51st Annual CMA Awards Predictions

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This year’s list of CMA Awards nominees are full of surprises and a few shoe-ins. A few new names are on the ballots and couple that haven’t been on the ballot in a while are there– Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire. But, who’s actually going to walk away with a trophy or two?

51st Annual CMA Awards Predictions:


Garth Brooks
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Who will win: Garth Brooks or Keith Urban
Who should win: Keith Urban

As Brooks wraps up his 3-year comeback tour, he recently learned that he sold over 6 million tickets over the course of 364 shows. On top of that, he played a couple of surprise shows, gave away a ton of stuff to fans, started his own weekly show on Facebook, plus about a dozen other things.

However, Urban had one of the best years of his career coming off the success of his GRAMMY-nominated Ripcord album. His Ripcord Tour was a worldwide success and considering the award is supposed to go to, the act with the most “overall contribution to the Country Music image,” I think it’s Urban’s to lose. Urban is the most gracious entertainer on planet Earth (second is definitely Brooks) and everything he does is to benefit others.

(Award goes to Artist, Producer(s), and Mix Engineer(s))
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” // Keith Urban
“Better Man” // Little Big Town
“Body Like A Back Road” // Sam Hunt
“Dirt On My Boots” // Jon Pardi
“Tin Man” // Miranda Lambert

Who will win: “Body Like a Back Road”
Who should win: “Body Like a Back Road”

It kind of pains me to say this, but “Body Like A Back Road” is the obvious choice here. The tune spent 34 weeks atop Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs Chart and has broken every streaming record ever for country music. It also peaked at No. 6 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart, which is usually reserved for acts like Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift.

Blue Ain’t Your Color” // Hillary Lindsey, Clint Lagerberg, Steven Lee Olson
“Better Man” // Taylor Swift
“Body Like a Back Road” // Zach Crowell, Josh Osborne, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally
“Dirt on My Boots” // Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley
Tin Man” // Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall

Who will win: “Blue Ain’t Your Color” or “Better Man”
Who should win: “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

Historically, the Song of the Year winner at the NSAI Awards is a good predictor for CMA Song of the Year too. The two most recent breaks were 2014’s NSAI win for Miranda Lambert and “Automatic” and 2012’s NSAI win for Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which I cannot explain. “Automatic” did win Single of the Year at the CMA Awards in 2014 though, so it mostly still adds up.

This year, you guessed it– “Blue Ain’t Your Color” won NSAI Song of the Year. However, I think “Better Man” and the fact that Taylor Swift wrote it by herself has a good shot at winning. Lori McKenna was the lone writer on last year’s Song of the Year winner, “Humble and Kind.” Songwriters really respect and admire solo writers.

The Breaker // Little Big Town
From A Room: Vol. 1 // Chris Stapleton

Heart Break //
Lady Antebellum

The Nashville Sound //
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

The Weight of These Wings //
Miranda Lambert

Who will win: The Weight of These Wings or The Nashville Sound
Who should win: The Weight of These Wings or The Nashville Sound

Two of Lambert’s previous five studio albums have won the award for Album of the Year, with a nomination coming for a third in 2012. The Weight of These Wings is an actual musical masterpiece when analyzing the guts of it– 24 songs, one solo write and more vulnerability and honesty than just about any other country music album before it.

The longshot in this category is Isbell’s The Nashville SoundThe Nashville Sound, you’ll recall that in 2015 Chris Stapleton’s Traveller was a little out of the box for mainstreamers. Isbell’s biggest competition will likely come from past remarks he’s made about country music and CMA, which might not have sat well with voters.

Country Air Podcast, Episode 13: 51st Annual CMA Awards Predictions


Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris
Reba McEntire
Carrie Underwood

Who will win: Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood
Who should win: Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood

Honestly, this is the strongest this category has been in years. Ballerini, Morris and McEntire had phenomenal years, but still probably haven’t quite reached Lambert or Underwood’s status. (Obviously, McEntire has, but you know– this is kind of her comeback.)

What fans need to remember this year is that, yes, Lambert released an album and toured, but Carrie was still on tour for some of the voting period and she had a couple of No. 1 radio singles during this time. This is also the first year the two are representing different record labels and therefore, different voting blocks. (This is also why Morris doesn’t have a real shot– she’s on a label with Lambert.)

Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Who will win: Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton
Who should win: Keith Urban

Each of these guys had a big year and it really could be anybody’s trophy to win. However, I don’t think Bentley or Church are in the running.

Rhett snuck away with the award at the ACMs, but I think this one is between Urban and Stapleton when it’s all said and done. For the same reasons Urban should win Entertainer of the Year, I see him winning Male Vocalist. Stapleton did release an album this year though. That always comes into play.


Lauren Alaina
Luke Combs
Old Dominion
Jon Pardi
Brett Young

Who will win: Old Dominion or Jon Pardi
Who should win: Jon Pardi

This category is always a tough one because each artist has several reasons that they could and should win. I think a lot of industry folks are big fans of Old Dominion, but Pardi’s success and old school country commitment is hard to ignore. This one could go a lot of different ways, but I think it’ll be between OD, Pardi and Alaina.


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

Who will win: Old Dominion or Little Big Town
Who should win: Old Dominion or Little Big Town

People love LBT– they launched a successful album, held down the Ryman and are basically everywhere country music is or should be. But, if there was ever going to be a year for an upset, it would be this one.

Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

Who will win: Brothers Osborne or Florida Georgia Line
Who should win: Brothers Osborne or Florida Georgia Line

After Brothers Osborne upset FGL for the trophy last year, I kind of thought FGL would take the trophy back this year, but if you look at the other categories, I’m not sure they will. FGL’s collaborations with the Backstreet Boys and Tim McGraw were ignored for Vocal Event of the Year and their ultra-successful Dig Your Roots album didn’t make the cut either. To be fair, the Brothers only have one other nomination for Video 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 Pink
“Speak to a Girl” // Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Who will win: “Funny How Time Slips Away” or “Kill A Word”
Who should win: “Kill A Word”

This is the least competitive category ever, maybe. Voters could choose to honor Campbell after his passing, but without a doubt, “Kill A Word” is not only the best collaboration of the year, it’s one of the best songs of the year and should’ve been in contention for Song of the Year.


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

Who will win: “Vice” or “Better Man” or “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
Who should win:

This one is a tough one. It kind of just depends what you’re looking for a video. “Better Man,” “Vice,” and “Blue Ain’t Your Color” were super artistic. “Craving You” and “It Ain’t My Fault” had high production value.

I think “Vice” edges it out in the end.

The 51st Annual CMA Awards, which will grace the stage live from Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 8(8:00-11:00 PM/ET) on the ABC Television Network. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood co-host for the 10th consecutive year.