SLN STAFF WRITER • OCTOBER 31, 2016 - 3:02 PM
The countdown to “Country Music’s Biggest Night” is on!
As the anticipation for the 50th Annual CMA Awards builds, we’re placing our bets on who some of the night’s biggest winners will be. Sounds Like Nashville Editor-In-Chief, Lauren Black, as well as SLN contributors Annie Reuter and Chuck Dauphin, share their thoughts on six of the top CMA Awards categories, including the night’s biggest honour, Entertainer of the Year, below.
Do you agree with their picks? Tweet us at @soundslikenash and let us know!
Entertainer of the Year
Lauren: Carrie Underwood
Each of the five nominees are worthy of the honour, but I’m hoping to see Underwood take home her first CMA EOTY trophy. Her Storyteller Tour is a true spectacle and she is (and always has been) such a great cheerleader for the Country music genre. Her time is now and I hope that CMA voters see this one through.
Annie: Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood needs no pyrotechnics, choreographed dance moves or fancy lighting work during her headlining tour. The singer could sit on a stool alone with a microphone for 90 minutes and impress concertgoers and she does this at one point in the evening during her massively successful Storyteller Tour. The singer has proved this year that she should be bestowed the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy as her show impresses night after night with her memorable vocals, tales of family and fan interaction. There is no artist more deserving than Carrie Underwood at this year’s CMA Awards.
Chuck: Carrie Underwood
Compelling arguments could be made for all five. Stapleton would be the dark horse, I would think. Some might say ‘All he does is sing.’ Well, in his case, that’s entertaining enough. Urban and Bryan make it look easy, and Garth is…..Garth. But, though I think CMA voters might go the other way in the Female Vocalist field, I think that the Storyteller Tour spoke volumes as to how far Carrie Underwood has come. She deserves it, so that’s my pick.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Lauren: Carrie Underwood
I will truly be shocked if Carrie Underwood doesn’t take home a win in this category. The past year was a stellar year for Carrie as she released a new album, brought several more singles to No.1, and launched a wildly successful tour. Miranda Lambert has dominated this category for the past six years, but I think it’s time for Underwood to re-claim her crown. Plus, it’s been a pretty quiet year for Miranda. CMA voters, please don’t let me down!
Annie: Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood is hands down the best female vocalist of our generation. She can belt those high notes like no other. Have you witnessed her sing ‘Something In the Water’ and then segue into ‘Amazing Grace?’ It’s the most powerful thing I have ever seen in concert and it’s no wonder she chooses to end each show with this memorable performance.
Chuck: Miranda Lambert
This one is getting a little more complicated. First, Kacey Musgraves – though a great artist and critical darling – has not had as strong of a year as she has had in the past. Maren Morris is on her way, she’s got a few ahead of her in this category. Kelsea Ballerini would not surprise me, as I think she’s got a strong chance to become the next new winner in this category. But, you’ve got Miranda Lambert – silent for all but a few weeks of the eligibility period, and Carrie Underwood, who might have delivered the strongest overall year of her career. If there’s any justice, Underwood will reclaim her title this year, but Lambert’s unprecedented string of six wins here speaks volumes – and I think it goes to seven.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Lauren: Chris Stapleton
I think the majority of the industry voters are still on the Chris Stapleton train, so my guess is that he takes this one home for the second year. He’s definitely worthy of the honour!
Annie: Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton has the best voice in country music, no discussion. One minute the man can soulfully belt a lyric and seconds later transition into a whisper. He, much like Carrie Underwood, needs no fanfare in the live setting. Simply his voice, a guitar and microphone is enough to entrance listeners and this showcases why Stapleton is so deserving the recognition of Male Vocalist of the Year.
Chuck: Chris Stapleton
We can talk about this one all day long. McGraw had a sensational year, while Urban and Church kept plowing along. I wouldn’t mind seeing Dierks come away with a long-deserved honor, but Chris Stapleton has had too great of a year for anyone else to be in legitimate contention.
Vocal Group of the Year
Lauren: Rascal Flatts
I am going to go out on a limb with this one. While I think Little Big Town has what it takes to pull off another win, this past year has been pretty quiet for them. Rascal Flatts had quite a year with another stint in Las Vegas, a chart-topping single with “I Like the Sound of That,” and a successful headlining tour. These guys have not won a Vocal Group trophy since 2008. Maybe it’s time they reclaim the prize?!
Annie: Little Big Town
The year of “Girl Crush” may be over but it is far from forgotten. Little Big Town have continued their stint opening for Luke Bryan another year and with good reason: they are some of the best vocalists out there. Little Big Town’s spot-on harmonies send chills up my spine seeing them live and their musicianship coupled with their heartfelt songs and memorable live show continue to make them a force to reckon with.
Chuck: Little Big Town
Little Big Town has had control of this one for a few years now, but it’s been a relatively quiet year for them at radio. Still, I see them as the overall favorites here. Lady A took most of the voting year off, while the Zac Brown Band – for whatever reason – just hasn’t been able to gain a foothold here. I don’t see Old Dominion with enough muscle – despite being on Sony – to seriously contend here, so you come down to Little Big Town, and a former winner in this category, who has had a pretty good year. In the end, I think Little Big Town takes it, but if Rascal Flatts scored a comeback win here, I wouldn’t be too surprised.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Lauren: Florida Georgia Line
While I would love to see Brothers Osborne go home with this trophy, no one seems to come close to Florida Georgia Line. Thanks to the success of “H.O.L.Y.,” the duo’s career was revived this past year. They also saw success with their headlining Dig Your Roots Tour and recently-released album of the same name. Look for FGL to take home their fourth consecutive win in this category.
Annie: Brothers Osborne
Brothers Osborne’s 2016 is one that dreams are made of as the duo released their debut album Pawn Shop and saw their first single ‘Stay A Little Longer’ go to No. 1 on the country charts. The band of brothers — made up of vocalist TJ and lead guitarist John — brought their impressive vocals and guitar slinging to audiences throughout the U.S. this summer with a tour slot opening for Miranda Lambert and several festival dates where they continue to bring their A-game to every show. Brothers Osborne are the most unique duo in this category. Don’t believe me? Just give that killer guitar solo in ‘Stay A Little Longer’ another listen.
Chuck: Florida Georgia Line
While I will admit to being a little partial to Maddie & Tae’s airtight harmonies, they will have to be a little steady at radio before they can really compete here. Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne are having hits, but aren’t there yet. Joey+Rory would be a great story, but at the end of the day, nobody is having the success that FGL is enjoying, and I see another win for Brian and Tyler here.
Album of the Year
Lauren: Black, Dierks Bentley
This is one of the night’s toughest categories to predict! Each of these albums is truly deserving of the honour, so it’s hard to pick just one. I think this category is going to come down to Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood and Dierks Bentley’s Black, but I think the commercial success of Black will push this one over the edge. It’s been a monumental year for Bentley, so this will just be the icing on the cake for the Arizona native.
Annie: Storyteller, Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood’s fifth studio album, Storyteller, continues to exemplify her staying power and showcases why she is one of the most revered singers within the genre. The 13-track album is chock full of unique storylines, be it a cheating spouse, a girl on the run or a woman suffering from domestic abuse. In between the dark tales, Underwood’s happy home life plays out on songs like ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted.’ A versatile release, with three back-to-back No. 1 songs and her latest single ‘Dirty Laundry’ swiftly climbing the charts, Underwood is on fire and is most deserving of the Album of the Year win.
Chuck: Mr. Misunderstood, Eric Church
I don’t really see one clear-cut winner here. Carrie and Dierks’s projects have the biggest bang for their buck as far as radio hits are concerned, and Maren picked up a lot of fans and critical acclaim with her disc. I think Keith Urban pushed the boundaries of the format more than ever before with Ripcord, but I think that the pure genius of Eric Church surprisingly releasing his disc the week of the CMA Awards last year will give him his second win in this category – that, and it was a fine album, as well.
The 50th Annual CMA Awards, hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 8/7c. Click HERE to view a complete list of CMA Awards nominees.
50th Annual CMA Awards: What To Expect
The anticipation for “Country Music’s Biggest Night” is higher than ever before. Not only will we celebrate 50 years of country music, but many major players in the genre will return to the show for the first time in years. Rumour has it we’ll see some of the best classic acts mixed in with the newest rising superstars — it doesn’t get any better than that! Plus, co-host Carrie Underwood will don 11 different dresses (yes, ELEVEN!), some of which will pay tribute to decades past. The 50th annual CMA Awards air live Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 8/7c on ABC but until then, find out what we’re looking forward to seeing!
Superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood are slated to host the CMA Awards for the ninth consecutive year. This year, we celebrate 50 years of Country Music history and we have no doubt the duo have an extraordinary night planned. Be sure to tune in to the show immediately at 8/7c to watch their monologue. It’s always a highlight of the show!
Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Charley Pride, Reba, George Strait, Kelsea Ballerini, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Maren Morris, Eric Church, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Clark, Clint Black, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Nettles, Martina McBride, Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Elle King, Pentatonix, and Dwight Yoakam will all take the stage during the star-studded evening. From what we hear, there will be some epic pairings of the artists of “then” and “now,” so don’t miss a second of the show!
While most of the performers are country acts, a number of the night’s presenters come from outside of the genre. The list of stars range anywhere from athletes to actors, and everyone in between. Presenters for the 50th annual CMA Awards include the “Final Five” Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman; three-time CMA Award winner and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson; 2016 CMA Awards nominee Cam; Josh Dallas, best known for his role of Prince Charming/David Nolan on ABC’s Once Upon A Time; Actress Jennifer Garner; three-time CMA Award winner Lee Greenwood; ESPNCollege GameDay’s Kirk Herbstreit; Country Music Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee; four-time CMA Award winner Barbara Mandrell; NFL Legend Peyton Manning; actor Matthew McConaughey; Wendi McLendon-Covey and Hayley Orrantia from ABC’s The Goldbergs; 1974 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Olivia Newton-John; two-time CMA Award winners and Country Music Hall of Fame members The Oak Ridge Boys; ESPN’s Samantha Ponder; actress Sharon Stone; 2016 CMA Awards nominee Cole Swindell; and actress Lily Tomlin.
Most Anticipated Moments:
We anticipate a huge tribute to the past 50 years of country music during Wednesday night’s telecast. If the “Forever Country” song, featuring 30 major artists, is any indication, we’re in for a real treat!
Winners: This year’s competition is more fierce than ever before! Who will take home the trophies on Wednesday? Only time will tell! Until then, check out our CMA Awards predictions HERE.
The 50th Annual CMA Awards airs 8:00-11:00 PM/ET on We from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
CMA Awards: Who should win (and who will)
Dave Paulson , email@example.com 10:50 a.m. CDT November 1, 2016
CMA Awards 50/50: Proud to Be An American
VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Proud to Be An American | 2:42
Lee Greenwood and Brooks & Dunn remember two patriotic performances and a sitting U.S. president attends the CMA Awards for the first time.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050 “All Around the Country” | 2:37
Jason Aldean talks about opening the 2012 CMA Awards with Eric Church and Luke Bryan and Dolly Parton discusses a collaboration with Vince Gill of her most iconic song.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050 Its All New to Me Pt. 3 | 2:30
Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker and Randy Travis (with wife Mary) recount what it was like to win the coveted CMA Horizon/New Artist of the Year Award.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50 for 50 Entertain 'Em Blake CMA | 2:14
Blake Shelton reveals what it means to him to win his first Entertainer of the Year Award nearly a decade after his first appearance on the CMA Awards. Country Music Association
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Brett Eldredge 'It’s All New To Me' | 2:15
Brett Eldredge talks about freaking out so much about winning the CMA New Artist of the Year that he thought he lost his award backstage. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Martina McBride's emotional win | 0:00
The country star looks back on her 2002 win for Female Vocalist of the Year.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50:Where Do You Keep Your CMA Award | 1:17
CMA Award winners discuss where they keep their CMA awards.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50 “Nothing Like the First Time” | 1:02
Chris Young, Tanya Tucker, Little Big Town and Trace Adkins remember that feeling of their first appearance.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Lyrical Moments with Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally | 3:01
Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally talk about their unlikely win for CMA Song of the Year.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Abscence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder | 2:50
Tanya Tucker was in the hospital after giving birth to her son when she won CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and George Jones was nowhere to be found when his name was called for Vocal Event of the Year, so his wife Nancy accepted on his behalf.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Superwomen from Reba McEntire to Trisha Yearwood | 1:54
Reba talks about paving the way for strong women winning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and Trisha Yearwood describes the feeling of winning the same category as one of her childhood heroes.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Group effort wins | 2:41
Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers and Lady Antebellum recall winning the CMA Vocal Group of the Year Award. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Record Breakers: Vocal Duo of the Year | 2:03
With 14 Vocal Duo of the Year Awards under their belt, Brooks & Dunn hold the record for the most wins in any one category at the CMA Awards. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn talk about how they never took the honor for granted.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Class of 1994 Martina McBride, Tim McGraw | 3:33
Future superstars Martina McBride, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill all made their CMA Awards debut in 1994. They all look back on that night and talk about what it was like as a young performer stepping onto that stage for the first time.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Men of Honor with Blake Shelton, George Strait | 2:41
George Strait and Blake Shelton talk about winning the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Award for the first time. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Iconic Moments with Reba McEntire and Little Big Town | 3:25
Deana Carter talks about her big leap, Reba explains the red dress, and Little Big Town thanks a higher power in these memorable moments from CMA Awards history.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050: Entertain em Alabama | 1:29
Country’s original supergroup discusses winning CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1982, the first win for group in that category. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050: Brad Paisley From Horizon to Entertainer | 2:09
Brad Paisley remembers winning the Horizon Award (now New Artist of the Year) and going on to win Entertainer of the Year.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Put That Record On | 2:43
Jason Aldean, Ronnie Milsap and Randy Travis remember winning CMA Album of the Year. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050: Oops! (Unscripted Moments) | 1:31
Alan Jackson remembers when he made a split second decision to honor his musical hero on the 1999 CMA Awards.
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 5050: Record Breakers Female Vocalist of the Year | 1:20
Miranda Lambert talks about holding the record for most consecutive and most total CMA Female Vocalist of the Year wins. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Record Breakers Vince Gill | 3:40
Vince Gill has won the most CMA Song of the Year Awards in history. He talks about how that award is more special to him than any other. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: Keith Urban From Horizon to Entertainer | 3:19
Only six artists in CMA Awards history have won the Horizon/New Artist of the Year Award and gone on to win Entertainer of the Year. Keith Urban shares his journey from up-and-comer to superstar. CMA
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VIDEOS: CMA AWARDS 50 FOR 50CMA Awards 50/50: The Day the World Stopped | 3:16
Alan Jackson remembers the night he debuted the poignant “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” on the 2001 CMA Awards, just two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks. CMA
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CMA Awards 50/50: Proud to Be An American
CMA Awards 5050 “All Around the Country”
CMA Awards 5050 Its All New to Me Pt. 3
CMA Awards 50 for 50 Entertain 'Em Blake CMA
CMA Awards 50/50: Brett Eldredge 'It’s All New To Me'
CMA Awards 50/50: Martina McBride's emotional win
CMA Awards 50/50:Where Do You Keep Your CMA Award
CMA Awards 50/50 “Nothing Like the First Time”
CMA Awards 50/50: Lyrical Moments with Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally
CMA Awards 50/50: Abscence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
CMA Awards 50/50: Superwomen from Reba McEntire to Trisha Yearwood
CMA Awards 50/50: Group effort wins
CMA Awards 50/50: Record Breakers: Vocal Duo of the Year
CMA Awards 50/50: Class of 1994 Martina McBride, Tim McGraw
CMA Awards 50/50: Men of Honor with Blake Shelton, George Strait
CMA Awards 50/50: Iconic Moments with Reba McEntire and Little Big Town
CMA Awards 5050: Entertain em Alabama
CMA Awards 5050: Brad Paisley From Horizon to Entertainer
CMA Awards 50/50: Put That Record On
CMA Awards 5050: Oops! (Unscripted Moments)
CMA Awards 5050: Record Breakers Female Vocalist of the Year
CMA Awards 50/50: Record Breakers Vince Gill
CMA Awards 50/50: Keith Urban From Horizon to Entertainer
CMA Awards 50/50: The Day the World Stopped
(Photo: Larry McCormack / Tennessean.com)
The competition is friendly but fierce at Wednesday's Country Music Association Awards, which air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. Here are our picks for who will take home the night's top prizes — and the performers who also deserve the recognition.
Entertainer of the Year
Will win: Luke Bryan/Garth Brooks
Should win: Carrie Underwood
The concert industry makes up a huge portion of the CMA voter base, and no one’s ruled that world like Brooks and Bryan in the last year. Since returning to the road 2014, Brooks is closing in on 5 million tickets sold. On the other hand, Bryan has the momentum of winning the award for the last two years – and an endless string of modern hits.
But an Underwood win is beyond long overdue. Not just for the singer – who’s been one of the genre’s most recognizable stars for a decade now – but for female performers in general. Much has been made of modern country music being unfairly dominated by its male stars, and considering that Underwood has somehow neverbeen nominated for Entertainer of the Year before, it’s hard to argue.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Will win: Chris Stapleton
Should win: Dierks Bentley
If you’ve heard him wail “Sometimes I Cry” in concert, it’s hard to imagine the incredible Stapleton losing any award with “vocalist” in the title. But as a performer and ambassador for the genre, Bentley has been a steadfast star, and one that continues to take risks that pay off like the uncharacteristic hit "Somewhere on a Beach."
Female Vocalist of the Year
Will and should win: Carrie Underwood
Despite some formidable competition, Underwood seems like a shoe-in for this award, especially since longtime winner Miranda Lambert had a relatively quiet year.
New Artist of the Year
Will win: Kelsea Ballerini
Should win: Maren Morris
This category’s truly a toss-up. Few newcomers in recent memory seem as poised to be a longtime star as Ballerini, who’s had three consecutive No. 1 hits, including the stellar “Peter Pan.” But in terms of bringing something “new” to the table, Morris has no peer in the category. Her “Hero” album mixed a reverence for classic country and a penchant for modern pop hooks, and made her one of the night’s top nominees. If there’s a category for her to win, this is it.
Song of the Year
Will and should win: “Humble and Kind,” Lori McKenna
The Tim McGraw hit is universally adored by the industry, and the melody and message (to “always stay humble and kind”) penned by McKenna clicked with millions of listeners and turned into an anthem for its singer.
Single of the Year
Will and should win: “Die a Happy Man,” Thomas Rhett
A winning blend of sentimental songwriting, slick production and a smooth vocal from Thomas Rhett. “Die a Happy Man” topped the country charts, earned critical raves and picked up a similar award from the Academy of Country Music earlier this year.
Album of the Year
Will win: “Storyteller,” Carrie Underwood
Should win: “Mr. Misunderstood,” Eric Church
“Storyteller” has the commercial success and admirable sonic cohesion, but with “Mr. Misunderstood,” Church turned his album into event. Its surprise release — revealed during last year’s CMAs — is a move that pop stars have pulled for years now, but few country acts are daring to attempt.
Vocal Group of the Year
Will and should win: Little Big Town
The beloved country quartet have owned this award since 2012, and despite Old Dominion breathing new life into a category that’s always in need of it, we’re betting the streak will continue.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Will and should win: Florida Georgia Line
They have their share of detractors, but Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have been very, very good for the country music business. The duo has packed arenas, performed for millions and just went double platinum with their single “H.O.L.Y.”