09 September 2009

2009 CMA Nominations

It's that time again. Today, the Country Music Association released the final nominees for the 11 November awards show telecast. As others have already noted, there aren't any real surprises to be found. Here are the categories, nominees and a handful of observations:

Entertainer of the Year
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Taylor Swift
Keith Urban

Congratulations to Taylor Swift for earning her nomination in the top category. I think she's surprised everyone with her career so far by completely shattering the expectations of a teenage girl in the country field. She writes her own material, plays her own guitar and clearly has a strong sense of what she wants to do with her career. Kudos.

Female Vocalist
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

At first glance, I wonder how many voters will cast a vote for Underwood here, suspecting that Swift should be content to be recognized as an EOY nom. Radio-wise, each had a strong presence this year but Swift was on tour behind a top-selling album while Underwood coasted off the tail-end of her 2007 release. This should go to Swift.

Male Vocalist
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Darius Rucker
George Strait
Keith Urban

Is George Strait nominated? Then he should win. That's my philosophy. For those who don't have such an unshakable allegiance to King George, Brad Paisley has emerged as a bonafide superstar this past year or so and should probably walk away with this.

New Artist
Randy Houser
Jamey Johnson
Jake Owen
Darius Rucker
Zac Brown Band

I'm told each of these artists/acts is very talented and offers much to the field. I can't say I've gotten around to exploring their material.

Vocal Group
Eagles
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

Eagles? Really? Two years after their country-marketed album and they're still on the ballot? Not that it matters, anyway: Rascal Flatts continues to win this.

Vocal Duo
Big & Rich
Brooks & Dunn
Joey & Rory
Montgomery Gentry
Sugarland

I love Joey & Rory's debut album and I hope they have a long career. Speaking of long careers, Brooks & Dunn are calling it quits and one wonders whether they'll win what for so long was jokingly called the Brooks & Dunn Award one last time. But the truth of the matter is, Sugarland has done everything a duo can do this past year and it should be theirs.

Single of the Year
(Award goes to artist and producer.)
“Chicken Fried”
Zac Brown Band
Producer: Keith Stegall
Atlantic Records

“I Run to You”
Lady Antebellum
Producers: Victoria Shaw and Paul Worley
Capitol Records Nashville

“In Color”
Jamey Johnson
Producers: The Kent Hardly Playboys
Mercury Nashville

“People Are Crazy”
Billy Currington
Producers: Carson Chamberlain and Billy Currington
Mercury Nashville

“Then”
Brad Paisley
Producers: Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois
Arista Nashville

No remarks for this category.

Album of the Year
(Award goes to artist and producer.)
American Saturday Night
Brad Paisley
Producers: Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois
Arista Nashville

Defying Gravity
Keith Urban
Producers: Dann Huff and Keith Urban
Capitol Records Nashville

Fearless
Taylor Swift
Producers: Nathan Chapman and Taylor Swift
Big Machine Records

Love on the Inside
Sugarland
Producers: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles
Mercury Nashville

That Lonesome Song
Jamey Johnson
Producers: The Kent Hardly Playboys
Mercury Nashville

There was a time not so long ago when I could browse the Album of the Year nominees and own all five. This year, I've heard Swift's Fearless and that's it. Granted, I've wanted to pick up the other four--I just haven't done so.

Song of the Year
(Award goes to songwriters.)
“Chicken Fried”
Songwriters: Zac Brown and Wyatt Durette

“I Told You So”
Songwriter: Randy Travis

“In Color”
Songwriters: Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto

“People Are Crazy”
Songwriters: Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones

“Then”
Songwriters: Brad Paisley, Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley

A chance for Randy Travis to win a CMA Award again? I'm all over it, especially for a song that he released almost 20 years ago and should have won then. Yay, second chances!

Musical Event
(Award goes to each artist.)
“Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
Arista Nashville

“Down the Road”
Kenny Chesney (with Mac McAnally)
Blue Chair Records, BNA Records

“Everything But Quits”
Lee Ann Womack (duet with George Strait)
MCA Records

“I Told You So”
Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis
19 Recordings/Arista

“Old Enough”
The Raconteurs featuring Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
Third Man Records, Warner Bros. Records

Okay, first things first. On "Cowgirls Don't Cry," it seems to me that it should have been a Reba song, with Ronnie Dunn singing the final chorus, instead of being a Brooks & Dunn song with Reba singing the final chorus. Anyway, as much as I'd normally be tempted to root for George Strait, I have to throw my support behind Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis's "I Told You So." It was nice to hear his voice on the radio again, and the fact that she selected this song for her second album--and then saw it released as a single for airplay--earned her some serious credibility in my book. And say what you want about making the song too pop, but the truth is that Randy's Always & Forever album leaned heavily in that direction in the first place anyway.

Music Video
(Award goes to artist and director.)

“Boots On”
Randy Houser
Director: Eric Welch

“Love Story”
Taylor Swift
Director: Trey Fanjoy

“People Are Crazy”
Billy Currington
Directors: The Brads

“Start a Band”
Brad Paisley (duet with Keith Urban)
Directors: Jim Shea

“Troubadour”
George Strait
Director: Trey Fanjoy

On the one hand, "Troubadour" is sort of George Strait's version of Johnny Cash's "Hurt," being that it's a career-spanning montage. On the other hand, "Love Story" is a full-on production in every sense of the word and sometimes it's nice to watch excess. This could go any way, I suppose, and it's odd that for once I don't feel like Brad Paisley has the video award locked up.

Musician of the Year
Eddie Bayers — drums
Paul Franklin — steel guitar
Dann Huff — guitar
Brent Mason — guitar
Mac McAnally — guitar

Mac McAnally wins this by virtue of being on the ballot elsewhere as Kenny Chesney's duet partner on "Down the Road." Recognizability carries the day.

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