The nominees for this year’s CMA Awards include a bunch of the usual suspects and some noteworthy newcomers like Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt. Here are our predictions for who will take home the top honors at tonight’s show.
New Artist of the Year – Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt’s had a big year. His unorthodox sound and smash single, “Take Your Time” have propelled Sam Hunt to the forefront of the country mainstream. With all the love he’s been getting from fans and within the industry, I think it’s a safe bet he’ll take home the New Artist of the Year Award. Hunt is proving to be a commercial powerhouse, and a hit with the industry’s target female audience.
Musical Event of the Year – “Raise ‘Em Up”, Keith Urban and Eric Church
“Raise ‘Em Up” was the strongest collaboration of all the nominees this year. It’s a good song with a cool video, and Church and Urban are a solid duet pairing. Blake Shelton’s duet with Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight” is another strong contender for this award, but we’re betting “Raise ‘Em Up” takes the cake.
Song of the Year – “Girl Crush” Little Big Town
Little Big Town hit a home run with “Girl Crush”. The song had a record run at No. 1, and it quickly proved to be a fan favorite. It was also one of the most controversial songs of the year. Some radio stations threatened to pull the song from rotation due to listener complaints that song was about lesbianism; however, that controversy was likely fabricated. All that aside, the song itself is a lush, bare-bones arrangement that sounds like something Jeff Buckley would’ve recorded in his prime.
Single of the Year – “Girl Crush”, Little Big Town
Yup, “Girl Crush” crushed it, spending 13 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” had a strong year too, but “Girl Crush” had the record run. Plus, it’s a really, really good song.
Album of the Year – Traveller, Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton’s debut album is about as solid a debut album as an artist can hope to create. Start to finish, each track is filled with soulful, authentic country that demands repeat listening. While the album hasn’t gotten much love from country radio, it’s a critics pick across the board. We’re betting Traveller gets the most votes.
Music Video of the Year – “Girl in a Country Song”, Maddie & Tae
Bro-country is waning fast, and this song and video had a part to play in its decline. Newcomers Maddie & Tae offer up a humorous and refreshing retort to the bros’ demand for tan-legged Juliets and drunken, late-night rendezvouses by the river.
Vocal Duo of the Year – Maddie & Tae
Maddie & Tae had a strong breakout year, and they’re a strong model of what younger female artists can accomplish in the industry. More importantly, their harmonies are air-tight, and lean more towards traditional country harmonies, which is where a lot of the collective country sound seems to be heading.
Vocal Group of the Year – Little Big Town
Little Big Town’s Painkiller was chock full of gorgeous harmonies and soaring vocals, and their single “Girl Crush” is a masterclass in subdued yet powerful harmonies.
Male Vocalist of the Year – Chris Stapleton
Have you heard him sing? I mean, c’mon! This guy sounds like the grizzled pupil of both a 60’s Motown soul singer and a growling country legend. His voice is full of authenticity and conviction, and it will instantly affect you when you hear it.
Female Vocalist of the Year – Carrie Underwood
2015 was another big year for Carrie Underwood. Her single “Something in the Water” displayed her powerhouse vocals that prove time and time again to be a hit with her fans. Underwood is the queen of crowd-pleasing, bombastic country singing, and with her newly-released Storyteller, she’s not showing any signs of stepping down anytime soon.
Entertainer of the Year – Garth Brooks
Yes, Garth Brooks is still the best. His new album was meh, but his 2015 concerts have proved yet again that he’s the best entertainer in the biz. He’s been selling arena after arena across the country, proving fans are still clamoring to watch him play. Why? The guy knows how to entertain a crowd of thousands with just his presence. You can’t teach that.