10 March 2010

45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards - Predictions

Entertainer of the Year
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban
  • Zac Brown Band
I know; "purists" decry whether Swift even belongs in the country genre.  But you know what?  Swift writes her own material, from her own experiences.  She may not sing about being at home with three kids and a cheating alcoholic husband, but we wouldn't buy it if she did.  It's been quite some time since I was in high school, but when I hear "Fifteen" or "You Belong with Me," this very talented young woman takes me back in time.  Not enough to win Entertainer?  How about her sky-high sales in a time when only about 1% of all releases sell well enough to even be certified Gold?  How about being one of the few people ever to host Saturday Night Live...and perform as its musical guest (the only other country artists to do this have been Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks)?  A popular tour, an appearance on C.S.I. and a performance in the recently released film Valentine's Day have only added to her visibility.

Top Male Vocalist of the Year
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban
I hate not picking George Strait whenever he's a nominee, but Paisley's American Saturday Night album and tour have had a better run than those of his competitors.  I feel good about his chances this year.

Top Female Vocalist of the Year
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Lee Ann Womack
Personally, I'd love to see this go to Miranda Lambert.  But given the reasons I cited for predicting Swift's win for Entertainer of the Year make her impossible to ignore in this category.

Top Vocal Group of the Year
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Randy Rogers Band
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band
Say what?  A group not named "Rascal Flatts" for Group?  Yeah, I said it.  The perennial winners didn't have a particularly memorable year last year, and Lady A have taken the world by storm in that time.  They're hot, even among non-country listeners, and that translates into buzz...and sales...and awards.

Top Vocal Duo of the Year
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland
Some voters might be tempted to present one last award to Brooks & Dunn before their retirement tour this year concludes their stellar career together, but I think Sugarland has already cemented their ownership of this award.

  • Luke Bryan
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Chris Young
What makes Jamey Johnson the favorite here is that he's been a songwriter familiar to voters before becoming a performer.  His debut album was on just about every year-end list I saw, whether the focus was on country music or not.  And I suspect that many voters will consider a ballot cast for him to be a check against the youthful direction of Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum.

TOP NEW VOCAL DUO of the Year 
  • Bomshel
  • Joey + Rory
  • Steel Magnolia
I've really got no strong reason for this, other than the fact that I loved their debut album (The Life of a Song).

  • Eli Young Band
  • Gloriana
  • The Lost Trailers
I can't attest to being terribly familiar with any of these three aside from a free song from each that came my way from iTunes last year, but Gloriana were well promoted last summer and fall.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company(s)]
  • Lady Antebellum - Lady Antebellum (Capitol Records Nashville)
    Produced by:  Victoria Shaw, Paul Worley
  • Play On - Carrie Underwood (19/Arista Nashville)
    Produced by: Mark Bright
    "Quitter" Produced by Max Martin & Shellback for Maratone Productions and Mark Bright
  • Revolution - Miranda Lambert (Columbia Nashville)
    Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
  • The Foundation - Zac Brown Band (Southern Ground / Bigger Picture / Atlantic)
    Produced by: Keith Stegall, Zac Brown
Revolution was on quite a lot of lists at the end of 2009, and deservedly so.  One reviewer (and I can't think now who) remarked that on this album, Lambert evolved from being a country artist to a singer/songwriter, and I think this is true.  "White Liar" was her first number one single, the album was a critics' darling and she deserves to win this Album of the Year award.

Single Record of the Year [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company(s)]     
  • "Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum (Capitol Records Nashville)
    Produced by: Lady Antebellum, Paul Worley
  • "People Are Crazy" - Billy Currington (Mercury)
    Produced by: Carson Chamberlain, Billy Currington
  • "Red Light" - David Nail (MCA Nashville)
    Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
  • "Toes" - Zac Brown Band (Southern Ground / Bigger Picture / Atlantic)
    Produced by: Keith Stegall, Zac Brown
  • "White Liar" - Miranda Lambert (Columbia Nashville)
    Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
If the voters listen to radio at all, I think this one is a lock.  I personally have given up radio nearly entirely, and yet it seemed that no matter what time of year or day, I could expect to hear "People Are Crazy" if I stayed tuned in for more than ten minutes (twenty if you included advertising spots).

Song of the Year [Awarded to Composer(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]
  • "Cowboy Casanova" - Carrie Underwood
    Composers:  Mike Elizondo, Brett James, Carrie Underwood
    Publishers:   Brett James Cornelius Music (ASCAP), Carrie Okie Music (BMI), Rincon Ave Music (ASCAP), Stage Three Songs (ASCAP) 
  • "Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum
    Composers:  Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott
    Publishers: EMI Foray Music (SESAC), Darth Buddha (ASCAP), Dwhaywood Music (BMI), Hillary Dawn Publishing (SESAC), Radiobullets Publishing (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI), Year Of The Dog Music (ASCAP)
  • "People Are Crazy" - Billy Currington
    Composers:  Bobby Braddock, Troy Jones
    Publishers:  Crozier Music Enterprises LLC (BMI), Mighty Nice Music (BMI), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Tiltawhirl Music (BMI)
  • "White Liar" - Miranda LambertComposers:  Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert
    Publishers:  Pink Dog Publishing (BMI), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Tiltawhirl Music (BMI)
  • "You Belong With Me" - Taylor Swift
    Composers:  Liz Rose, Taylor Swift
    Publishers:  Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Taylor Swift Music (BMI), Barbara Orbison World Publishing (SESAC), Potting Shed Music (SESAC)
I don't have a strong feeling for this category.  I won't be surprised at whichever song wins, but I'm feeling good about "White Liar" for the win here.

Video of the Year [Awarded to Producer(s)/Director(s)/Artist(s)] (Off Camera Award)
  • "Boots On" - Randy Houser
    Producer: Eric Welch
    Director: Eric Welch (Drake footage: Vickie Vaughn)         
  • "Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum
    Producer: Clarke Gallivan
    Director: David McClister
  • "Welcome To The Future" - Brad Paisley
    Producers: Mark Kalbfeld, Jim Shea, Peter Tilden
    Director: Jim Shea
  • "White Liar" - Miranda Lambert
    Producer:  Tameron Hedge
    Director: Chris Hicky
  • "You Belong With Me" - Taylor Swift
    Producer: Randy Brewer
    Director: Roman White
I don't have a strong feeling here, but my policy is to always bet on Brad Paisley in a video category (unless Johnny Cash is a competitor).

Vocal Event of the Year [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/ Record Company(s)] (Off Camera Award)
  • "Hillbilly Bone" - Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins (Reprise Records / Warner Music Nashville)
    Producer: Scott Hendricks
  • "Honky Tonk Stomp" - Brooks & Dunn featuring Billy Gibbons (Arista Nashville)
    Producer: Ronnie Dunn, Terry McBride
  • "I Told You So" - Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis (19/Arista Nashville)
    Producer:  Mark Bright
  • "I'm Alive" - Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews (Blue Chair/BNA)
    Produced by: Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney
  • "Seeing Stars" - Jack Ingram featuring Patty Griffin (Big Machine Records)
    Produced by: Jack Ingram, Jeremy Stover
I was personally happy to hear Underwood cover this on her sophomore album, Carnival Ride, as I'm a long time Randy Travis fan.  When they added his newly recorded vocals to her cover version, it cemented the song for me.  It's interesting to hear how differently the song works as a duet, adding a different dynamic than was present when Travis wrote and recorded it more than 20 years ago.  This version was a big hit on radio and iTunes, as well.

Note: There is also a chance that voters will give the nod to Brooks & Dunn and Billy Gibbons to ensure that the most successful duo in music history don't go home empty-handed.  I think there's a sense that this is something of a "lesser" award, where giving this to them won't be as conspicuous or controversial as it would be to pass over Sugarland for Duo of the Year.