As we gear up for the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards, the writing staff of Country Universe have prepared our predicted winners among this year’s nominees. Check out our Personal Picks as well, and share your own predictions in the comments. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the festivities this Sunday, starting at 8 EST.
ACM 2009: Country Universe Predicts the Winners
Entertainer of the Year
Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn
Kevin: For as much as the industry favors male acts, it’s the female acts who really post the big numbers. I think that the fans having a say will put Underwood over the top, though the industry is certainly behind her, too. The depth and breadth of her appeal warrants the win.
Leeann: I know how zealous Carrie Underwood fans are. So, I’d be shocked if she doesn’t win it. I like the way Lynn said it though.
Dan: You know, I really have no idea. It’s not going to be George Strait, and I probably wouldn’t anticipate a win for Keith Urban this year. At first I was going with Chesney by default, but the arguments for Underwood’s win are too good to ignore, so I’m changing to her.
Lynn: If the fans are truly allowed to have their say…Ms. Underwood, please watch your step on the way up to receive your first Entertainer of the Year award.
Top Male Vocalist
Brad Paisley – Leeann, Dan, Lynn, Kevin
Leeann: I can’t decide between Chesney or Paisley. If I had to choose, I’d guess Paisley, since he’s gotten used to winning this one.
Dan: Tough call. I’ll put it between Paisley and Chesney, and I’ll give Paisley the edge.
Lynn: Paisley by default. Yes, his last album was an instrumental, but he was easily the most visible of these artists over the past year.
Kevin: I could see Strait sneaking in there, but I don’t see how things have shifted in a meaningful enough way to end Paisley’s run.
Top Female Vocalist
Carrie Underwood – Dan, Lynn, Kevin, Leeann
Lee Ann Womack
Dan: There’s always that chance of a Miranda or Taylor upset, but I think Carrie’s still got this.
Lynn: Given a choice among these ladies over the course of the past year, I can’t imagine this award not going to Underwood.
Kevin: It’s a race between Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, and it’s hard for me to imagine Underwood losing a vocalist race to Swift.
Leeann: I’d be an idiot to predict anyone other than Underwood.
Top Vocal Group
Lady Antebellum – Lynn, Kevin
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts – Leeann, Dan
Randy Rogers Band
The Lost Trailers
Lynn: With previous ACM and CMA wins under their belts, and a big Grammy nod earlier this year, I wouldn’t bet against Lady A for the win. I could be wrong, but I think Nashville is dying to hand this award to a band other than Rascal Flatts, and Lady A is visible, popular and photogenic.
Kevin: I think that voters have finally found an alternative to Rascal Flatts, who have dominated this race for so many years.
Leeann: Lady A could take this one. However, if I want to be safe, I should just predict Rascal Flatts.
Dan: If Lady A hadn’t released such a sluggish second single, they could be posing a serious threat by now. They’ve definitely got a shot, but I’d guess the Flatts still have it.
Top Vocal Duo
Big & Rich
Brooks & Dunn
Joey + Rory
Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn
Kevin: This must finally be the year that Brooks & Dunn loses, right? Sugarland is long overdue.
Leeann: Sugarland. They’re clearly the hottest duo right now.
Dan: Sugarland, although Brooks & Dunn could still keep it.
Lynn: Sugarland has the momentum.
Top New Artist
Julianne Hough- Leeann, Lynn, Kevin
Zac Brown Band - Dan
Leeann: Hough will get this one, because I have a feeling she’s got the strongest and most organized fan base, thanks to a popular television show.
Dan: Fan voting = I have no idea. But just for the sake of having a bet, I’ll say Zac Brown Band. They’re well-liked by audiences; maybe their grassroots support will push them over.
Lynn: Fan voting = Julianne Hough (= Dancing With the Stars = 20 million viewers per week = Lots of Free Publicity).
Kevin: I also think Hough will win because of the nature of her fan base.
Album of the Year
Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
Fearless – Taylor Swift – Leeann
That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson
Troubadour – George Strait – Dan, Lynn, Kevin
Dan: I can kind of see anyone but Montgomery Gentry winning here, but at the end of the day, Strait is probably the best all-around bet.
Lynn: Ditto Dan.
Kevin: The Single/Album races just seem to be going Strait’s way lately.
Leeann: I’ll go out on a limb and predict Taylor Swift. I’m sure the industry wants to give her an award and this is the most plausible way to do it.
Lynn: I might have to go with Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Admittedly, I have a poor track record when it comes to predicting country music awards shows, but I’d be willing to wager at least…nope, can’t do it, I really am bad at this. Second choice is “Gunpowder & Lead” (although it came out 1 single and a year ago!)
Kevin: I’m torn between Paisley and Adkins. The ACM likes to go with the biggest hit, and I guess that’s “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
Leeann: I guess I predict Trace Adkins. It’s the dullest song of the choices, but the one that seems to tug the hardest on the heartstrings of the assumed average country music listener.
Dan: Paisley’s sentimental hit seems like the strongest bet to me, although I feel a little sheepish with everyone else pulling for Adkins.
Song of the Year
I Saw God Today – Leeann, Dan, Lynn
Composers: Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
In Color – Kevin
Composers: Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto
Johnny And June
Composers: Deanna Bryant, Heidi Newfield, Stephony Smith
Waitin’ On A Woman
Composers: Don Sampson, Wynn Varble
You’re Gonna Miss This
Composers: Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller
Kevin: I’m guessing “In Color” or “I Saw God Today.” It doesn’t help that when Strait won this award, he shared it with Johnson for “Give it Away.” I’ll say “In Color”, though it might result in my defeat in the final tally.
Leeann: I can’t see why “I Saw God Today” won’t win, even if it makes me cringe a little.
Dan: If I had to guess, it’s a race between “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “I Saw God Today,” with “In Color” playing dark horse. I guess I’ll say “I Saw God Today.”
Lynn: I think Strait will pick up an ACM trophy to go with his CMA one for “I Saw God Today.”
Trace Adkins’ new album, X, is being offered as part of Amazon’s Friday Five deal for today only.
Our own Blake Boldt had this to say about Adkins’ latest album:
“Although not a leading light in the genre, Adkins’ reputation as a reliable hitmaker has afforded him creative choices, and X demonstrates a surpassing ability to connect to the core concepts of country music. It’s an album that supplies more art and less compromise. With his flesh-and-blood depiction of a country boy, Adkins proves that he can take risks and be rewarded. If justice is served, his under-the-radar routine won’t be a permanent act.”
So, head over to Amazon and grab an MP3 copy for just $5.
Buying instructions: click on the big “Play” symbol to play the clips. When they start playing, a little box with information about the track will appear at the bottom of the box. Click where it says the album’s name (X) to reach the full album. Alternatively, you can click the yellow “Buy MP3″ button to go to the page of the individual song that’s playing, from which you can also reach the full album’s page.
The Academy of Country Music revealed its nominees for the 44th annual awards show slated for Sunday, April 5. Album of the Year nominations will be announced in March, likely to coincide with the presentation of the Best New Artist nominees.
Brad Paisley- Paisley is the leader of the pack with six nominations. His video clip, “Waitin’ on a Woman,” (with legendary television star, Andy Griffith) is Paisley’s bid at a fourth Video of the Year victory. “Waitin’” is also in the running for Single and Song of the Year, and Paisley is a considerable threat to dethrone four-time champion Chesney for Entertainer of the Year.
George Strait- In a separate ceremony, Strait will be recognized as the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade, but his support runs deep even in the present day. He will bid for Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist, as well as Video of the Year for “Troubadour,” his first clip since 2006′s “The Seashores of Old Mexico.”
The Academy of Country Music announced nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Julianne Hough, Kellie Pickler, Leann Rimes and Jessica Simpson were on hand to present this year’s nominees. More analysis to follow.
The second article in our Grammy Awards series, our personal favorites in the country categories at this year’s ceremony.
Best Country Album
Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights (Blake, Leeann)
George Strait, Troubadour
Randy Travis, Around the Bend
Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love (Dan, Kevin, Lynn)
Blake: Strait’s collection is a mixed bag of middlebrow art with the occasional glimpse at his right-as-rain Texas style. Excepting Troubadour, these discs are highwater marks for the genre. Johnson and Loveless finished one-two on my 2008 list, but I’ll root for Loveless to win a long-awaited solo Grammy.
Dan: I actually think Johnson made the best album, but Yearwood’s is my second-favorite, and she’s long overdue.
Kevin: It’s a strong field overall, but Yearwood’s album is the most cohesive. She’s the greatest female album artist since Emmylou Harris, yet she’s never won an album award. It’s time.
Leeann: My choice is Patty Loveless’ album, though Trisha Yearwood’s is a very close second. While Loveless’ is an album of covers, it’s the one I find myself putting in without skipping a track more than Yearwood’s. I really would be happy for either choice, however.
Lynn: Loveless put together my favorite album as a whole, but Yearwood is long overdue and her wonderful album was shamefully ignored. I hope she wins.
In a nod towards diversity, the General Field nominees for the 51st annual Grammy Awards include a shepherd’s pie of musical genres, with Brit soul ingenues (Adele, Duffy) against American pop trios (Jonas Bros., Lady A), Brit pop bands (Coldplay, Radiohead) against American rappers (Ne-Yo, Lil’ Wayne), all with a Brit rock legend (Robert Plant) lording over them. While it’s hard to argue the breadth of recent nominees in these categories, their depth is always up for discussion (see: Herbie Hancock, 2008 Album of the Year; Ray Charles, 2005 Record of the Year).
The country field is filled with critical faves. George Strait enjoys the strongest across-the-board success in his estimable career, newcomer Jamey Johnson is lauded for his neo-outlaw soul, and Randy Travis, Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood continue Grammy’s trend of nominating veterans alongside newer artists.
The staff of Country Universe have chosen their personal favorites and predictions for this year’s Grammy ceremony. First up on the docket: our predictions in the country categories.
Best Country Album
Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song (Blake, Leeann, Lynn)
Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
George Strait, Troubadour (Dan, Kevin)
Randy Travis, Around the Bend
Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love
Blake: Is Jamey Johnson the savior of modern-day country music? I think by placing his name next to four of the format’s legends, the Grammy voters have already voiced their opinion on the matter. The vociferous critical support surrounding this release suggests that Johnson will surpass the veterans in this race.
Dan: I was totally thinking Johnson until just this morning, but I’m having last-minute doubts about his widespread support – he’s still very new to lots of voters, and I’m not confident that his hype will be sufficient to summon confidence from everyone voting in this category. So I’m siding with Kevin’s prediction on Strait.
Kevin: The only proven vote-getter here is Randy Travis, but I’m doubtful that he’ll be able to triumph with Johnson and Loveless garnering so many of the traditionalist’s votes. Grammy loves its women, which could give Yearwood and Loveless an advantage, but I’m not sure there’s a clear favorite between them. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict George Strait. He’s long overdue for a Grammy, and he has the most commercially successful album of the five. With three of the album’s songs represented in other categories (“Troubadour”, “I Saw God Today, “House of Cash”), this might be his year.
Leeann: I really think Johnson will grab this one. The critics love him and he’s had the most hype in the last year.
Lynn: I agree this will be a tough one for Grammy voters. Yearwood and Loveless both have the sheer talent Grammy voters appreciate and they produced quality albums. However, I think the voters’ penchant and love for multi-talented newcomers with musical integrity will give Johnson his first Grammy.
After a pretty much perfect debut single, Randy Houser returns with the opening song from his debut album. If he channeled Ronnie Dunn on “Anything Goes”, he sounds a lot closer to Trace Adkins on this twangy rocker.
Houser’s enthusiastic performance helps to elevate the rather ordinary material, but there’s been such a glut of “country and proud of it” songs lately. “Boots On” may be one of the better ones, but they haven’t been collectively good in the first place. There are far better tracks on Houser’s album.
While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This year, the 45th trophy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance will be awarded.
In a continuation of our Grammy Flashback series, here is a rundown of the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male category. It was first awarded in 1965, and included singles competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.
As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back. Be sure to vote in My Kind of Country’sBest Male Country Vocal Performance poll and let your preference for this year’s race be known!
Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”
Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me”
George Strait, “Troubadour”
As with the album race, this year’s contenders for Best Male Country Vocal Performance are a combination of unrecognized veterans and promising newcomers. In fact, none of this year’s nominees have won in this category, and only one of them – Brad Paisley – has a Grammy at all.
First, the veterans. Paisley has numerous ACM and CMA victories to his credit, including two each for Male Vocalist. Although he’s been nominated for this award twice before, this is the first time he’s contended with a cut that can’t be dismissed as a novelty number. The touching self-penned “Letter to Me” is his best shot yet at taking this home.
Trace Adkins has been at this a bit longer than Paisley, but this is his first Grammy nomination. His crossover exposure from Celebrity Apprentice might help him out here, along with the fact that the song was considered strong enough by voters to earn a nomination of its own.
But the real veteran to watch out for is George Strait. After being nominated only twice for this category in the first 25 years of his career, voters have now given him three consecutive nominations. This is one of four nods he’s earned for the 2009 ceremony, and “Troubadour” is essentially the story of his epic career distilled into a radio-length song. It would be the perfect way to honor the man and his music in one fell swoop.
However, there’s a newcomer that might be a Grammy favorite already. We just haven’t found out yet. Not James Otto, of course, who is nominated for his charming romantic romp “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”, but rather, Jamey Johnson. The recent Nashville Scene critics’ poll further confirmed the depth of his support among tastemakers, and his nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Album indicate that he’s very much on the academy’s radar. It helps that he has the most substantial track of the five, and it’s the obvious choice for traditionalists, who have little reason to split their votes in this category. If voters aren’t considering legacy when making their selections, he has a great shot at this.
Dierks Bentley, “Long Trip Alone”
Alan Jackson, “A Woman’s Love”
Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
George Strait, “Give it Away”
Keith Urban, “Stupid Boy”
The often offbeat Grammy voters have been surprisingly mainstream in this category for the past three years, a trend best exemplified by this lineup, which was the first in more than a decade to feature only top ten radio hits. Tim McGraw and Keith Urban were the only two who had won this before, and it was Urban who emerged victorious. “Stupid Boy” was a highlight of his fourth studio album, and this was the only major award that the impressive collection would win.
Dierks Bentley, “Every Mile a Memory”
Vince Gill, “The Reason Why”
George Strait, “The Seashores of Old Mexico”
Josh Turner, “Would You Go With Me”
Keith Urban, “Once in a Lifetime”
Vince Gill returned to win in this category for a ninth time with “The Reason Why.” Not only is he, by far, the most honored artist in this category, his wins here account for nine of the nineteen Grammys currently on his mantle.
George Jones, “Funny How Time Slips Away”
Toby Keith, “As Good As I Once Was”
Delbert McClinton, “Midnight Communion”
Willie Nelson, “Good Ol’ Boys”
Brad Paisley, “Alcohol”
Keith Urban, “You’ll Think of Me”
Urban’s biggest and probably best hit launched his second album to triple platinum and established him as a crossover artist. He gave a killer performance of the song on the show. Toby Keith was a first-time nominee here, and while he publicly groused that the Grammys put too little emphasis on commercial success in picking their nominations, he lost to the only track that was a bigger hit than his own.
What can you say about a mediocre novelty song? It’s not so bad that Adkins embarrasses himself like he did with “Swing”, but it lacks the self-deprecating charm of “I Got My Game On” and the bawdy audacity of “Honky Tonk Badonkdonk.”
And that’s the danger with making novelty songs your trademark. Do too many of them, and people will forget that you’re actually a great ballad singer, and remember you only for the times you hammed it up. It’s especially dangerous when the novelty songs themselves aren’t memorable in the first place.
Adkins is a great singer, but he’s becoming this decade’s Joe Diffie.