01 February 2011

46th Academy of Country Music Awards: Predictions

The nominees have been announced.  Time to guess along with voters I've never met!  I've underlined my predictions.

Entertainer of the Year
Jason Aldean
Toby Keith
Miranda Lambert
Brad Paisley
Taylor Swift
Keith Urban

Why Taylor Swift?  Because she's outsold the entire genre, that's why!  Three of the top four selling albums in country at all last year were hers.  Only two other albums (Lady Antebellum's Need You Now and Zac Brown Band's The Foundation) have cleared 2 million units sold.  Swift has sold more than 3 million copies of her most recent album, Speak Now, which dropped in November; she's knocking on 5 million of her eponymous debut album and her Fearless was the best-selling album all year long with 6,233,900 copies sold.  Note: those statistics are from Soundscan, not the RIAA, meaning those are actual sales and not units shipped.  Along the way, Swift has pleased fans and impressed critics alike.

Top Male Vocalist of the Year
Jason Aldean
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
George Strait
Keith Urban

I love George Strait, but he had something of an off-year.  Neither Paisley nor Urban really stood out this past year, and that leaves Shelton and Aldean.  I can't imagine the voters giving Aldean the nod over the veteran Shelton.  Moreover, I can't imagine the voters wanting to cross Miranda Lambert.  Shelton leaves happy.

Top Female Vocalist of the Year
Miranda Lambert
Reba McEntire
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood
Lee Ann Womack

Look at the rest of this ballot and you should have a good idea why this is Miranda Lambert's to lose.  Swift outsold her by far, but Revolution's 1,149,000 units sold was good enough for ninth place overall and could still be found on year-end lists despite being released in 2009.

Top Vocal Duo of the Year 
the JaneDear Girls
Joey + Rory
Montgomery Gentry
Steel Magnolia

Sugarland released what Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine charitably described as, "a god-awful Def Leppard album" and it still sold 815,200 copies in what was a horrible year for sales overall.  Brooks & Dunn they ain't, but they've cemented ownership of this award for the foreseeable future.  (On that note, I'd like to plug Joey + Rory's Album Number Two, which I found just as organic, delightful and sincere as their debut.)

Top Vocal Group of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Randy Rogers Band
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

Wait...Rascal Flatts aren't nominated?  Didn't see that snub comin'.  For years, they were Lyric Street's darling in the country genre, and apparently their new label (Big Machine Records) was too busy pimpin' Taylor Swift to remember to plug the perennial Group of the Year winners.  It's just as well.  Despite Lady A's strong sales and general appeal, I see the voters striking while the iron is hot and confirming Zac Brown Band as the group act in country music right now.  (Personally, I still don't understand the hold ZBB has over people, but I can't deny it's strong.)

Top New Solo Vocalist of the Year
Eric Church
Easton Corbin
Randy Houser

Eric Church shouldn't even still be eligible for this anymore, and I for one see his inclusion more as a marker of how shallow the new talent pool is than as a sign of any significant growth on his part.  I don't even have a horse in this race, but something's telling me that Corbin will pull it out.

Top New Vocal Duo or Vocal Group of the Year
the JaneDear Girls
Steel Magnolia
The Band Perry

Releasing a song about suicide amidst a rash of teens taking their own lives may have felt crass to some, but I suspect it resonated soundly with more.  The Band Perry morosely takes home the prize for their timeliness.

Album of the Year
Hemingway's Whiskey, Kenny Chesney (Produced by Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney; BNA)
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum (Produced by Lady Antebellum, Paul Worley; Capitol Records Nashville)
The Guitar Song, Jamey Johnson (Produced by Arlis Albritton, Dave Cobb, The Kent Hardly Playboys; Mercury)
Speak Now, Taylor Swift (Produced by Nathan Chapman, Taylor Swift; Big Machine Records)
Up on the Ridge, Dierks Bentley (Produced by Jon Randall Stewart; Capitol Records Nashville)
You Get What You Give, Zac Brown Band (Produced by Zac Brown, Keith Stegall; Southern Ground/Roar/Bigger Picture/Atlantic)

Speak Now has outsold all of these except Need You Now, and in far less time.  The fact that Swift wrote the entire album imbues it with artistic merit as well as commercial.  You Get What You Give and The Guitar Song will, I suspect, split the Bearded Honky Tonker vote.  Hemingway's Whiskey hasn't made much of a mark so far, and that leaves Up on the Ridge.  That Bentley isn't nominated for Top Male Vocalist would seem to cast a pall over his chances here, but everyone who's actually heard the album seems to love it--myself included.  Maybe the ACM voters will favor commercial success (Ridge only sold 204,900 copies through the end of the year), but I'm predicting that the artistic daring of the album wins enough votes that Bentley goes home with a new paperweight.

Single Record of the Year
"A Little More Country Than That," Easton Corbin (Produced by Carson Chamberlain; Mercury)
"As She's Walking Away," Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson (Produced by Zac Brown Band, Keith Stegall; Southern Ground/Roar/Bigger Picture/Atlantic)
"If I Die Young," The Band Perry (Produced by Paul Worley; Republic Nashville)
"Love Like Crazy," Lee Brice (Produced by Lee Brice, Doug Johnson; Curb Records)
"The Boys of Fall," Kenny Chesney (Produced by Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney; BNA)
"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert (Produced by Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke; Columbia Nashville)

"If I Die Young" will net The Band Perry a win elsewhere, but let's face it: "The House That Built Me" was the single of 2010.

Song of the Year
Composers: Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress, Wynn Varble
Publishers: A Sling and a Prayer Music (ASCAP), Chrysalis One Music (ASCAP), Don Poythress Music (ASCAP), Precious Flour Music (BMI), Universal Music-MGB Songs (ASCAP), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Co. (BMI)

"As She's Walking Away," Zac Brown Band Featuring Alan Jackson
Composers: Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette
Publishers: Angelika Music (BMI), Weimerhound Publishing (BMI)

"If I Die Young," The Band Perry
Composer:  Kimberly Perry
Publishers:  Pearlfeather Publishing (BMI), Rio Bravo Music, Inc. (BMI)

"Love Like Crazy," Lee Brice
Composers:  Tim James, Doug Johnson
Publishers:  Mike Curb Music (BMI), Sweet Radical Music (BMI), T-Bird's Music (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)

"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
Composers:  Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin
Publishers:  Built On Rock (ASCAP), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Tomdouglasmusic (BMI)
That's right: I'm calling a Songle Award for "The House That Built Me."  Radio kept playing it for the same reason we kept buying it: it's a very well written song.

Video of the Year
"Hillbilly Bone," Blake Shelton Featuring Trace Adkins
Producer: Randy Brewer, Director: Roman White

"Only Prettier," Miranda Lambert
Producer: Trent Hardville, Director: Trey Fanjoy

"Stuck Like Glue," Sugarland
Producer: Tony McGarry, Director: Declan Whitebloom

"The Boys of Fall," Kenny Chesney
Producer: Don Lepore, Director: Shaun Silva

"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
Producer: Trent Hardville, Director: Trey Fanjoy

The simplicity of the video is what makes it stand out.  It's exactly what you were already imagining, but somehow manages to personalize the song in a way that only the best music videos manage.

Vocal Event of the Year
"As She's Walking Away," Zac Brown Band Featuring Alan Jackson
(Southern Ground / Roar / Bigger Picture / Atlantic), Produced by: Zac Brown, Keith Stegall

"Blue Sky," Emily West Featuring Keith Urban
(Capitol Records Nashville), Produced by: Mark Bright

"Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert
(Columbia Nashville), Produced by: John Carter Cash, Patsy Lynn Russell

"Cold Beer," Colt Ford Featuring Jamey Johnson
(Average Joes), Produced by: Shannon Houchins, Adrian Young

"Good to Be Me," Uncle Kracker Featuring Kid Rock
(Top Dog/Atlantic/Bigger Picture), Produced by: Kid Rock

Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock made the ballot?  Did the ACM voters not realize that Dierks Bentley featured Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert on "Bad Angel?"  I know that fans expect this to go to the alphabetical duo of ZBB and AJ, but here's the thing.  It's an off-camera award, meaning that voters may feel freer to indulge themselves with this vote and I think casting a vote for Loretta Lynn will be a private victory for those who marvel at the inclusion of Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock.

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