ACM Awards 2007: Picks & Predictions

There are three major country awards given by the music industry, and each particular show reflects the preferences of a different section of it.

The CMA Awards, given every fall, are the Music Row awards, where the Nashville music industry – labels, talent agencies, publishers and the like – have the most sway. There is also a sect of voters who favor strong traditionalism in country music, which has allowed for some surprising upsets over the years. Commercialism matters, but isn’t the only factor at the CMA’s. If a big act doesn’t have too much substance, they aren’t likely to win many CMA awards.

The Grammys, given every February, are the most prestigious musical honor. Voted on exclusively by artists, musicians, producers and engineers, the country categories have always been dominated by artists with technical merit – singer’s singers and musician’s musicians. Sales don’t mean much at all to these voters, but credibility does. Top winners for the genre include Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris.

Then there’s the ACM’s, the spring country awards show that actually predates the CMA’s but is generally regarded as less meaningful. ACM voters are primarly in the radio and concert booking fields, so commercialism is a huge factor here. The list of ACM winners from the past is almost exclusively populated by top-selling artists that are also radio favorites. This year’s nominations ensure that tradition will continue.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s nominees, along with my predicted winner and personal pick for each category:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Tim McGraw
  • Rascal Flatts
  • George Strait

Should Win: Kenny Chesney

Will Win: Rascal Flatts

The CMA may be hesitant to honor Rascal Flatts outside of the Vocal Group category, and they don’t have a chance in hell of winning a Grammy, but the ACM is just the type of show to give the highest honor to the act that’s selling the most records right now besides Carrie Underwood, who isn’t a nominee. They’re doing well on the road, too, but aren’t yet in the league of fellow noms Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. The latter continues to break attendance records and is actually selling out stadiums. Throw in another great year at radio, a top-selling album and music videos that are expanding the medium for the genre, and it should add up to his third consecutive victory. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Should Win & Will Win: Brad Paisley

I’m not much of a fan of Brad, but he is long overdue in this category. He’s been a consistent hitmaker for almost a decade now, and has shown steady growth while many fast-rising stars have already disappeared. I think he’ll finally win it this year, foreshadowing what could be a very, very big night at the 2007 CMA awards.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Sara Evans
  • Faith Hill
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Carrie Underwood

Should Win & Will Win: Carrie Underwood

Sara Evans snuck in there last year to win, but her career has cooled considerably since. Underwood is the obvious winner, as she’s not only the genre’s top-selling artist, she’s also the best singer to boot.

Top Vocal Group

  • Diamond Rio
  • Emerson Drive
  • Little Big Town
  • Lonestar
  • Rascal Flatts

Should Win: Little Big Town

Will Win: Rascal Flatts

The ACM has given this award to Rascal Flatts for the last four years. There’s no reason to think they won’t make it five in a row, but Little Big Town’s layered harmonies are a lot more impressive and award-worthy.

Top Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland
  • The Wreckers

Should Win: Sugarland
Will Win: Brooks & Dunn
Sugarland made the transition from a group to a duo with their signature sound still in tact, and have had the most radio and retail success this year. That would normally mean they’d get this award, but I’d be a fool to bet against Brooks & Dunn winning for the millionth time. They’ve only lost this once – to the Dixie Chicks – back when they combined it with the Top Vocal Group category.

Top New Male Vocalist

  • Rodney Atkins
  • Craig Morgan
  • Chris Young

Should Win & Will Win: Rodney Atkins

Atkins has been the most successful of the three so far, and has also made the best music. Should be an easy win for him.

Top New Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Kellie Pickler
  • Taylor Swift

Should Win & Will Win: Miranda Lambert
A bit more luck at radio will help win Taylor Swift some votes, but I’m thinking that the strong record sales and general positive will towards Lambert will push her to a win. She’s the biggest talent of the three by a wide margin. Then again, Emerson Drive beat out Nickel Creek in a new artist category at the ACM’s, so a Swift or Pickler upset isn’t out of the question.

Top New Duo or Vocal Group

  • Heartland
  • Little Big Town
  • The Wreckers

Should Win & Will Win:: Little Big Town

Heartland and The Wreckers may have kicked off their careers with #1 singles, but Little Big Town has been the most consistent of the three at radio, and also sold platinum. They should win this pretty easily.

Album of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn, Hillbilly Deluxe
  • Vince Gill, These Days
  • Rascal Flatts, Me and My Gang
  • George Strait, It Just Comes Natural
  • Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts

Should Win: Vince Gill, These Days

Will Win: Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts

The stunning four-CD set by Vince Gill has the most artistic merit, but the ACM has been quick to honor big-selling breakthrough albums – previous winners include The Woman in Me, Wide Open Spaces, Killin’ Time, Brand New Man, Not a Moment Too Soon and Storms of Life. Carrie’s six-time platinum debut has never been nominated for an album award, and I expect the massively successful record to be recognized here. It’s a better album than the other three anyway.

Single of the Year

  • “Before He Cheats” – Carrie Underwood
  • “Give It Away” – George Strait
  • “I Loved Her First” – Heartland
  • “What Hurts the Most” – Rascal Flatts
  • “Would You Go With Me” – Josh Turner

Should Win & Will Win:
“Before He Cheats” – Carrie Underwood

Underwood will repeat in this category with a hit that’s even bigger than her winning entry from last year, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Flatts could threaten, but the general enthusiasm for Underwood should give her the edge. She should get extra points for crossing over without remixing the song.

Song of the Year

  • “Amarillo Sky” – writers: John Rich, Big Kenny, Rodney Clawson, Brat Pursley; artist: Jason Aldean.
  • “Before He Cheats” – writers: Chris Tompkins, Josh Kear; artist: Carrie Underwood.
  • “Give It Away” – writers: Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson; artist: George Strait.
  • “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” – writers: Sam Tate, Annie Tate, David Berg; artist: Rodney Atkins.
  • “Would You Go With Me” – writers: Shawn Camp, John Scott Sherill; artist: Josh Turner.

Should Win: “Amarillo Sky”

Will Win: “Before He Cheats”

Noticing a trend? I’m thinking this is going to be a huge night for Carrie. The momentum keeps building in her career, and this is such a big hit that it’s still going to be fresh in voter’s minds. I love “Amarillo Sky”, but it was too low profile to win. I could see the Atkins smash threatening, but I keep thinking it’s going to be Carrie’s night.

Video of the Year

  • “8th of November” – Big & Rich
  • “Amarillo Sky” – Jason Aldean
  • “Before He Cheats” – Carrie Underwood
  • “Hillbilly Deluxe” – Brooks & Dunn
  • “Seashores of Old Mexico” – George Strait

Should Win: “8th of November”

Will Win: “Before He Cheats”

The CMA’s and the Grammys had a great opportunity to finally acknowledge the success of Big & Rich by honoring their epic video, but it’s becoming clear that the industry doesn’t have much interest yet in recognizing their work. This award often goes to artists dominating the night overall, and I’m thinking it might be easier to just seat Carrie Underwood on the stage so she doesn’t have to keep climbing the stairs.

Vocal Event of the Year

  • “Burning Bridges” – Brooks & Dunn with Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow
  • “I Don’t Want To” – Ashley Monroe & Ronnie Dunn
  • “Me and God” – Josh Turner featuring Dr. Ralph Stanley and Marty Roe, Dana Williams and Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio
  • “Politically Uncorrect” – Gretchen Wilson with Merle Haggard
  • “That’s How They Do it in Dixie” – Hank Williams Jr. with Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Van Zant

Should Win: “Me and God”

Will Win: “Building Bridges”

The ACM doesn’t love its elders like the Grammys (and the CMA’s in this category, for that matter). They do love Brooks & Dunn, so I expect them to win. It’s a shame that Turner doesn’t get more recognition, and I think “Me and God” is the best record of the five.


  1. The ACMs are definitely third behind the CMAs and Grammy under the present environment although there was a time when they would have been 2nd in prestige behind the CMAs and ahead of the Grammys. At one time the ACMs were often ahead of the curve as they were the first to acknowledge much of the west coast scene. They also awarded Charley Pride their coveted Pioneer award years before the CMHOF got around to inducting Charley.

    Anyway , I agree with Kevin’s assessment of who will win – hewre’s my take on who should win

    Entertainer of the Year – Kenny Chesney (I’m noit much of a Chesney fan but he does give his fan’s their money’s worth. His heart is in the right place, too – check Bill Anderson’s website for his October 2, 2006 newsletter for a neat story

    Top Male Vocalist – Brad Paisley
    Top Female Vocalist – Carrie Underwood
    Top Vocal Group – there isn’t a deserving nominee this year
    Top Vocal Duo – The Wreckers
    Top New Male Vocalist – Chris Young (the others don’t belong in this category)
    Top New Female Vocalist – Miranda Lambert
    Top New Duo or Vocal Group – THe Wreckers

    more comments later

  2. This is an underwhelming crop of nominees.

    Will Win: Kenny Chesney, whose completely baffling hot streak just keeps going.
    Should Win: I don’t find what any of these nominees do entertaining.
    Snubbed: If they’re going to nominate McGraw, they ought to go ahead and nominate Faith Hill, too.

    Male Vocalist
    Will Win: Brad Paisley.
    Should Win: Brad Paisley. I’m a fan of Urban’s, but his latest album is just awful.
    Snubbed: Gary Allan. Just like every other year. And Josh Turner.

    Female Vocalist
    Will Win: Carrie Underwood. The backlash will hit eventually, but she’s still way out in front right now.
    Should Win: Miranda Lambert, with or without the support of radio.
    Snubbed: LeAnn Rimes, who’s really had a nice run over the last eighteen months and is finally a singer worth paying attention to. She should’ve replaced either Hill or Evans.

    Vocal Group
    Will Win: Rascal Flatts. Even though Gary LeVox is one of the worst singers ever to land a recording contract.
    Should Win: Little Big Town, if only by default.

    Vocal Duo
    Will Win: Sugarland. I’ll go with sooner rather than later, since Brooks & Dunn aren’t still riding “Believe” this awards show round.
    Should Win: Sugarland.

    Those two sets of nominees should really tell someone that it’s time to combine the Group and Duo categories to trim the fat. I mean, Emerson Drive, Lonestar, and Diamond Rio? Really?

    New Male Vocalist
    Will Win: Rodney Atkins. Because it’s high time we start grooming another Tim McGraw.
    Should Win: Meh.
    Snubbed. Eric Church.

    New Female Vocalist
    Will Win: Taylor Swift. Because awards shows tend to bring out my pessimistic side. And I remember what happened to Kelly Willis in this category.
    Should Win: Miranda Lambert, by pretty much the largest margin imaginable.

    New Vocal Duo / Group
    Will Win: Little Big Town.
    Should Win: Little Big Town. I do like the variety they’ve shown in their choices of singles.

    Will Win: Me & My Gang, Rascal Flatts. Since Carrie Underwood’s album should’ve been eligible last year, and Brooks & Dunn’s album should’ve been eligible two years ago.
    Should Win: These Days, Vince Gill.
    Snubbed: If they had the guts to nominate Gill’s album, then they also could’ve nominated Rosanne Cash’s Black Cadillac.

    Will Win: “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood.
    Should Win: “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood. I’m not crazy about the performance or the song itself, but it’s the best produced single of the bunch.
    Snubbed: “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful,” Gary Allan.

    Will Win: “If You’re Going Through Hell,” Rodney Atkins. When in doubt, go with the supposedly uplifting song.
    Should Win: “Would You Go With Me,” Josh Turner.
    Snubbed: “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful,” Gary Allan.

    Will Win: “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood.
    Should Win: Meh.

    Vocal Event
    Will Win: “Burning Bridges,” Brooks & Dunn et al.
    Should Win: Meh.

  3. How can anyone not enjoy Brad Paisley? He courts both the new country and trad country markets, is knowledgeable about both, is friendly and funny, has an adorable wife, plays guitar like a madman, has a pleasant and memorable, if not strong, voice, writes and chooses great songs, and is an all around good guy. What’s not to like?

  4. Ed,
    You make a logical argument but musical tastes aren’t very susceptible to logic and reason. On paper, I know that I should love Brad Paisley, but in reality, most of his music just leaves me cold. I think he’s earned the Male Vocalist award, and I hope he gets it, but he’s just one of those artists that I know I should really enjoy but don’t. I’m not foolish enough to think that because I don’t like something, it doesn’t have value, so Paisley is a musician I respect despite not enjoying most of his music.

    I’ve flirted with the idea of doing two feature lists: “Artists I Should Like But Don’t” and “Artists I Shouldn’t Like But Do”. Paisley would be in good company, with people like Steve Earle and Rhonda Vincent. Heck, I have friends who can’t stand The Beatles, who I consider the ultimate talents, but then again, I can’t stand the Rolling Stones.

  5. I’ve been without internet service the last three days:

    For ALBUM OF THE YEAR I would NOT vote for Vince Gills album because it is only partially a country album. It simply doesn’t fit the ACM category. This is the one area where the Grammys have an advantage because they COULD nominate it for an all genre award whereas the CMAs and ACMs doen’t have a “Best Non-Country Album by a Country Artist” award category. (God forbid that they should stoop to that) . I would go for SOME HEARTS but the truth is that, again, the best albums did not get nominated

    VIDEO OF THE YEAR should go to the otherwise useless Big & Rich. “The 8th of November” is a transcendent video

    VOCAL EVENT HONORS ahould go to “Me and God” by Josh & Ralph

  6. I think as a whole, the Gill project is more country than the Underwood or Rascal Flatts albums. Explores different styles of country, but the whole thing sounds pretty darn country to me.

  7. Kevin, the fact that Shania is the biggest star there is the reason she opened and closed the show.
    Shania’ s choice to attend was basically to tell her fans she is working on new music and what she has been up to and catch up with old friends like REba and Vince and Toby.
    Shania calls the shots and does what she wants and she thought she should make an appearance for her fans who are complaining how she is a hermit.
    The ACM’s give her huge special treatment and top billing by letting her open the show and then close it by giving out the biggest award. Everybody knows the world loves Shania.

  8. Vince Gill should have won Album of the Year but since it came out in Oct 2006, that might have been The Reason Why (haha, get it?). No really, if you are a Vince Gill fan this album set has been a long time coming for his fans and he really deserves an award or something for it. He is as country/bluegrass as they come for an artist.

    He is the only artist who can and has pulled off a variety of songs that are darn good!
    He can sing a great country song, bluegrass, Top 40, jazz, and his famous ballads.
    No one else can do what he does and get acknowledged for it.

    The man just does it all – sings, plays the best guitar among many other instruments, writes all his songs and co-writes – he likes to share his experience with others. He is in no way selfish and doesn’t make anything about him……..gotta admire that!!!!!!!!

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