sounding good tonight.

7:28 – “So, Carrie, been reading anything interesting lately?”  “Nope!”  HA!

7:22 – Sara Evans and the acrobats.  I did not see that coming.  I really like this song though.

7:22 – From the comments:  “i think keith was not supposed to perform because he is having surgery, something about his throat.” – Andie (Good point)

7:19 – Leeann:  Keith isn’t sounding as good as normal tonight to me.

7:18 – We’re at dress number two for the Carrie Count (I think).  At my house we always guess how many outfit changes she’ll do.  My guess this year is eight.

7:18 – Keith Urban with “You Gonna Fly.”  Not my favorite song of his, but it just keeps growing on me.

7:15 – Yo, if Leeann and I are boring you (hope not), be sure to check out the live blogs over at Roughstock and Engine 145!  Or check ‘em out just because.

7:13 – I approve!

7:12 – SINGE:  The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”

7:11 – Leeann:  Brad does seem less nervous this year so far.

7:10 – Ooooh, no supper for Brad tonight!

7:09 – Leeann:  The Tim and Faith Barbie skit was kinda funny.

7:08 – The Tim and Faith Barbie bit was hilarious.

7:07 – Leeann:  They haven’t cared about Hank in years, but now they’re showing their support?

7:06 – I did not see the Hank cameo coming.  Cute though.

7:05 – Leeann:  Hmmm…the​y’re really getting political on Hank’s side?

7:05 – Okay, I am laughing my butt off at this Hank, Jr. parody.  “You can’t compare the president to Hitler!”

7:03 – Overall a pretty good performance.  Now here come Brad and Carrie!

7:03 – Leeann:  Blake sounds better here than on the recording.

7:02 – And here comes country legend Kenny Loggins.

7:01 – How about turning up that mic a bit?

7:00 – Blake Shelton opens the show with “Footloose.”  I can hardly find him among all those dancers!

59 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

2011 CMA Awards: Staff Picks and Predictions

It’s that time of year again!  The time when we all dutifully tune in to the CMA Awards show, raise our eyebrows at the “What the heck are they doing here?” award presenters, and afterwards complain about how totally un-country the whole show was.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait.

We’re pleased to share the Country Universe staff picks for this year’s CMA Awards, as well as our predictions of who the winners will be.  This year we have some highly competitive categories in which predicting the winners is quite difficult, leading to some significantly divergent picks among our writing staff.  Agree?  Disagree?  Join in the discussion in the comment thread below, and let us know.

The CMA Awards telecast will air on Wednesday, November 9, 8pm Eastern on ABC-TV.  We will be live blogging the show here at Country Universe, so do be sure to drop by and join in the fun!

Entertainer of the Year

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean – Kevin
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Taylor Swift - Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Tara
  • Keith Urban

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton - Dan, Leeann, Jonathan
  • Taylor Swift – Ben, Kevin, Tara
  • Keith Urban

Dan: I can imagine anyone but Urban taking it, but I like Jonathan’s logic.

Ben:  It’s hard to bet on the Entertainer award going to a female artist, but it seems Swift has undoubtedly had the biggest year of all the nominees.  Her album sold like hotcakes, and produced a trio of killer radio singles, while she topped that off with her Speak Now tour.  That combination should bag her this year’s top prize.

Leeann: Paisley could take it again, but my money’s on the CMA wanting to give it to fresh blood this year. Taylor Swift is who probably actually deserves it, however.

Jonathan:   Paisley is probably the most logical pick, but he didn’t figure as heavily into the nominations this year as he could have, so I’m wondering if the voters have cooled on him as much as the crew here at CU have of late. Swift’s live show should be a factor in this category, but she has a whole lot of gender bias to overcome, and there seems to be at least something of a backlash against her in the country community post-Fearless. Which leaves the ubiquitous Shelton, who has been something of a new “Everywhere Man” for the genre over the past year.

Kevin:  I think Swift will win because she had the highest profile year.  But I think Aldean defines the genre in 2011, for better or for worse.  Mostly worse.

Tara: As I’ve said before, this is the most appropriate way for the voters to reward Swift’s monster success, and for the first time at the CMAs, I truly feel she deserves this award. I’m particularly impressed with the way she continues to cultivate her relationship with her fans. I just hope the voters don’t pair this award with the FVOTY award.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean - Dan, Ben
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Keith Urban - Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean – Dan, Ben
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton - Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Keith Urban

Dan:  Aldean’s not my thing, but he’s the biggest guy in the field by an unignorable margin. More than anything, I think the indie Broken Bow Records deserves props for building their flagship artist so well.

Ben:  I’m largely indifferent to this particular field of nominees (save possibly Keith Urban), but Aldean’s massive success should most likely nab him his first Male Vocalist trophy.

Leeann: Again, I think it’s Shelton’s night to sweep in order to shake things up this year. He and Urban have the strongest voices in the category anyway.

Jonathan:  Urban’s the only one of the lot who has released even one single I’ve liked in the past year, so he’d get my vote. Aldean has the commercial clout, sure, but quality has to count for something, right? Voters have looked at the word “Vocalist” in the category name and have passed over Chesney for years, and I wonder if they’ll do the same to Aldean here. I’m thinking yes.

Kevin: Urban’s the one who I can stand to listen to. But if Shelton was able to win last year, I don’t see how he loses this year. Not post-Voice and “Honey Bee.”

Tara: It makes me sad that I can’t find a solid reason to support Urban or Paisley, both of whom I used to feel passionately about. And in all honesty, I can’t find a solid reason to support any of these guys, based on their output during the eligibility period. I’m going to blindly back Urban –who, despite being “Urban-lite” these days, is at least consistent– and predict that Shelton’s amped public profile will give him the edge with voters.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Sara Evans – Kevin
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift – Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan
  • Carrie Underwood – Tara

Will Win:

  • Sara Evans
  • Miranda Lambert – Dan, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift - Ben
  • Carrie Underwood

Dan:  Come ACM season, I’ll be all for Lambert; Pistol Annies and Four The Record prove she’s using her new commercial powers nobly. But I like Swift’s performances on Speak Now, and that album just applies more to this awards cycle.

Ben:  Swift is the overall strongest contender, but I could see voters seizing the opportunity to recognize Evans, who released a new album and had a number one single during the eligibility period.  I wouldn’t rule Lambert out either, though she didn’t have as strong a year as she did in 2010.  But I doubt this will be Underwood’s year, and McBride’s was essentially a filler nomination, so I’d say it’s down to Swift, Evans, and Lambert. (But, like Dan, I will totally be Team Miranda when the ACMs roll around)

Leeann: I reflexively say Lambert should win, but Swift has had the best year and will likely win as a result. I won’t be heart broken if Lambert takes it though.

Jonathan:  There’s a part of me that would vote for Lambert on principle and out of loyalty, but I can’t argue with a simple mathematical inequality: “Back to December,” “Mean,” and “Sparks Fly” > “Only Prettier,” “Heart Like Mine” and “Baggage Claim.” Had her label been campaigning harder that she’s never won this award, Evans could’ve been a bigger threat here, but Lambert’s ongoing momentum should carry her to a repeat win.

Kevin: Can this power couple nonsense be derailed?  Probably not, so while I’d rather see Swift get it over Lambert, I’m doubtful it would happen. My real fantasy would be for the only non-winner, Sara Evans, to take it.  For prosperity’s sake, and for actually putting out a great single that I failed to realize was great until it was already a hit.

Tara: This is a tough one for me. Lambert’s worked the genre like no other female has this past year and a half, but the singles she’s released in the eligibility period have been so-so. Swift’s put out some solid material, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to support her winning a vocalist award. And then there’s Underwood, who’s been relatively quiet on the radio front, but whose stunning performance of “How Great Thou Art” back in April went viral and serves as a reminder of what I firmly believe is one of the finest voices in the genre. I’m going with my gut and backing Underwood, but I think the voters will reward Lambert again, which is fine with me.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Should Win:

  • The Civil Wars – Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland
  • Thompson Square

Will Win:

  • The Civil Wars
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland - Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Thompson Square

Dan:  Seriously, why not the Civil Wars? They’ve sold about as many albums (200,000-ish) as everyone besides Sugarland without the support of a major label. Not to mention they just made the most interesting music.

Ben:  I’m supporting the Civil Wars on principle, but it’s a no-brainer that Sugarland’s hot streak is not over yet.

Leeann: I love The Civil Wars. The end.

Jonathan:  Yet more evidence that this category should be merged with Vocal Group of the Year to cut the deadweight. Though the Civil Wars getting in instead of the JaneDear Girls is a nice testament to the fact that the CMAs, every so often, can exercise good taste and discretion.

Kevin:  Sugarland’s album was atrocious.  The Civil Wars are in the running for my favorite set of the year.  Easy call for me.

Tara: Can Sugarland hurry up and release a new, redeeming album, please?

Vocal Group of the Year

Should Win:

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band – Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara

Will Win:

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum – Tara
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band - Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin

Dan:  Lady A were between albums. Some variety this year, please.

Ben:  It’ hard to bet against Lady Antebellum, but the Zac Brown band gave us a strong album and two of the year’s most memorable hit singles (“As She’s Walking Away” and “Colder Weather”), and I predict that they will be rewarded justly.

Leeann: Zac Brown Band has a good chance with the best music in the category, but Lady A just might not be out yet.

Jonathan:  Little Big Town’s brilliant “Little White Church” should’ve put them back in the mix for good, but they really botched the single releases from their album and are right back to being also-rans. The Band Perry will settle for the “New Artist” award as a consolation prize this year, which leaves Lady A and Zac Brown Band to duke it out. In terms of the quality of their output, Zac Brown Band has Lady A dead to rights, but is that enough to stop the trio’s awards-show juggernaut? Let’s hope so.

Kevin:  Zac Brown Band is the only option both realistic and palatable.

Tara: This is the first of these categories that I feel strongly about this year. Based on the strength of You Get What You Give, Zac Brown Band deserves to nab this award, hands down. But I’ll go against my co-bloggers here and guess that Lady Antebellum still has the industry wrapped around its finger.

New Artist of the Year

Should Win:

  • The Band Perry - Ben
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church - Leeann, Jonathan
  • Thompson Square
  • Chris Young – Dan, Kevin, Tara

Will Win:

  • The Band Perry – Ben, Jonathan, Tara
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church – Dan, Leeann, Kevin
  • Thompson Square
  • Chris Young

Dan: Church seems the most likely to have a long, interesting career and probably deserves the win. I just don’t want to encourage “Homeboy,” I guess.

Ben:  Thompson Square and The Band Perry are the only two nominees whom I would still consider “new” artists, and I think The Band Perry beats Thompson Square any day.  Bryan, however, did reach a new level of stardom over the past year, so he stands a good chance at wining nonetheless.

Leeann: While it’s strange that with three albums Church is still in the New Artist category, it’s probably that same reason that he should win the award, not to mention that he had the strongest album of the nominees in the past year.

Jonathan:  Young’s the best singer in the field, but his material is still too inconsistent in quality for me to get on board with him. Church, on the other hand, finally made good on his early promise and his considerable hype with Chief and would be a deserving winner, as would the uneven but still pretty good The Band Perry. As the only nominee with any other nominations, they have to be considered the slight favorites over Crest WhiteStrips.

Kevin:  I think Church’s big breakthrough happened close enough to the voting window to give him a slight edge.  I’d like to see Chris Young get the boost from a win.

Tara: Of all the nominees, I’m the most excited for Chris Young’s future in country music – his vocal talent is tremendous, and even though it falls right outside of the eligibility period, Neon is one of my favorite releases of this year. Based on their other major nominations, though, I think The Band Perry will take this.

Album of the Year

Should Win:

  • Blake Shelton, All About Tonight
  • Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
  • Taylor Swift, Speak Now - Ben, Kevin
  • Brad Paisley, This Is Country Music
  • Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give - Dan, Leeann, Jonathan, Tara

Will Win:

  • Blake Shelton, All About Tonight
  • Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party – Dan, Leeann, Jonathan, Tara
  • Taylor Swift, Speak Now – Ben, Kevin
  • Brad Paisley, This Is Country Music
  • Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give

Dan: Here’s a logical place to acknowledge Aldean, though I hope voters think twice about it.

Ben:  In my book, Swift and the Zac Brown Band are the only truly worthy winners (and I’m still scratching my head over why a Blake Shelton “Six Pak” was even nominated in the first place).  To me, the most intriguing thing about Swift is that she really does seem to get a little better and a little deeper with each album.  Speak Now is her crowning achievement to date, and in my opinion, the best album on this ballot.

Leeann: It hurts my heart to think it, but Jason Aldean’s big year will likely earn him the award for best album, even though numbers isn’t how such an award should be selected.

Jonathan:  Speak Now is Swift’s strongest album, but, “Mean” notwithstanding, it’s also her most unabashedly pop album. And song-for-song, I still think You Get What You Give is slightly better. But Aldean has been a steady seller, and he’s big enough that he has to win one of the major awards, and this one’s his best bet.

Kevin:  “All songs composed by Taylor Swift” impressed the heck out of me, not the least of which because the songs were far better than her earlier work.  Zac Brown Band’s a close second for me.

Tara: Speak Now is solid, but You Get What You Give is the better example of how to move this genre forward, with its delicious yet reverent mishmash of influences. But I think this is where the voters will recognize the often overlooked commercial success of Jason Aldean.

Single of the Year

Should Win:

  • Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
  • Zac Brown Band, “Colder Weather”- Leeann, Tara
  • Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
  • Blake Shelton, “Honey Bee”
  • The Band Perry, “If I Die Young” – Dan, Ben, Jonathan, Kevin

Will Win:

  • Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
  • Zac Brown Band, “Colder Weather”
  • Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” - Jonathan, Tara
  • Blake Shelton, “Honey Bee” – Kevin
  • The Band Perry, “If I Die Young” - Dan, Ben, Leeann

Dan: It’d be heartening to see The Band Perry’s risky, rootsy release get its due. Plus: the single alone is 3x Platinum, better than any of its competitors can claim.

Ben:  “Colder Weather” and “If I Die Young” are the two strongest competitors, but for me, a cool folksy arrangement puts the latter over the edge.

Leeann: This is tough. I can actually see any of these singles winning, but I have a good feeling about “If I Die Young”, though I’d love to see “Colder Weather” prove me wrong.

Jonathan:  This one’s actually a tough call, since all five of the singles are big radio hits and everyone here has multiple nominations. “If I Die Young” is the best-produced single of the lot, but I’m predicting that Kelly Clarkson’s endless likability gives the edge to her duet with Aldean.

Kevin:  Love the Band Perry record most, followed by Sara Evans.  But this is the CMA awards, and Shelton managed to be both completely vanilla and namedrop Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

Tara: If I better understood the story in “If I Die Young,” I might be able to get behind it, but I think “Colder Weather” is the more memorable single. It’s my favorite kind of country ballad – killer vocals, gripping melody and palpable emotion. I see the fiery Aldean / Clarkson collaboration taking this one, though. (By the way, dude, “Honey Bee” – really CMA?)

Song of the Year

Should Win:

  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey & Coy Bowles
  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – Brantley Gilbert & Colt Ford
  • “If I Die Young” – Kimberly Perry – Dan, Tara
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift - Jonathan, Kevin
  • “You and Tequila” – Matraca Berg & Deana Carter - Ben, Leeann

Will Win:

  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey & Coy Bowles
  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – Brantley Gilbert & Colt Ford
  • “If I Die Young” – Kimberly Perry – Dan, Ben, Jonathan, Tara
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift - Kevin
  • “You and Tequila” – Matraca Berg & Deana Carter – Leann

Dan:  “If I Die Young” is a flawed composition, but it’s still the most striking and strange one here, and that’s worth something.

Ben:  I never though I’d see a CMA Song of the Year field in which Matraca Berg and Deana Carter would compete against Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert.  I would so love to see Berg and Carter win the award.  I might tend to be slightly biased when it comes to Matraca Berg, but I think “Tequila” is a fine composition on its own merits, and a worthy winner indeed.  Still, my gut predicion is that Perry will grab the trophy instead.

Leeann: “Mean” is probably my favorite song in terms of production and melody, but “You and Tequila” is the best song of the nominees.

Jonathan:  Berg is a treasure and I like Carter well enough, so it’s nice to see their names on the ballot again, but “You and Tequila” isn’t either of their best compositions. Here’s the thing about “Mean”: What doesn’t work about the song has everything to do with the fact that it shows the extent to which Swift still hasn’t fully figured out her artistic persona. But in terms of melody and overall construction as a stand-alone song? It’s the class of the field. As Dan said, “If I Die Young” is flawed, but it also has a lot going for it and will be a fine, worthy winner when it inevitably takes this.

Kevin: I love “You and Tequila”, but it’s an old song.  I’m glad Chesney rediscovered it, but I can’t see it as this year’s Song of the Year.  I think “Mean” is the best of the bunch, with the music as clever as the lyrics.

Tara: I’m with Jonathan and Leann re: “Mean” in that I agree its melody and overall construction are terrific; unfortunately its flaw –the bridge, which undermines the premise of the song– is too big for me to overlook. And as much as I love it, I don’t feel right backing “Colder Weather,” either, as it’s really Brown’s vocal performance that elevates the composition to a memorable song. So I’ll go with the quirky and unique “If I Die Young” and guess the voters will, too.

Musical Event of the Year

Should Win:

  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson – Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow & Miranda Lambert
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley with Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

Will Win:

  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson – Kevin, Tara
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow & Miranda Lambert
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson – Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley with Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

Dan:  The Single nod for Jason and Kelly suggests they have the edge here. But my heart echoes a resounding “Go on, son.”

Ben:  “As She’s Walking Away” is just so effortlessly charming that it would easily be my first pick, but the cross-genre appeal – and bonus Clarkson star power – of “Don’t You Wanna Stay” make it the most likely winner.  The fact that “Don’t You Wanna Stay” is also nominated for Single (which “As She’s Walking Away” sadly isn’t) suggests a likely victory in this category.

Leeann: How can I not pull for the Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson when I have a chance? I’m pretty confident that the drama, cross genre appeal, and, yup, the drama again, make “Don’t You Want to Stay” the sure bet though.

Jonathan:  “As She’s Walking Away” is one of the purest and truest duets in years, and it could pull some votes from the more traditionalist voters, but the Aldean and Clarkson single just has too much firepower to lose here.

Kevin:  If this doesn’t go to Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson, then I no longer understand how CMA voters think.

Tara: No question here, “As She’s Walking Away” is head and shoulders above the rest of the collaborations in this category, one of the most quietly charming singles we’ve heard on country radio in quite some time. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that voters will have trouble ignoring the warm fuzzies they get when Jackson starts singing.

Music Video of the Year

Should Win:

  • Blake Shelton, “Honey Bee”
  • The Band Perry, “If I Die Young” – Dan
  • Taylor Swift, “Mean” – Ben, Kevin, Tara
  • Brad Paisley featuring Alabama, “Old Alabama”
  • Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter, “You and Tequila”

Will Win:

  • Blake Shelton, “Honey Bee” - Ben
  • The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”
  • Taylor Swift, “Mean”
  • Brad Paisley featuring Alabama, “Old Alabama” - Dan, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter, “You and Tequila”

Dan: It’s my least favorite Paisley video ever, though.

Ben:  Swift’s “Mean” is my personal favorite among these nominees, but I’m expecting that voters will show some Shelton love instead.

Jonathan:  Paisley has to win something, right? And this also gives the voters a chance to honor some beloved genre vets.

Kevin: I think the video splicing tricks will give Paisley and Alabama an additional edge.  Of the five clips, “Mean” is the one I like the most.

Tara: I love the whimsical video for “Mean” but think (and actually kind of hope) the voters will use this category to award the show co-host and his buddies.

Musician of the Year

Should Win:

  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) - Dan, Ben, Leeann, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • Dann Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar)
  • Randy Scruggs (guitar)

Will Win:

  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) - Leeann, Jonathan
  • Dann Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar) – Dan, Ben, Kevin, Tara
  • Randy Scruggs (guitar)

Dan: Default underdog support.

Ben:  I would love to see this go to the steel guitar man (and preferably not to Dann Huff), but Mac McAnally tends to be the favorite here.

Leeann: I want the steel guitar to represent this year. So, I’ll will it to happen.

Jonathan:  Franklin’s the only nominee who hasn’t won previously, and being regarded as long overdue eventually helped McAnally score his first win, leading to his current three-year hot streak.

Kevin:  I’ll be rooting for Paul Franklin until he finally wins, but I won’t believe that he’ll win until he finally does.

Tara: What Ben and Kevin said.


28 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

2011 CMA Nominations

It’s always interesting to see how music industry awards reflect (or don’t reflect) larger narratives in the industry itself.

If you’re interested in the narratives behind this year’s CMAs, look no further than the two men who’ve made the biggest strides on the ballot: Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean. Both show up in Entertainer and Male Vocalist, plus Album and Single, plus assorted other stuff. But the marketing approaches that have gotten them there are vastly different.

Shelton’s is the traditional wisdom: cover all media ground with an inoffensive product until the people buy in. So he’s a core act at radio; he’s on a popular TV show (The Voice); he hosted the ACMs; he was in a ton of magazines for his marriage; he Twitters a lot.

Then there’s the Aldean approach: make a distinct product, generate enough radio support to plant the seeds, then go straight to the fans, tour relentlessly, build up word-of-mouth – let the industry come to you. I think it’s the more effective approach, personally. Look at Eric Church, who has a fraction of Shelton’s ubiquity but beat him in first-week album sales and is still beating him cumulatively – no TV spotlights, no gossip mags, no Twitter.

And look at how many acts on this ballot started on indie labels. Aldean, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Thompson Square, the freaking Civil Wars. Major-label power still matters, but it seems to mean less all the time. Media saturation still matters, but it seems to mean less all the time. Music is the only thing that always counts, and even the highly political CMAs are starting to have trouble ignoring it.

Just my thoughts, anyway. What say you to this list?

Entertainer

  • Jason Aldean
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift

Who’s Out: Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band

Male Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney

Who’s Out: Dierks Bentley, George Strait

Female Vocalist

  • Sara Evans
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

Who’s In: Sara Evans

Who’s Out: Reba McEntire

Vocal Duo

  • The Civil Wars
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland
  • Thompson Square

Who’s In: The Civil Wars, Thompson Square

Who’s Out: Brooks & Dunn (historical moment!), Joey + Rory

Vocal Group

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Nobody

Who’s Out: Nobody

New Artist

  • The Band Perry
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Thompson Square
  • Chris Young

Who’s In: The Band Perry, Eric Church, Thompson Square

Who’s Out: Easton Corbin, Jerrod Niemann, Zac Brown Band (won)

Notes: Bryan and Young are both on their second nominations here, but for once there’s no obvious frontrunner. Thompson Square pick up the category-filler nom from Jerrod Niemann. This reminds me: where has Easton Corbin gone?

Album

  • Blake Shelton, All About Tonight
  • Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
  • Taylor Swift, Speak Now
  • Brad Paisley, This Is Country Music
  • Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give

Notes: Shelton’s is a low-selling EP. Uhhh.

Single

  • Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
  • Zac Brown Band, “Colder Weather”
  • Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
  • Blake Shelton, “Honey Bee”
  • The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”

Song

  • “Colder Weather” – written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey, and Coy Bowles
  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – written by Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford
  • “If I Die Young ” – written by Kimberly Perry
  • “Mean” – written by Taylor Swift
  • “You and Tequila” – written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter

Notes: Nice to see there are still some Matraca Berg fans out there amid the Brantley Gilbert ones. Interestingly, Swift’s first nomination in this category.

Musical Event

  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley with Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

Notes: I’m troubled by the fact that “Don’t You Wanna Stay” is nominated for Single and “As She’s Walking Away” isn’t.

Music Video

  • “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

Notes: The worst Brad Paisley video ever to be nominated here, I think.

Musician

  • Paul Franklin
  • Dann Huff
  • Brent Mason
  • Mac McAnally
  • Randy Scruggs

Who’s In: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas

Who’s Out: Brent Mason, Randy Scruggs

.

Related Posts

Blake Shelton, Superstar?

2010 CMA Nominations

55 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

CMA Live Blog 2010

WINNERS:

Entertainer: Brad Paisley

Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton

Vocal Duo: Sugarland

Album: Miranda Lambert, Revolution

Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum

New Artist: Zac Brown Band

Song: “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin

Single: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

Music Video: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”

Musical Event: Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Musician: Mac McAnally

Correct Prediction Tally:

9: Dan,Tara

8: Leeann

7: Kevin

LIVE BLOG:

10:59 Brad deserved it last year, got it this year. Carrie deserved it this year, will hopefully get it next year. When the history list is written though, nobody’s gonna care which year they won in, just that they were acknowledged. So a good end to an okay night. – KC

10:58 Very, very pleased! And what a sweet, sincere moment. – TS

10:57 You know, I’m kind of relieved. Granted, Brad gave possibly the worst performance of the night and is generally not someone I like much, but I just didn’t feel like having to listen to a bunch of whining tomorrow about Miranda or Lady A or someone winning. – DM

10:57 Pretty much the best acceptance speech for this category since…Shania Twain in 1999? Or maybe Garth Brooks in 1991? – KC

10:53 Entertainer: Brad Paisley

10:49 Miranda’s inability to pretend to be enthusiastic about silly stuff cracks me up. – DM

10:48 Kind of falls somewhere in between all the performances tonight, I guess. Plus, Vince makes any song country stronger. Yeah. I said that. -TS

10:47 Gwenyth sounds great so far, but wtf with the creepy limp-fingers guitar-playing? Just grab the mic. – DM

10:46 So. Gwyneth Paltrow on the CMA Awards. Don’t know what to say about that. – KC

10:43 Man, weird how stuff shakes out, isn’t it? I remember seeing Miranda’s first video for the lame “Me and Charlie Talking,” knowing nothing about her, and thinking she’d be out of a record deal within a year. Who’d have thought? – DM

10:37 Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert

10:36 Loretta Lynn on Female Vocalist of the Year: “we’ve kept it with the girls, haven’t we?” – DM

10:36 Fun Fact: Loretta Lynn was the first woman to win Entertainer of the Year.  Sissy Spacek was the first woman to win Album of the Year. – KC

10:36 I don’t even particularly like this song, but it is such a breath of fresh air tonight. It’s just nice to hear some country phrasin’, ya know? -TS

10:35 Um, Loretta Lynn is holding up better than Sissy Spacek. – KC

10:35 Called it. – DM

10:34 We’re into the tribute version of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and Miranda’s come out sounding good. I didn’t see if they showed Loretta in the audience, but if they didn’t, betcha she comes out and sings a bit. – DM

10:33 Boo! Miranda sang “born”, not “borned.” – KC

10:32 Yeah, I kind of just feel nothing. – DM

10: 31 Meh. – KC

10:30 Thirty minutes left in the show, and I’m overall pretty unimpressed. How about the rest of y’all? – TS

10:26 Still, he could be doing almost any other song from this album and I would be enjoying it even more. – DM

10:24 …and possibly everything else. -TS

10: 24 OK, you can already tell Dierks Bentley is going to be the coolest performance of the night. At least in camera angles. – DM

10:23 With Dierks Bentley going home empty handed this year, and Jamey Johnson significantly under-performing last year, I’m wondering if the traditional voting bloc doesn’t have much pull anymore.  Or has label consolidation just made it harder for the bloc to have a large impact? – KC

10:21 Crazy perceptive Carrie fans, did she seem really nervous to you, too? -TS

10:21 I do love Mama Underwood in the video for this song. Soft spot. – DM

10:20 Not the best vocal performance I’ve heard from her. Not by a long shot. – KC

10:20 Can we get a shot of Mama Underwood, please? – TS

10:19 Carrie, I know I said I liked the “spirit”-y background vocals on “Mama’s Song,” but you didn’t have to go all The Shining with ‘em at the beginning. – DM

10:18 Not a big fan of the two performances per night thing, but can’t think of anybody who I’d particularly want to hear that would have a shot at a performance, so it’s hard to care. – KC

10:12 What’s up with all the blond curls these days? It looks like a Shirley Temple convention up in here.  – KC

10:12 Country music revelations: the boys Perry don’t sang that good. – DM

10:10 Somewhere, Collin Raye, Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt, Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, and countless other platinum-selling male acts of days gone by are not pleased. – KC

10:09 WOW. And he’s the lowest-selling of the bunch! – DM

10:09 Wow. Shocked, really. -TS

10:08 Wow. First real surprise of the evening.

10:08 Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton

10:06 Oh, Lady A. Such a sincere attempt, but such a misguided attempt. -TS

10:05 This is like the soundtrack to a department store coma. – DM

10:04 I see…no reason to question my mediocre assessment of Lady Antebellum. – KC

9:58 “It’s been a wonderful few weeks for us of actually having music to promote. We’re proud to be your Vocal Duo of the Last Few Weeks.” – DM

9:57 So I’m getting left in the dust in the prediction derby, as Tara takes the lead! – KC

9:55 Vocal Duo: Sugarland

9:55 Cue the “WTF?” ABC presenters. But yay, JoAnna Garcia! – TS

9:54 I love Paisley for his wit and intelligence. This makes me sad. -TS

9:54 You know what was way, way better? Sugarland’s “Very Last Country Song.” But no, they’re prancing around in tutus. So we only have Brad’s take. Sigh. – KC

9:53 Ahhhh, so THAT’s what “Too Country” sounds like without Bill Anderson to make it good. – DM

9:51 SO SICK of the straw man. I’ve never met a person in my life who doesn’t have pride and respect for fallen soldiers. – KC

9:50 I think it’s a lovely jingle. – KC

9:49 Fighting the urge to instantly hate this song based on the fact that it falls under the “I’M COUNTRY!!!!” category. But…it’s Brad. What do I do? -TS

9:44 I can see that someone making you get out of the car and walk home. – KC

9:43 Ha! Much as I don’t think Kid Rock belongs on this show, I’m kind of weirdly enjoying this “Born Free” thing. I can see myself laying drunkenly in someone’s backseat singing this. – DM

9:42 Every year, there are more and more people on the CMA Awards that yell at me. Why have I angered y’all so much? – KC

9:40 See…this is where we insert Clay Walker. -TS

9:38 Perfect. -TS

9:38 YEAH BOYYY ALL CAPS FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT!!! – DM

9:37 Album: Miranda Lambert, Revolution

9:36 I WANT LITTLE BIG TOWN TO HARMONICALLY PRESENT ALL THE AWARDS NEXT YEAR AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK OF IT – DM

9:36 NEW RULE: Taylor Swift writes, Little Big Town sings.

9:35 I’m personally glad just because for a few years there it seemed like Kelly might have lost some of her voice. If she did, she’s hiding it well now. – DM

9:35 Dear God. THAT is what singing is, stupids. – DM

9:35 And Kelly outsings almost everyone so far. Take that, Borchetta. -TS

9:32 Although…I guess it’s not a terrible song by Jason’s standards. By KC’s is another story. -TS

9:32 Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean duet. Be still my heart. -TS

9:30 Having Jeff Gordon be Brad Paisley’s doppelganger would be funnier if Jeff hadn’t given the skit away on the Black Carpet. Fool. – DM

9:27 I heard a song off the new Reba album called “The Day She Got Divorced” on XM yesterday. It was goooood. – KC

9:26 That wasn’t a very good performance, but she did well on it in some CMT live performance earlier this year. And I’m sure the album performance will be better, too. – DM

9:25 How is it that Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Reba McEntire – in that order – and the age appropriateness is going in reverse? – KC

9:25 I don’t. I didn’t like that at all. I wanted to, though. -TS

9:24 I think I get what this song is fundamentally getting at, but I’ve always found the lyrics kind of muddled. I like Reba (bring “McEntire” back!) on it, though. – DM

9:22 Ok, “If I Were a Boy” always creeps me out. Anyone? -TS

9:21 Man, I don’t know. I still enjoy the Keith Urban ear candy, but I just feel like he’s been running on autopilot since the final catharsis that was Love, Pain and the whole crazy thing. – DM

9:19 Shout out to Leeann for making me appreciate this song! -TS

9:10 Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum

9:08 No reggae breakdown, no peace! Not that I have any reason to worry after that intro. – DM

9:07 Oh snap. This is ridiculous. But I freakin’ love this song. – TS

9:06 Sugarland done lost their minds. – KC

9:05 Anyone see her mouth “what” just before the curtain fell?! Ha! I want to know what that was! – DM

9:05 The thing that bugs me about Taylor is that she changes her singing accent so often, even if it’s subtle. Like…which one is it? – TS

9:05 Taylor S. doing her Taylor L. song. Somehow this performance is really “whatever,” and not just because the vocal is so weak. It’s like she’s already graduated from the CMAs and is just here as a formality. – DM

9:04 Fun Fact – The “snow” falling around Taylor Swift is actually Rascal Flatts on the rafters, shaking out their hair gel. – KC

9:02 Spotted: Blair Waldorf at the…CMA Awards? -TS

9:01 He did release it as a single. He confirmed on the red carpet. – TS

8:58 Since we’re talking about the upcoming Jason Aldean/Kelly Clarkson duet in the comments: if he does release that as a single, which it sounds like he will, it’ll instantly become my second-favorite Aldean single after “Amarillo Sky.” – DM

8:54 Man, I’m just saying: Kenny Chesney’s football thing is starting to weird me out. I’d feel the same If Laura Bell Bundy kept releasing songs that referred to how awesome and life-changing high school theatre was, and I actually DID that. – DM

8:51 Wow, that was a cool set! – KC

8:50 How can you not get warm fuzzies inside when Alan Jackson starts singing in this song? It’s like seeing an old friend. -TS

8:49 Dude, I’m actually for this Zac Brown Band/Alan Jackson performance. This song has really grown on me. – DM

8:46 Wouldn’t it be nice to see Clay Walker back at these shows? He put out two great singles and one decent album this year. Just sayin’. -TS

8:44 New Artist: Zac Brown Band

8:43 From the Comments: “Does Jimmy Dickens live in Brad Paisley’s dressing room?” – Canadian Boy

8:40 Except, he sounds kind of off tonight. Is it just me? – TS

8:40 George Strait, you sing too pretty for Hallmark. – DM

8:39 Don’t like the song, but amazed at the irony that he sounds out of breath.  – KC

8:38 Is Carrie wearing a wedding cake? -TS

8:38 Totally agree, Dan. (Shocker!) – TS

8:37 I wasn’t sure how “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round” was gonna work out here, but I actually dug it. Makes more of an impression live than the sly “Only Prettier” would have. – DM

8:34 MIRANDA RAWK! MIRANDA SMASH! – DM

8:33 Agree with Ben from the comments: “All About Tonight” was a big hit, but a well-staged “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” tonight could have deepened his image some. – DM

8:29 I don’t like the song either, but Blake sounds terrific. I’ve always been on the verge of BS fandom, just waiting for some slightly better songs. – DM

8:28 Not that there’s anything too bad about Shelton or his music, but his Male Vocalist nomination reminds me of Terri Clark and Sara Evans being up for Female Vocalist in the mid-2000’s. They didn’t so much work up to it as back up into it. – KC

8:27 I swear “All About Tonight” is like air to me. I get absolutely nothing out of it. -TS

8:26 Maybe I’m a cornball, but I want full versions of these parody songs. Extraneous Paisley comments omitted plzthx. – DM

8:24 So deserved. And happy birthday to Miranda! – TS

8:22 Song: “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin

8:21 Man, Tara and I never agree on this stuff! – DM

8:20 Vintage Flatts: great song, mediocre performance. I’ll take it. -TS

8:19 Rascal Flatts sounding more controlled on “Why Wait” than they have in quite some time. If I liked the song, I’d be onboard. – DM

8:18 Rascal Flatts song isn’t as bad as they’ve been, but I still say Faith Hill did this better.

8:13 And Dan and Tara move ahead in the prediction count!  First time in CMA history that an artist wins Single of the Year twice in a row.

8:12  SINGLE: “Need You Now”, Lady Antebellum

8:11 A gay joke on the CMAs that isn’t completely offensive? Gotta be the Gwenyth. – DM

8:10 …OK, I’ll give him that one. That was pretty funny. – DM

8:10 I find this Lady A/Lady Gaga thing way too amusing. Maybe because I’ve had so many friends make the same mistake. Including my lovely mom. -TS

8:09 I would by a Brad Paisley Lady Gaga cover album. – KC

8:08 I say this as not a big fan of either of them: Carrie is way, way funnier than Brad. – DM

8:07 Disturbing and hilarious McGraw picture.-TS

8:06 Vince Gill ribbing Julia Roberts ’94 > Brad Paisley ribbing Gwyneth Paltrow ’10

8:05 he return of the Brad/Carrie musical parodies! Yessss. – DM

8:04 Never liked this song, but Carrie’s performances really have evolved. +10 for Keith Urban banjo breakdown. – DM

8:03 Cursing “Undo It” right now for stealing this song’s single spotlight. – TS

8:03 Nice to hear Urban rocking the banjo again. Well, it would be, if I could actually hear it. – KC

8:01 Underwood is rocking it out. Gonna be a loud night, I think. – KC

8:00 Crossing my fingers for the sweet “Single Ladies” ad lib that Carrie does when she sings this on tour. – TS

8:00 Ooo, Transformers-inspired new CMA logo. – DM

7:55 Let’s hope Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t as country as it gets tonight.  – KC

261 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards, Live Blog

2010 CMA Awards: Staff Picks and Predictions

When the nominees were announced in August for the 44th annual CMA Awards, they sparked a firestorm of headlines –and thoughtful commentary by critics and fans alike– thanks to the CMA voters’ surprisingly bold moves. It’s all about change this year, as the voters revamped the ballot with a slew of fresh faces in almost all of the big categories.

How will it all play out? We’ll know for sure on Wednesday at 8pm Eastern, but before Gwenyth Paltrow throws on her cowboy boots, check out our staff picks and predictions and join the discussion in the comments below. And be sure to drop by Wednesday night for all of the CU live blog madness!

Entertainer of the Year

Should Win:

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Miranda Lambert – Kevin
  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban
  • Zac Brown Band – Leeann, Dan, Tara

Kevin:  Among the five nominees, Miranda Lambert has best represented the genre this year.

Leeann: I’m torn between Lambert and the Zac Brown Band as most deserving this year. I recently saw Lambert’s show and wasn’t incredibly impressed, however. While I have not yet attended a ZBB show, theirs is one of the few spots that I look forward to at awards shows these days. Moreover, I’m impressed by how much of a following they had even before they made any mainstream records.

Dan: Of these five, Zac Brown Band had the second-most success this year (after Lady A) and made the second-best music (after Lambert), so that’s pretty good standing. And I feel like giving this award to a grassroots act would be a good way for the industry to greet the future.

Tara: I’m consistently impressed by Zac Brown Band’s live performances, and it would be really refreshing to see them win – so I’ll go with them. (But I’m still disappointed that the first year my head and heart align on Carrie Underwood deserving an EOTY award, I can’t support her. I’m holding out for 2012…)

Will Win:

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Miranda Lambert – Tara
  • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Dan
  • Keith Urban
  • Zac Brown Band

Kevin: I’ve probably learned nothing from last year’s Swift sweep by going with Paisley again, but he’s the only nominee of veteran stature who hasn’t won yet.

Leeann: I can’t imagine that Paisley won’t finally win this one.

Dan: I was going to guess Lady A, since they’re sort of 2010’s “flavor of the year” the way Taylor Swift was 2009’s. But when I think about it, Swift’s ascent was greater and more gradual, and she stood in contrast to the rest of her nominee pool (four male veterans) in a way Lady A don’t with theirs (in which they’re one of three new competitors). So, Paisley.

Tara: I have no rationale. My gut says Lambert.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: Bentley made the best music this year.

Leeann: Bentley may not have the best technical voice out of these nominees, but he has the most interesting and distinctive of them, which is always something that I gravitate toward. Also, I agree with Kevin that he’s made the best music this year.

Dan: Shelton and Bentley are the only ones in this pool who made significant career strides this year – Shelton at radio, and Bentley creatively. Since I’m backing someone else in the Album category, this is where I’d like to see Bentley recognized for following his muse.

Tara: I guess Up on the Ridge is as good a reason as any to fall off the Brad-for-MVOTY bandwagon. He’s a close second for me, though.

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley – Kevin, Dan
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: I can see the roots album giving Bentley an edge. Then again, Paisley could just repeat again, or Shelton may suddenly have deep support among voters. I say, Bentley by a nose.

Leeann: I think that voters will reflexively give this one to Paisley again.

Dan: I’ll ditto Kevin.

Tara: I can’t really see Paisley losing this one, but I think if he does lose to Bentley, it’ll be a telling moment.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Miranda Lambert – Kevin, Leeann, Dan
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Tara

Kevin: Underwood and McEntire are the women who made my favorite singles from the eligibility period, but Lambert’s the only one who hasn’t won this award.  She’s not overdue, but she’s due.

Leeann: Kevin’s right that Lambert is due to win this award now, not to mention that she’s my favorite female singer out of the bunch.

Dan: Lambert still isn’t at Underwood’s sales level, much less Swift’s, and I don’t see her catching up before traditional music sales die out altogether. Doesn’t matter, though: her habit of making creative music will sustain her regardless of industry conditions, and will elevate the genre in the long run. It’s time to look ahead.

Tara: I’m 50/50 on Lambert and Underwood. I’m not sure how to balance Lambert’s long overdue mega-year against Underwood’s continuous stream of solid success, ambassadorship and artistic growth. I’ll be happy either way, but personal investment’s got me in Underwood’s camp.

Will Win:

  • Miranda Lambert - Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood- Leeann

Kevin: I’d be shocked if Lambert lost, and can’t even make a guess as to who she’d lose to, should she somehow lose.

Leeann: It’s between Lambert and Underwood, but I give Underwood the edge, especially since it’s somewhat surprising that she didn’t get an Entertainer nomination. Although Lambert has gained popularity in the past year, Underwood is still one of the two biggest females in the business and I refuse to predict that Swift will win the award.

Dan: Lambert’s had enough mainstream success this year to give tasteful voters an excuse to give her some props.

Tara: The voters love them some Lambert this year, and I think of all her nominations, this is the one she’s got in the bag.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Should Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland

Kevin: I’m assuming “Stuck Like Glue” was after the eligibility period, so I think actually making some music over the year is important. Joey + Rory are the only duo I like who have yet to win.

Leeann: I simply like them the most, but I know they don’t have a chance.

Dan: I mean, why not? Nobody on this ballot has done much but tour.

Tara: I’m not very excited about any of these acts right now, to be honest. It would just be heartwarming to see Joey + Rory pick this one up.

Will Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn – Kevin, Dan
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland – Leeann, Tara

Kevin: Sugarland’s year off helped guarantee a B&D victory lap, which would probably have happened anyway.

Leeann: It’s between Brooks & Dunn and Sugarland. I should just pick B&D because of their retirement, but I’m still going with Sugarland because of their popularity.

Dan: Brooks & Dunn, unless voters ignore the eligibility period and stick with Sugarland.

Tara: Isn’t the Brooks & Dunn retirement thing kind of old news by now, or am I just out of touch?

Vocal Group of the Year

Should Win:

  • Lady Antebellum – Tara
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Dan

Kevin: Let’s start getting some variety in this category, instead of having Lady A own it for five years.

Leeann: They’re the only group that I like right now.

Dan: I’ll probably be rooting for Little Big Town come ACM season, but for now…

Tara: I don’t want Lady A to own this for five years, either, but I do think they deserve to win this year. At least in my opinion, their huge success on the charts and with album sales can be attributed much to their ability to (I know, I know – I’m a broken record) hone in on specific emotion and deliver it in a way that people can really connect with. There’s some meat (and a heck of a lot of potential) behind their success that tends to go unnoticed.

Will Win:

  • Lady Antebellum – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Kevin: Lady A and Zac BB are both very popular with voters, but I’m thinking that this is the only race where voters can reward Lady A for dominating at retail this year.

Leeann: Ditto to Kevin.

Dan: New Artist will be ZBB’s consolation prize.

Tara: …And I think the voters will agree with my pick, if not for the same reasons.

New Artist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Niemann
  • Chris Young – Leeann
  • Zac Brown Band - Kevin, Dan, Tara

Kevin: ZBB is in another league, which makes me wish they still called this the Horizon Award.

Leeann: It’s weird to see ZBB here considering their nominations elsewhere, so I think that Chris Young has the most potential of the remaining nominees.

Dan: I’d love to see Young take this, but ZBB can’t be denied.

Tara: This is a great line-up, but there’s no question that ZBB deserves this win.

Will Win:

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Niemann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

Kevin: ZBB is nominated for Entertainer of the Year, much like Ricky Skaggs was when he won Horizon in 1982. (Skaggs also won Male Vocalist, which means I may have to rethink my pick for Vocal Group, too.)

Leeann: Kevin’s argument is too compelling not to follow. Also, they are the most popular of the nominees, therefore, probably the most deserving.

Dan: Everyone here but Niemann has had a significant breakthrough. With ZBB in the mix, though, it’s no contest.

Tara: It’s a funky set-up to have ZBB nominated for both the top and bottom (figuratively) prizes, and I think this one will play out exactly the way Kevin explained it.

Album of the Year

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Up on the RidgeLeeann
  • Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
  • Miranda Lambert, Revolution – Dan, Tara
  • George Strait, Twang
  • Carrie Underwood, Play OnKevin

Kevin: I have all five of these albums, and Underwood’s is the one that I listen to the most, with Strait a not-too-close second. In 2010, of course, “listening to an album” really means “how many songs do I pull off the album and put on a play list,” which has Underwood ahead by three tracks.

Leeann: If I follow Kevin’s test, Bently wins with Lambert as a close second. Bentley’s is, hands down, my favorite album of these choices. I’d love to see something this different from the mainstream win.

Dan: Also employing Kevin’s test, I flip-flop Leeann’s first and second choices. Only about two thirds of Revolution click for me a year later, but those two thirds have helped redefined what I thought modern country could be (still flipping about “Me and Your Cigarettes”), and the stray third at least tried.

Tara: I’m not going to follow Kevin’s test: I don’t play Revolution quite as much as three of the other albums on here, but I feel it’s the most deserving. It’s sharp, smart and an excellent example of an artist taking her potential by the horns.

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Up on the Ridge
  • Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
  • Miranda Lambert, RevolutionKevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • George Strait, Twang
  • Carrie Underwood, Play On

Kevin: I really do think Lambert will sweep. I think she should’ve won for her last album, which wasn’t even nominated, but I’m not going to complain about an ambitious album getting the prize.

Leeann: I’m guessing either Lambert or Underwood. Although Lambert has the better album, Underwood has the slight edge because it sold better. I wouldn’t be especially surprised if Lady A takes it though.

Dan: Seems to me like a toss-up between Lady A’s commercial favorite and Lambert’s critical one. Lambert?

Tara: This is Lambert’s to lose, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Lady A (or maybe Bentley?) snatched it.

Single of the Year

Should Win:

  • Easton Corbin, “A Little More Country Than That”
  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me” – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Kevin: It’s the big chunk of meat in a category of mashed potatoes and candied apples.

Leeann: Kevin just made me really hungry, therefore, kind of distracted. It’s a good thing that my choice doesn’t need justification then.

Dan: “Need You Now” had the biggest impact, of course, but “The House That Built Me” was no slouch either – four weeks at #1 – and was arguably the riskiest, most rewarding release. Also of note: she sang it real pretty.

Tara: “Need You Now” and “The House That Built Me” are performed equally well, but “House” is the better-written song. I’ll go with “House” on the basis of that, but I do think country music will be represented justly either way. Both songs resonate with pure, compelling sentiment.

Will Win:

  • Easton Corbin, “A Little More Country Than That”
  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now” - Dan, Tara
  • Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me” - Kevin, Leeann
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Kevin: I think Lady A would have a better shot if they hadn’t won last year for “I Run to You.”

Leeann: It’s simply the clear winner.

Dan: Again, somewhat for diversity’s sake, I’ll guess that many voters have already forgotten about “I Run to You” – I certainly have – and will use this category to recognize the biggest hit, while they use Song to recognize the best one.

Tara: I’m jumping on Dan’s train…

Song of the Year

Should Win:

  • “A Little More Country Than That” – Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress & Wynn Varble
  • “Need You Now” – Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott
  • “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • “Toes” – Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, John Hopkins & Shawn Mullins
  • “White Liar” – Natalie Hemby & Miranda Lambert

Kevin: Overall, I think that “Need You Now” is a better Single than Song, and that “The House That Built Me” is a better Song than Single, but “House” is better than “Need” on both counts.

Leeann: I’m just being repetative now. It’s the best single and song of the year.

Dan: It’s the deepest-cutting of the five and the most unique.

Tara: “The House That Built Me” is, quite simply, beautifully written.

Will Win:

  • “A Little More Country Than That” – Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress & Wynn Varble
  • “Need You Now” – Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott – Kevin
  • “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin – Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • “Toes” – Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, John Hopkins & Shawn Mullins
  • “White Liar” – Natalie Hemby & Miranda Lambert

Kevin: Here’s where they can honor “Need You Now” without shortchanging Lambert.

Leeann: I just see “House” sweeping in all possible categories.

Dan: They often manage to pick the actual best song of the five, especially when that song is also the most “serious.”

Tara: This just seems way to obvious; I don’t see how the voters could bypass the most clearly deserving song.

Musical Event of the Year

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley featuring Jamey Johnson & Miranda Lambert, “Bad Angel” – Tara
  • Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews, “I’m Alive”
  • Alan Jackson with Lee Ann Womack, “‘Til the End” – Leeann, Dan
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone” – Kevin
  • Zac Brown Band featuring Kid Rock, “Can’t You See”

Kevin: I don’t find any of these five songs particularly compelling, so I’ll go with the two artists who are longest overdue for some CMA love.

Leeann: I’m not big on any of these either, but the Jackson/Womack collaboration is the one I like the most if I have to choose.

Dan: I’d be fine with either “Til the End” or “Bad Angel”. Whatevs.

Tara: The Jackson/Womack song falls squarely within my typical taste, but “Bad Angel” gets under my skin – in a good way. It’s just a really cool record.

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley featuring Jamey Johnson & Miranda Lambert, “Bad Angel”
  • Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews, “I’m Alive”
  • Alan Jackson with Lee Ann Womack, “‘Til the End”
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”- Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Zac Brown Band featuring Kid Rock, “Can’t You See”

Kevin: Its presence in the Single category makes “Hillbilly Bone” the most likely winner.

Leeann: It’s the most mainstream of all the choices.

Dan: “Bad Angel” could play a welcome spoiler, since all three of the artists behind it command a lot of respect right now. I still see this going to the hit, though.

Tara: I’m predicting the big boys will win this one. It’s a decent song, but it makes me laugh that it gets as much love as it does – I mean, this is the song that has Adkins admitting that he’s “always wanted to sing a bone song”…!

Music Video of the Year

Should Win:

  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Brad Paisley, “Water”
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Kevin: Lambert made the two best clips, with the humor of “Liar” outpacing the literalism of “House.”

Dan: The “House” video is beautifully conceived and directed, but somehow the “White Liar” one just sticks out more. Maybe it’s because “White Liar” is a thinner song, so the video has more of a chance to establish its own identity.

Tara: The “White Liar” video is the brightest and most creative of the bunch.

Will Win:

  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Brad Paisley, “Water”
  • Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Kevin: I think “White Liar” has won all the video awards this year, so I guess it will win again.

Dan: This is the logical place to reward the other Lambert single the CMA liked this year.

Tara: One of Lambert’s videos will win for sure. My best guess is “White Liar” since it’s won before, like Kevin said.

Musician of the Year

Should Win:

  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Dann Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar)
  • Randy Scruggs (guitar)

Kevin: Paul Franklin is the nominee I’m rooting for the most this year. Give the man, and the steel guitar, some long overdue recognition!

Leeann: It’s the steel guitar for heaven’s sake! It should be a no-brainer, even though it’s clearly not.

Dan: I won’t pretend I know what’s going on. I’m just going to root for the guy who hasn’t won yet until he finally does.

Tara: How can you pass up the steel guitar?

Will Win:

  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar)
  • Dann Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Randy Scruggs (guitar)

Kevin: Mac McAnally won the last two years, so I guess he’s the favorite. Did I mention that Franklin is 0-for-17 going into this year’s ceremony?

Leeann: I suppose its a habit to give it to McAnally at this point. So, why should I be so bold as to predict anyone else?

Dan: No justice!

Tara: Just going off of pattern here.


30 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

CMA 2010: Female Trouble

It’s pretty rare that the CMA nominations garner much attention outside of the country music press, but the always excellent Whitney Pastorek at Entertainment Weekly has a lengthy article trying to rationalize the exclusion of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift from the Entertainer category.

It’s amazing that in a year where a record was set for the most nominations by a female artist, there can still be a valid accusation of gender bias among the nominations.  Women have been poorly represented in the Entertainer category for pretty much the entire history of the CMA Awards.  Even when you include duos or groups with female members, there have never been more than two out of five nominees that are women.

Never. Think about that for a minute. If this category’s nominees are to be considered reliable, the CMA is essentially saying that there has never been a time in the past 44 years that more than two of the genre’s top five acts have been female, and in the past decade, there’s never been more than one.

Why is this coming to a head this year, when it’s been a problem all along?  Because there is no rational argument that exists, in this era of decreased record sales and economic downturn, for the exclusion of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift from this category.  Ironically, the inclusion of another female artist – Miranda Lambert – makes the oversight even more obvious.  By any historical standard for this category, Lambert would be jockeying for fourth or fifth place, at best.

With all due respect to Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, their success this year would not get them into this category if they were women. Yet two women who have far exceeded them this year by every measurable standard, two women who are more immediately recognizable and widely beloved than Paisley and Urban have ever been, are left off of the list.

There’s a bias here, and it’s hurting the credibility of the CMA. How is it possible that acts long past their prime, like Brooks & Dunn or Vince Gill, were still getting Entertainer nominations regularly, yet superstars like Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Taylor Swift only made the cut once?  Has there truly been no woman besides Reba McEntire in the last 25 years who has been one of the five top entertainers more than once?

Even if you strain your reason to justify Swift’s exclusion because she was a little less visible during the last three months of the eligibility period, the Underwood snub is the most blatantly unfair this category has seen since the days of Shania Twain, who somehow only earned one nomination while she was absolutely destroying the competition at an international level that has never been matched.

Perhaps the voting methodology of the CMA awards, which allows voters to pick up to five nominees in each category, has exacerbated the “token female” dilemma.  I don’t know, and I really don’t care. Because in an era where even the ACM Awards are showing better taste than the CMA’s, the flagship organization of country music needs to address its female trouble while it still has a single shred of credibility left.

85 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards, Miscellaneous Musings

2010 CMA Nominations

Last month, I suggested an infusion of new blood at the CMA Awards. They’ve exceeded even my wildest expectations, rejecting the usual nominees in nearly every race.  Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, and Dierks Bentley have quite a bit to celebrate, but this year’s awards belong to Miranda Lambert, who earned a stunning nine nominations, a record for a female artist.

Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees:

Entertainer

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band

Who’s Out: Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Taylor Swift

Snap Judgment: All of the new nominees are justified, but the exclusion of Carrie Underwood is shocking and quite unfair.  Leaving off Taylor Swift is also a big surprise. It’s difficult to justify Keith Urban in either of their places.  Then again, the CMA hasn’t nominated two solo female artists in this category since 1979, despite several years where it was warranted.

Male Vocalist

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton

Who’s Out: Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker

Snap Judgment: Good to see them mixing it up in this race. I wonder if being engaged to Lambert helped push Shelton over the edge here?

Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

Who’s In: Nobody.

Who’s Out: Nobody.

Snap Judgment: Same lineup as last year. Who could argue for anyone else?

Vocal Duo

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland

Who’s In: Steel Magnolia

Who’s Out: Big & Rich

Snap Judgment: Oh look, five nominees who are all actively recording! Big progress for this category.

Vocal Group

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: The Band Perry

Who’s Out: Eagles

Snap Judgment: Who are The Band Perry? That’s what the Gloriana camp is probably saying right now, though with two top twenty hits under their belt, Band Perry is one to watch.

New Artist

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Neimann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Luke Bryan, Easton Corbin, Jerrod Neimann, Chris Young

Who’s Out: Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Jake Owen, Darius Rucker

Snap Judgment: Quite a bit of turnover, given that four of last year’s five nominees were eligible again. Rucker’s victory last year clears the way for Zac Brown Band to get a mantle companion piece for their Best New Artist Grammy.

Album

  • Dierks Bentley, Up on the Ridge
  • Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
  • Miranda Lambert, Revolution
  • George Strait, Twang
  • Carrie Underwood, Play On

Snap Judgment: A nice balance of commercial success and critical acclaim.

Single

  • Easton Corbin, “A Little More Country Than That”
  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
  • Blake Shelton with Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”

Snap Judgment: Quite a bit of love for newer artists, plus some overcompensation for the CMA’s lack of Lambert love in the past, as she becomes one of the only artists in history to score two Single nominations in the same year.

Song

  • “The House That Built Me” – written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin
  • “A Little More Country Than That” – written by Rory Lee Feek, Wynn Varble and Don Poythress
  • “Need You Now” – written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott
  • “Toes” – written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Beasley I. Durrette, John Hopkins and Shawn Mullins
  • “White Liar” – written by Natalie Hemby and Miranda Lambert

Snap Judgment: This year, “Hillbilly Bone” gets the “cool enough to be a single nominee but not deep enough to get a song nomination” label, with “Toes” taking its place in this race.

Musical Event

  • “Bad Angel – Dierks Bentley with Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert
  • “Can’t You See” – Zac Brown Band featuring Kid Rock
  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
  • “I’m Alive” – Kenny Chesney featuring Dave Matthews
  • “‘Til the End” – Alan Jackson with Lee Ann Womack

Snap Judgment: Amazing that the only nomination for Kenny Chesney is in this category.

Music Video

  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton with Trace Adkins; directed by Roman White
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert; directed by Trey Fanjoy
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum; directed by David McClister
  • “Water” – Brad Paisley; directed by Jim Shea
  • “White Liar” – Miranda Lambert; directed by Chris Hickey

Snap Judgment: Lambert’s dual nominations are another indication of her popularity’s depth this year, even if it’s not quite as amazing as those two Single nominations.

Musician

  • Paul Franklin
  • Dann Huff
  • Brent Mason
  • Mac McAnally
  • Randy Scruggs

Who’s In: Randy Scruggs

Who’s Out: Eddie Bayers

Snap Judgment: Three-time winner Scruggs is back in the race for the first time since 2007, taking the place of Eddie Bayers, who has yet to win despite ten nominations.  All of this year’s nominees have won at least once, except for Paul Franklin, who received his 18th nomination this year.

125 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

Picking the CMA Nominees: Female Vocalist of the Year

In the Entertainer and Male Vocalist races, I’ve been making the case for fresh blood. In those categories, the routine nominees are mostly past their peaks, and there’s room to let some rising stars in on the action.

Oh, to be able to make the same case for the Female Vocalist race. Let’s take a look at last year’s nominees:

2009

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

For the first time in this category’s history, I believe voters are facing a dilemma that plagued the Vocal Duo category for most of the nineties: there just aren’t enough worthy nominees to finish out the category.

Even earlier in this decade, when radio was barely playing any women at all, there were women like Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and Patty Loveless who earned nominations for their critically acclaimed roots records.  Krauss was even a regular in this category for a good chunk of the decade, and despite being largely absent from radio, she sold more records than some of her fellow nominees.

This year, there isn’t even a woman who could step forward and claim that mantle.  So my picks don’t bring anything new to the table. Maybe some of you can make the case that I’m unable to, and suggest new blood in the comments.

Picks for Female Vocalist

Miranda Lambert

She deserves her fourth consecutive nomination, and on the strength of Revolution and its hit single “The House That Built Me”, I think that she deserves the win this year.

Martina McBride

In any other year, this would be the slot that should be up for grabs. McBride didn’t release a new album, and while she had some success at radio with “Wrong Baby Wrong”, it didn’t crack the top ten or reignite album sales. Still, who is standing in her way? Kellie Pickler? Gretchen Wilson? Laura Bell Bundy?   I fully expect her to earn her thirteenth consecutive nomination, matching Reba McEntire’s record run from 1983-1995.

Reba McEntire

Speaking of McEntire, she’s been popping up in this category again in recent years.  After those thirteen consecutive nominations ended in 1995, the race was far too competitive for a good while.  She’s earned three nominations since then, in 2004, 2006, and 2009.  Her massive hit “Consider Me Gone” and surprisingly strong record sales mean that this won’t be a filler nomination. She’s earned it.

Taylor Swift

Yes, I know the idea of her winning vocalist awards makes many wince, but c’mon now. There’s no denying she’s one of the top female artists today. Until Eminem’s recent comeback, she was the biggest star in all of music, period.  And she’s got a shot at reclaiming that title with her third album, if initial reaction to “Mine” is any indication.

Carrie Underwood

The three-time winner is radio’s favorite artist and her album sales have remained strong. If Lambert hadn’t surged with “The House That Built Me”, I think that Underwood would be ahead in the race this year.  If she makes the final ballot for Entertainer, I suspect that voters will reward her in that category and give Female Vocalist to Lambert.  There’s good precedent for this, as Dolly Parton (1978), Barbara Mandrell (1980), and Shania Twain (1999) won Entertainer without winning Female Vocalist that night.  It’s happened even more in the Entertainer/Male races, given that the big prize has gone to men far more frequently.

77 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

Picking the CMA Nominees: Male Vocalist of the Year

If turnover has been slow in the Entertainer category, it’s been nothing less than glacial in the Male Vocalist race.  Over the past ten years, only eleven men have received nominations.  Four of those eleven – Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Darius Rucker, and Josh Turner – have been nominated only once.

Now, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw were regularly invited to the party in the first half of the last decade, with four and three nominations, respectively. But the race has essentially been dominated by the same five men: Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban, who combine for forty nominations in just one decade.

The recent history has been pretty boring. After two consecutive wins by Alan Jackson, we’ve had three consecutive wins each by Keith Urban and reigning champ Brad Paisley.

Will there be a new winner this year, or even a new nominee? Should there be?

Let’s take a look at last year’s race:

2009

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Darius Rucker was the new face to enter the race last year. No brand new nominee has been nominated again in this category since Keith Urban earned his first nomination in 2004. He’s been in the race ever since.  I’d say Rucker’s close to a lock, along with Paisley. But just like in the Entertainer race, a case could be made for a decent shake-up, especially some of this category’s veteran acts have dipped at radio and retail.

Here’s who I would nominate this year. Share your picks in the comments:

Jason Aldean

Anybody else notice that this guy’s outselling the rest of the male solo artists? All the while, he’s been completely ignored at the country awards shows for his last two projects.  He’s not overdue just yet, but he’s due.

Dierks Bentley

He went out of his comfort zone to release a bluegrass-flavored album that was pretty darn good.

Brad Paisley

He just missed my list for preferred Entertainer nominees, but he’s at the head of the pack in this category. With his domination at radio, not to mention a stronger studio album than his previous two, I wouldn’t be shocked for him to become the third artist in history to win four of these.

Blake Shelton

His hit-making has certainly been kicked up a notch as of late.  He may be destined to toil just under the radar of this category like Trace Adkins and Gary Allan before him, but it would be nice to see him get a nod.

Josh Turner

A decent comeback at radio and retail, coupled with him being a great singer who’s been overlooked, makes me hope he finishes out this category.

___

I left off previous nominees Keith Urban, George Strait, and Darius Rucker because they haven’t put out new albums during the eligibility period, so it seems like a good time to let some new folks get a chance. I left off Kenny Chesney because he’s been doing nothing but stopgap releases for the past year, none of which sold to  his normal standards.  I left off Tim McGraw, even though he’s made some music I really like lately, because he hasn’t been doing as well as usual at radio and retail.

25 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards

Picking the CMA Nominees: Entertainer of the Year

As we did last year, it’s time to share our preferences for this year’s CMA Awards.  Last year, Taylor Swift was the belle of the ball, winning four awards.  Some long winning streaks came to an end, as Swift replaced both Kenny Chesney as Entertainer of the Year and Carrie Underwood as Female Vocalist of the Year.  Lady Antebellum ended Rascal Flatts’ long run as top Vocal Group, and were the surprise winners of Single of the Year as well.

Once again.  I’ve selected the five artists that I believe are most deserving of an Entertainer of the Year nomination.  But first, let’s take a look at last year’s race:

Entertainer of the Year (2009)

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

Swift was victorious in her first nomination in this category.  She competed against three previous winners:  Kenny Chesney, who has gone 4 for 8 in this category;  Keith Urban, who is 1 for 5; and the incomparable George Strait, who is 2 for 17.  Brad Paisley lost for the fifth year, tying Kenny Rogers for the most nominations without a win.

As the numbers above show, this has been a largely static category for the past ten years.  Only thirteen artists earned nominations from 2000-2009. The CMA noms can be very predictable.

But looking at radio and retail these days, there’s been a big changing of the guard.  I think that this category more than any other should reflect that.  I’m putting my personal tastes aside here, as there are only two artists I list that I actually listen to regularly.

Entertainer of the Year (2010)

The nominees should be:

Lady Antebellum

Their second album has already spent 25 weeks at #1, and “Need You Now” was such a big hit that it’s led to pop airplay for “I Run to You”, the award-winning hit from their debut album.  It would be an early nomination in terms of their career, but Alabama and Dixie Chicks were elevated to this category even faster, so there’s precedent for vocal groups.

Miranda Lambert

She’s always had the critical success, and she’s always sold records.  But she’s selling them a heck of a lot faster these days and radio is suddenly, shockingly, spectacularly on board.  It’s time for the CMA to catch up with the ACM, who have been away ahead in acknowledging this artist.

Taylor Swift

Being nominated the year after winning is not a given, but it’s the norm.  While it was common in the seventies, it’s been very rare in recent years.  Shania Twain (1999) was the last winner to not receive another nomination the following year, with the others being:  Dolly Parton (1978), Mel Tillis (1976), John Denver (1975), and Charlie Rich (1974).

So she’s probably a lock for a nomination, and she deserves one. Though things have been quiet on the Swift front for the past couple of months, she had a massive tour and sold a ton of records during the eligibility period.

Carrie Underwood

She really should be enjoying her third nomination this year, but a (flimsy) case could be made for her not making the ballot in 2008 and 2009. But no nomination this year would be inexcusable. She had a very successful tour, continued to dominate radio, and her third album is quickly approaching double platinum.  At this point, she shouldn’t just get a nomination. She should win.

Zac Brown Band

Their live performances are well-regarded, radio is fully on board, and their first major label album is double platinum.  A case could be made for Brad Paisley getting this spot, but sales of his new album have fallen quite a bit short of previous efforts.  The same goes for other perennial nominees Keith Urban, George Strait, and Kenny Chesney.

So those are my five choices. What are yours?

49 Comments

Filed under CMA Awards