Predicting the 51st Annual CMA Awards

See who we think the industry will chose for the 2017 edition of the CMA Awards!

This Year is a year in which Miranda Lambert leads all nominees with 5 nominations while Little Big Town and Keith Urban have four nominations. Below are my predictions for who will win the CMA Awards this year based on not who I think deserves the award the most but who the voting CMA electorate is most likely to choose.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Keith Urban
  • Eric Church
  • Chris Stapleton

While the argument since the nominations were announced has been about the lack of a female artists, particularly Miranda Lambert or Little Big Town, in this category, the top category of the CMA Awards night does feature artists who all had strong years themselves in multiple ways. Garth won the award last year and could very well win it again this year while Luke Bryan has joined Garth and Kenny Chesney as superstars who were never Male Vocalist of the Year winners but often winners in this category (he won the two years before Garth). Urban, who has won this category before (2005) also has won the male vocalist of the year award (2004-2006) in the past. Stapleton has won the male vocalist award two years running while Church has been nominated here before but never won. What does all of this mean? Well, it means all are bonafide contenders but odds are that this one will go to Garth, Eric or Chris and since Garth has continued to entertain folks at multiple shows across the country -- at good ticket prices -- and scored a pair of hits and THREE Successful projects in the past year (his Target Box Set, Gunslinger  and the Garth and Trisha Yearwood Christmas project), he certainly has helped make people aware of country music more. Eric and Chris both are fantastic entertainers and Church does a Garth-like show of 3 hours of entertainment each night while Stapleton continues to sell out everywhere. What does all of this mean? well...

Predicted Winner: Garth Brooks

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
Reba McEntire
  • Maren Morris
  • Carrie Underwood

Last year saw Carrie Underwood finally reclaim this one from Miranda Lambert and a case could be made for her to retain the award this year but she did have a relatively quiet year. Lambert leads all nominees this year, has one of the best albums of the year (a risk-taking double album centered around her vulnerability after divorcing Blake Shelton) and while great to see Kelsea and Maren still in this category along with the returning Reba (who has the second-best-selling album of these nominees after Miranda), it's just too obvious to me that Miranda Lambert will take home this award.

Predicted winner: Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

The bigger story could be who is NOT in this category but in a genre dominated by male voices there are just too many artists to fit in the category. As such, Chris Stapleton has won this two years running while Keith Urban (as noted above) has won this three other times in the past. As for Dierks, Thomas Rhett and Eric Church, well, neither has won here though Thomas Rhett did win the this category at the ACM Awards this past spring. Honestly, he's the biggest challenger to Chris Stapleton but until Stapleton is beat, I'm going to bet that he'll win here. Esecially since he's still beloved by everyone in the genre and has the year's best-selling album so far.

Predicted Winner: Chris Stapleton

New Artist of the Year

  • Luke Combs
  • Old Dominion
  • Jon Pardi
  • Brett Young
  • Lauren Alaina

This category -- once called the Horizon Award -- features artists who have made a commercial impact in the year in which they've been nominated (while not being eligible if nominated for Album, Single, Song or Entertainer before). That means Old Dominion can be nominated here again as they weren't up for any other awards. They lost last year to Maren Morris and this year they could lose again as they are joined by four other break out stars. Alaina's the only female to have two #1 hits this year (though one is a feature with Kane Brown), while Combs, Pardi and Young all have multiple and very popular hits. That being said, Old Dominion launched a second album which hit #1 (Pardi did too) and have had 3/4 of their official singles under RCA score #1 (the other one, "Snapback", hit #2 on Billboard). The band is one of country's most-popular bands and that leads them to be the front runner here and the act that will win, though Pardi, Combs and Young all will help make this the toughest category to call this year but call It I shall.

Predicted winner: Old Dominion

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Dan+Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Brothers Osborne

There's really only two artists likely to win here though Both Dan+Shay and LOCASH have had successful years (while talented, Maddie & Tae are in between albums and basically fill the slot held by Joey+Rory last year). That means this award is down to last year's surprise winners Brothers Osborne and superstar duo Florida Georgia Line (who won it the three years before BR.OS.). FGL had a huge tour, continued success at radio and sales but Brothers Osborne's year was even bigger than last years with their hit "It Ain't My Fault" becoming their signature single. Given voting alliances, I'm going to call this for...

Predicted winner: Brothers Osborne

Vocal Group of the Year

Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

This is Little Big Town's award to lose as they've won the past five years and continue to have massive success (with "Better Man" being one of their biggest hits yet). Every band here has scored big hits and nominations and one of these years Zac Brown Band should win this award (they've been nominated since 2010 and never have won) while Lady A and Rascal Flatts are multiple winners. The biggest upset would be Old Dominion stealing this from Little Big Town but that's just unlikely to happen.

Predicted winner: Little Big Town

Single of the Year (Award goes to the artist, producer(s), and mix engineer(s))

“Better Man” – Little Big Town; Producer(s): Jay Joyce; Mix Engineer(s): Jason Hall, Jay Joyce
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban; Producer(s): Dann Huff, Keith Urban; Mix Engineer(s): Chris Lord-Alge
“Body Like A Back Road” – Sam Hunt; Producer(s): Zach Crowell; Mix Engineer(s): Zach Crowel
  • “Dirt On My Boots” – Jon Pardi; Producer(s): Bart Butler, Jon Pardi; Mix Engineer(s): Ryan Gore
  • “Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert; Producer(s): Frank Liddell, Eric Masse, Glenn Worf; Mix Engineer(s): Eric Masse

This one has to go to Sam Hunt's record-breaking single, doesn't it? It's all he released this year but in addition to how long it dominated the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the single also broke through on multiple airplay charts (a true Pop crossover hit). Little Big Town's or Urban's singles are likely the next best choices but it's likely too many UMG singles for their staff to vote for (Pardi is #TeamUMG too) but there's likely enough non-affiliated votes to give Hunt the edge though Better Man and Blue still feel like better SINGLE choices than Tin Man, a song which is still struggling on the charts (probably because it's a ballad and from a solo female over anything else).

Predicted winner: "Body Like A Back Road" - Sam Hunt

Album of the Year (Award goes to the artist and producer(s))

  • The Breaker – Little Big Town; Producer(s): Jay Joyce

From A Room: Volume 1 – Chris Stapleton; Producer(s): Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton
Heart Break-Lady Antebellum; Producer(s): busbee
  • The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; Producer(s): Dave Cobb
  • The Weight of These Wings – Miranda Lambert; Producer(s): Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf, Eric Masse

Miranda Lambert always wins when she's nominated for this category at the ACM awards but has only won this one twice before (Revolution and Platinum). That alone gives new CMA favorite Chris Stapleton a shot at winning this award with his second album (which is the year's best-seller). They're really the only real contenders here but it is awesome to see Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's The Nashville Sound with a surprise nomination. There's not enough to suggest that record has any shot here (it's also the lowest seller though it has outsold many mainstream artists by a wide margin). The Weight Of These Wings remains a triumphant collection, a record Miranda Lambert has been building up to and the obvious choice to win here.

Predicted winner: The Weight Of These Wings - Miranda Lambert

Song of the Year (Award goes to the songwriter(s))

  • “Better Man” — Songwriter(s): Taylor Swift
  • “Blue Ain’t Your Color” — Songwriter(s): Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, Steven Olsen
  • “Body Like A Back Road” — Songwriter(s): Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne
  • “Dirt On My Boots” — Songwriter(s): Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley
  • “Tin Man” — Songwriter(s): Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall

This is Taylor Swift's award to lose. It's a classic Swift song and does deserve the nomination here and for Single. This one, which goes to songwriters, could -- however -- go to Lambert and company for "Tin Man." That song and Tin Man basically tell a story of different men who end up feeling very similar. Blue Ain't Your Color is the third one here and while "Body" is a single leader, It's hard to see it or "Dirt" having a shot here.

Predicted Winner: Better Man - Taylor Swift (As performed by Little Big Town)

Musical Event of the Year (Award goes to each artist)

Craving You – Thomas Rhett (feat. Maren Morris)
Funny How Time Slips Away – Glen Campbell with Willie Nelson
  • Kill A Word – Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens)
  • Setting the World on Fire – Kenny Chesney (with P!nk)
  • Speak to a Girl — Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Award voting bodies love giving awards to people who pass away, especially icons. So how could I predict anything but "Funny How Time Slips Away" from the Late Great Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson. The others are all good to great songs but this award belongs to Glen and Willie.

Predicted Winner:"Funny How Time Slips Away" - Glen & Willie

Music Video of the Year

“Better Man,” Little Big Town
  • “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban
  • “Craving You,” Thomas Rhett ft. Maren Morris
“Vice,” Miranda Lambert
  • “It Ain’t My Fault,” Brothers Osborne

These are all great videos, seriously they are. But "It Ain't My Fault" is my favorite although Keith Urban could get a consolation prize here for a song that in many other years would win single and song of the year honors.

Predicted Winner: "It Ain't My Fault" - Brothers Osborne

Musician Of The Year (Award goes to the musician)

Jerry Douglas (Dobro)
  • Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
  • Dann Huff (Guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (Guitar)
  • Derek Wells (Guitar)

Douglas, Huff and McAnally have all won this one before with Huff winning it over 8 time winner McAnally last year. It'd be awesome to see Paul Franklin finally win but he's likely to lose this one to McAnally or Huff.

Predicted Winner: Mac McAnally


There you have it! Who do you think will win?