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.


  1. How can you possibly call “If I Die Young” flawed??? Maybe you should go figure out the meaning of the song. It’s deeper than your superficial comment.

  2. I’ll comment more extendedly when I have the time for it, but for now, just a quick question:

    Kevin, I’m curious – What changed your mind about “A Little Big Stronger”?

  3. “How can you possibly call “If I Die Young” flawed???”

    I think the thought process of the song – whether she’s thinking hypothetically about death or kind of expecting it, what the true role of the boy who loves her is (one theory has it that he himself has died), what is the “what I never did” that is now done, the nature of her “words I’ve been singin'” – is muddy, and not in a cool, mysterious way so much as a slightly emotionally disengaging way. Still a strong song with a great chorus, though.

  4. Don’t see how you all can discount Keith as Entertainer!! He has had rave reviews for his tour! He doesn’t need all the stagey stuff that Taylor has going on in her broadway production. Keith is spontaneous, she’s rehearsed to the tee.

  5. The Stevie Nicks Duet with Taylor Swift, I think Taylor gets unfairly blamed for that one. First of all, Stevie Nicks has a horrible voice especially in recent years. If you’ve seen any of her recent performances she sounds a mess ALONE yet she got none of the blame, all the blame was on Taylor. Taylor has had countless duets since that time with many artists and none have gotten horrible reviews, Tim McGraw, Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Usher, etc. Stevie Nicks just gets a free pass when some of that performance was clearly her sounding like a strangled cat, couple that with Taylor’s soft vocals and you get a mess . Yes the grammy performance was bad but it was entirely unfair to put all the blame on a 20 y/o and still to this day, SOME people just can’t let that go. Anyway, it looks like Taylor has moved on quite nicely from that but she was completely unfairly blamed for that ENTIRE grammy performance. Hence, the song MEAN being written and getting her first ever CMA song nomination. she took that pain and turned it into a major success.

    BTW these predictions sound great. I could see most of them happening with the exception of Blake Shelton as EOTY.

  6. I agree with Dan’s points on “If I Die Young” – Those were the reasons I didn’t go with “If I Die Young” for Song of the Year. Still, I do like the song a lot, especially because of the production, so I was fine with supporting it for Single.

  7. Overall, I like some of your picks and appreciate the way you explained them for us.

    FEMALE VOCALIST: But– I am a little shocked that some of you keep saying Taylor Swift “should win” Female Vocalist or even Album of the year. First, she is the weakest link in the genre in terms of vocals, and I think everyone knows that. Second, her album was completely Pop and not all that catchy in terms of songs. Mean annoys the crap out of me as it is basically a song to the critics who dared to tell the truth about her dreadful Grammy performance and bad vocals in general. It is not an anti-bullying song: it is a song that bullies her critics– telling them that if they dare to criticize her, watch out as she will trash them in a song, and they will die alone and losers. To me, the song is utterly childish and spiteful. It shows how far Taylor still needs to grow up as an artist and a person. She is still writing about fairytales and princesses and tween love at age 22. It gets old. I feel like her entire album is one big tween love song, and all the songs sound the same. She needs to get new material.

    Compare Adele’s work at age 21 for her amazing new album to Taylor of the same age. It is like night and day in terms of overall vocal and artistic talent, maturity, and songwriting depth.

    I think Miranda will win as the industry is not done with her yet in terms of award shows. She didn’t do too much in 2011, but she did just enough to justify a win. I love her new album and also the Pistol Annies cd, but I don’t think they are supposed to consider that yet, so Heart Like Mine and Only Prettier, Baggage Claim are the songs to consider.

    Sara Evans had one amazing song this year, but I don’t think she did enough to pull off the win.

    ALBUM OF THE YEAR: I think Brad or Jason deserves to win this by far. Taylor’s Speak Now lacks any big songs with catchy hooks or smash hits like Fearless had. While I did not like Fearless much either, at least it had catchy hooks like Love Story or You Belong With Me, so that gave it some redeeming points. But Speak Now lacks the big hits of Fearless, and it does not deserve Album of the year– particularly when it is a Pop album, not country, as some of you correctly stated.

    ENTERTAINER: For Entertainer– I think Taylor has earned the numbers to win on paper. So I can see her winning that as her tour was massive. But Carrie Underwood’s tour in 2010 was huge too and she wasn’t even nominated since the label was overkill on backing Miranda that year (when she was still an opening act half the year). Anyway, I hope Jason or Brad wins EOTY, but if Taylor wins at least she earned this category.

    Miranda is a great artist and I love her, but she did have a pretty quiet year compared to 2010 when The House That Built Me dominated. However, I think she has done just enough to pull ahead of Taylor for the win in Female Vocalist, since she is a better vocalist then Taylor, and much more country and authentic.

    Carrie Underwood had amazing live performances in 2010 as Tara said– and she is the strongest vocalist in the group, but she had a very quiet 2011 so I agree with the panel here that she has no chance to win this year. She will be back stronger next year with her new album out. She blogged that her album is just about done now so hopefully it will be out in early 2012.

    Video: I love Brad’s “Old Alabama” and If I Die Young is strong too, but I think Mean will win in this category as the video was creative. So give Taylor Video for the win.

    Vocal Collab: I hope either Brad/Alabama win or Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. The Kelly/Jason song is good, but it is kind of on the pop side and I would prefer a more country song winning this category.

  8. oops I meant that Carrie Underwood had amazing live performances in 2011, but she took the year to work on her new album so it was too quiet of a year for her to pull off a win. Next year I would look to Carrie to make a big comeback with her new album, which she said is pretty much finished now.

  9. ^ Sorry, but Taylor’s Grammy fiasco with Stevie Nicks was completely her own fault, and it is very very unfair to blame Stevie Nioks for Taylor’s obvious inadequacies. Taylor has given numerous bad live performances prior to the Grammys. So you cannot pretend that this was a one time flub or a fluke, as Taylor has never been a good live vocalist. If you look at her opening performance at the 2009 CMAs and listen to the live vocals, your ears will hurt it was so bad. There are many many other bad live performances by Taylor too, so it is ridiculous to lay blame on the great Stevie Nicks when the truth is, Taylor has a singer-songwriter’s voice and will never be a good live vocalist. Her strength is songwriting, not singing.

  10. I do agree with Annie that Stevie’s voice has deteriorated over the last several years, largely because of overuse. That was rather evident on the Grammys. So yes, it is neither fair nor completely accurate to place all of the blame on that debacle on Taylor alone.

    The problem, however, is that there were complaints about Taylor’s voice even before that Grammy performance, not to mention all the talk about her use of AutoTune. And compared to female artists like LeAnn Rimes, Brenda Lee, and Linda Ronstadt, all of whom, at Taylor’s current age, were already very high-powered singers, Taylor is a long way behind them. To my ears, she has way too many irritating vocal mannerisms.

    She could very well end up with EOTY honors at the CMAs, but I have to side with Jake here in that I don’t believe she is award material for female vocalist…not yet, anyway.

  11. Well Miranda Fan obviously the music industry disagrees with you that the Grammy performance was ALL her fault. Hence her 5 CMA nominations and a first time nomination for CMA song of the year AFTER the grammy performance. Not to mention billboard just named Taylor Swift Woman of the Year, so no, it wasn’t all her fault and the industry clearly knows that. I think now the only people still complaining about the grammy performance are the people Taylor continues to slay in sales and concert tickets. Jealousy is a bad thing, let it go.

  12. Erik, I know there were complaints about Taylor’s voice before that BUT since that time, she has improved tremendously. Her “Back to December” performance at the 2010 CMA’s was excellent. Her “Mean” Performance at the 2011 ACM’s was excellent. The girl is a SONGWRITER and a singer. Her accolades come with the two combined, if you want somebody who’s robotic and hits every note and doesn’t know how to craft a tune on their OWN, then support a SINGER, not a Singer/SONGWRITER. But it doesn’t mean Taylor shouldn’t be nominated and rewarded for being a success in the music industry.

    Anyway, back to the predictions. I just noticed someone above still harping on this Grammy thing that happened nearly two years ago. Taylor overcame it so lets move on from that.

  13. Kenny Chesney has won several Entertainer trophies, but to me, his live voice is never all that good. Same here with Taylor, she sounds ok on records, but live, she misses pitch a lot. Her voice on the recorded Mean does sound pitchy & screechy at times. I’m saying this to say, it’s about quantity now instead of quality. Big doesn’t always mean the best. These two feel the stadiums, but I don’t agree that they should always receive the Entertainer awards. Chesney won it way too many times because of his party theme. Like some reviewers said, some people at his shows could of cared less who was on stage singing because they were so intoxicated and not to mention the big names he has on tour with him. I’ve noticed Taylor having all these “pop” artist on stage with her on tour. I still feel she is far, far from being anything country! Still money does the talking now…so she make walk off with the trophy, but she has no music that I care to listen to. I’ve seen her show once and that was enough. I thought I was at a Disney production, not a country concert.

  14. I agree with some of the previous people that have replied. Taylor Swift does have a lot of growing up to do. She will need to do it fast or people will start losing interest. It also seems to me that many of these awards are indeed based on quantity vs quality, but that is my own personal opinion. I love the music, but the tones and pitch of various artist are my own loving or hating.

  15. With all due respect Annie, I don’t think it’s impossible to support singers and singer/songwriters at the same time. I mention Linda as a song interpreter regarded by her peers as one of the all-time best; and then there’s the rough-sounding voice and Americana songwriting of Lucinda Williams. The two don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive (IMHO).

    The issue with Taylor, however, is that whole deal about her use of AutoTune to correct pitch problems. When you hear stories of her having to use it as much as she does, it’s only logical for people to ask questions about her vocal capacity. Linda never had that safety net for herself, either in the studio or on stage; she just went into either situation, though well-rehearsed, and knocked those songs of hers out of the ballpark. Taylor could easily do the same, but she seriously needs to work on her vocals. Her songwriting will certainly mature over time, but the Voice is what people tend to remember years and decades later.

  16. I hope Taylor does NOT walk away with entertainer of the year. She hasn’t had the radio success (at country or pop) this era, and the singles have been among her worst to-date (“Mine,” ‘Mean).

    She has the touring numbers, but so do dozens of other country artists. If she deserves the award I think she should be dominating country or pop for the calendar year, neither of which she has conquered this time around.

    It seems the country music voters are over Taylor Swift, in terms of giving her major awards. I don’t see them giving the award to her when she fell out of favor so quickly.

    On the other hand, Jason Aldean has dominated country music for about six months now. He’s smashing with singles, album sales, touring, and digital sales. He has all the bases covered, whereas Taylor does not.

    And, although I know Keith Urban is successful, his nomination the past few years has seemed to be more of a filler slot than a deserving one. If he truly had a chance, why has no one predicted he’ll win the award in the past 3-5 years he’s been nominated? It’s pretty obvious he never has much of a chance to win over his peers in the category.

    And I don’t see where all the love for ZBB is coming from, either. Lsdy A has had a decent era (so far), and they’ve received great promo. ZXB really hasn’t had their breakthrough in country music; I just can’t see voters giving this to them when Lady A is obviously more qualified to win.

  17. @Kevin I couldn’t disagree more with the idea that Taylor’s music got better when she started self penning her music. She is still rehashing a lot of the same ideas and imagery and there’s contradictory and mixed up messages. Like Mean, where Taylor takes a nice anti-bullying message and turns it into a personal vendetta against a critic even though she started out saying she was going to end the cycle.

    @Jonathan I couldn’t disagree more with the idea that Mine+Back To December+Mean > Only Prettier+Heart Like Mine+Baggage Claim. Only Prettier is witty, something Taylor’s songs have never come close to being. Heart Like Mine was solid, Taylor’s never come up with anything close to a line like

    My brother got the brains of the family
    So I thought I’d learn to sing

    Mean has amazing production but lyrically it’s a mess and unlikable. Baggage Claim at least tries to build a song around a metaphor even if it’s a little tortured. At least it sounds fresh and brings something new to country music while still having something about it that’s country.

    Taylor doesn’t deserve Entertainer Of The Year. She made a pop album and her relevance to country music has declined a lot since Fearless. Just because she deigned to make 1 country song on a pop album and is exposed to the country market doesn’t mean she’s actually defined country music. If anything the fact that her label’s had to mount massive 1 week pushes to get her singles to #1 on a manipulated Mediabase country chart before they totally crash and burn is a sign the country world’s going to demand her label continue to pour tons of money into their industry if they’re going to keep supporting her.

    Here’s another interesting fact: Country Aircheck had a list of the top 10 selling country albums from the 3rd quarter of 2011 and Taylor’s wasn’t 1 of them. But, Jason Aldean and Zac Brown Band who did release albums around the same time were. That goes to show how Taylor’s sales were frontloaded but her relevance in 2011 isn’t actually all that great.

    I agree with Kevin in that Jason’s defined the year in country music though that hasn’t been a great thing for country music. But, I can’t see Jason winning because of politics. I can see Taylor winning because they’ve done so much campaigning to remind people about the money she’s able to generate. The nominations are because of that aspect of things. The fact that Blake’s 6 pack can get nominated is also a sign of how important campaigns and politics are to this process. It’d be nice if these awards went back to meaning something but lately they’re just the product of labels and management trying to push a business platform.

    @Karly Zac Brown Band hasn’t had their breakthrough yet? What do you call the double platinum selling Chicken Fried? What do you call the #1 streak they’re on where their singles have all gone to #1 and sold platinum with their album selling platinum too? They’ve actually had the biggest year in country music out of all the groups nominated and they’re making the best music out of all the groups nominated too. They’re headliners in their own right in addition to being the 2nd name on Kenny Chesney’s stadium tour.

    I’m sick of the awards aspect to be honest. Sometimes the people I like or think deserve them win them but a lot of times they don’t. The awards aren’t what’s going to determine the legacy of these people who win. Like, they can give Kenny and Taylor all the awards they want but I don’t think they’ll mean all that much to country music history in the end, not as much as people like Brad, Miranda, Dierks, Carrie, and if things go like I think they could Eric Church.

  18. “ZBB really hasn’t had their breakthrough in country music,” Karly?

    I’m confused. What will it take for them to break through?

  19. If the Song if the Year isn’t one of Perry, Berg-Carter or Brown and Co. then these award shows should be forced to fold their tents and pack it up for good. Seriously, how can materiel as well crafted as one of those three are loose to a screaming 80’s power ballad?

  20. @annie – The performances of Taylor Swift that you mentioned were indeed an improvement from her previous ones, but I wouldn’t call those excellent. Far from it actually, IMO.

  21. Lynn, those performances were excellent to me. In fact, they were so good that a lot of her haters accused her of lip syncing.

    The point is. Singers who know they only know how to sing still try to write songs (granted with a GROUP of real songwriters, but you see them still trying to be songwriters). So if Taylor being a songwriter wants to sing the songs she crafts, she has every right to sing if she so chooses. Singers voices come and go. Whitney Houston (voice pretty much gone), Mirah Carey, etc. But a singer/SONGWRITER will also be working. Perhaps that why singers like a Carrie Underwood try to write songs (even though her best and most successful songs are those she never wrote) as you never know when the voice is going to go with all the screaming and shouting done over the years.

    But I think some people should ONLY SING. You can get further in the industry and be much more consistently successful as a singer if you try not writing your own songs, if writing isn’t what you are blessed at. You’ll know if writing isn’t what you’re blessed with if the songs you write aren’t critically acclaimed or are never nominated for Grammy awards or CMA awards etc.

    Usually if you are a good songwriter you’ll eventually get major nominations for songwriting or at least critical acclaim. If it doesn’t happen over time, move on and stop trying and just pick great songs to sing. That’s what I love about Jason Aldean with “My Kind of Party”. His success is huge right now and the songs he’s singing he didn’t write. Instead he chose to pick great songs and sing them, a bam his most successful era yet.

    I’m sure if Taylor’s music wasn’t selling well and wasn’t critically acclaimed with her SINGING, she would just write. Since she’s a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter why shouldn’t she continue to do both? She’s a proven success at both. That’s all I’m saying. I think it’s dumb for people to use the excuse of her voice for not rewarding her when she is a critically acclaimed consistent success.

  22. @Michael:

    Maybe “breakthrough” wasn’t the right word; I think they’ve made some excellent music, and I’d like to seem them win Vocal Group against Lady Antebellum.

    That said, I don’t see them as big stars just because they’ve had some success. It takes much more than two platinum albums and a few singles on country radio for artists to actually become superstars, in my opinion. It album sales, radio play, touring numbers, and maybe having a huge hit that causes a breakthrough to the general public.

    ZBB has not had a huge hit outside of country music, and I would best most people who don’t listen to country music have no idea who they are. When they become a staple outside of country music, headline their own tour, have a massive hit, and continue to sell multi-platinum albums, I’ll be happy to back them.

    Until then, I’m out.

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