Dave Spencer’s CMA Awards Predictions
I'm not very good at this. I always take SO MANY FACTORS into account and then just KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that that's why HE will win or SHE will win or THEY will win. Oh, how those factors have betrayed me in years past.
But this is 2017--AKA Year Present--and I'm here to once again offer my predictions about who I think will win CMA Awards Wednesday night. I'm gonna stick with the main categories.
By the way, I said WILL win, but I'll also include who I'd like to see win.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
I would love to see one of my all-time favorites, Eric Church, win this award. He's a musician's musician AND a big star. I've seen his performances online and on TV but never in person. And I have to remedy that. He's a master. He's amazing. He's going to lose to Garth Brooks.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
This is tough. Carrie had the biggest radio hits during the eligibility period. Miranda released a monster 24-song, critically acclaimed album called The Weight of These Wings. It's also been called a masterpiece by some. It really is a great album...with a nagging lack of ANYTHING that sounds like a radio hit, not that there's anything WRONG with that. I think the CMA voting body wants to give this one to Miranda whenever they feel it's legit. This year, they can feel comfortable "pulling the lever" for her. As for who I'd like to see win? How about anyone besides Lambert or Underwood, and here's why. NOBODY is coming close to this award in the foreseeable future but these two. NOBODY. So if Kelsea or Maren or Reba is the name in that envelope, it's a MONSTER UPSET at an awards show that rarely features one. Again, though, don't count on it.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Three of these guys (Bentley, Church, Rhett) have never one this award, so there's a 60% chance we'll see a first-timer in the winner's circle...except that it won't happen. Chris Stapleton won it last year and, with the critically-lauded From a Room Vol. 1 released within the eligibility period, he's likely to win again. This category often has repeat winners. But it would be nice to see Eric Church win, and for the reasons stated above.
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Little Big Town
Zac Brown Band
Wow! This category is LOADED with acts that have simply DOMINATED it in the past. Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, and Little Big Town have all enjoyed periods where this one was theirs to lose. Well, after five straight, this Vocal Group award WILL be Little Big Town's to lose...and they'll lose. They had an enormous hit this year with "Better Man" but it wasn't the high-profile faux-controversy-laden mega-smash that "Girl Crush" was. That will leave the door open for Old Dominion to begin its reign. Hey, they've had four huge hits and are about to have a fifth. It's their time. And they're who I'd like to see win. Let's see what happens.
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Good Lord, this is the toughest category of the year! All five of these incredible talents have strong arguments, beginning with the fact that they each have at LEAST two number-one songs to their credit. The future is certainly bright, isn't it? Whoever wins this one will have seriously accomplished a huge victory. I think I'm going to go with the one with the MOST hits, to this point. Old Dominion's four number-one songs are really the only tiebreaker for me. And I don't have a personal dog in this hunt, but I said I'd pick who I'd like to see win so I'll go with the guy who just might be responsible for my favorite song of 2017. That song is called "When It Rains It Pours" and that GUY is called Luke Combs.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
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)
Miranda will win an award she's won twice before and she'll do it for an album the critics liked MORE than the other two. Plus, sheer volume will be difficult to ignore. I mentioned there are 24 cuts on The Weight of These Wings, right? She'll have strong competition from Stapleton, but I think she takes this one. I would, however, love the cultural EARTHQUAKE of a Jason Isbell victory. He's an outsider who LOVES being an outsider. I love his music but recognize that it wouldn't likely work at mainstream country radio because his fans--and he has metric TONS of them--wouldn't probably keep listening to radio station X after his song ended. But if he wins, I'll probably shout. It will be a reflex action.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
"Better Man" by Little Big Town
"Blue Ain't Your Color" by Keith Urban
"Body Like a Back Road" by Sam Hunt
"Dirt on My Boots" by Jon Pardi
"Tin Man" by Miranda Lambert
This award usually goes to the year's biggest hit. That is, without question, Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road." It spent 34 weeks at number one on the Billboard Country Songs chart, vaporizing all previous records. It has sold a GAZILLION downloads. Yes, I'm exaggerating...maybe. It's winning this award and definitely does not NEED to. My preference would be "Dirt on My Boots" by Jon Pardi, a great contemporary country song. And you could emphasize the CONTEMPORARY and COUNTRY aspects of it and that would totally work. "Head Over Boots" may have been Jon's breakthrough, but this one told me he'll make it to the next level.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriters in parentheses)
"Better Man" by Little Big Town (Taylor Swift)
"Blue Ain't Your Color" by Keith Urban (Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, Steven Lee Olsen)
"Body Like a Back Road" by Sam Hunt (Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
"Dirt on My Boots" by Jon Pardi (Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley)
"Tin Man" by Miranda Lambert (Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall)
Wouldn't it be something if Taylor Swift won this thing? After she and country music said their goodbyes a few years ago? Will she even be there Wednesday night? Wouldn't it be something if Thomas Rhett's dad Rhett Akins and his co-writers went to the stage, especially after Akins never got the time of day from awards groups in the 90s? Honestly, I don't believe any of them will need to leave their seats. I think "Tin Man" will be named the CMA Song of the Year and maybe as a message to radio...one that says, "This is really the only shot at a big hit from this album and you know it. So why has it taken 29 weeks to ONLY reach #24 in airplay?" Just sayin'.