Tomorrow (Wednesday November 13th) sees the 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards hosted by Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire which will be broadcast in the United States on ABC at 8pm ET. The eligibility period for this year’s CMA Awards ran from 1st July 2018 to 30th June 2019 so this is a significant factor along with my UK based perspective on throwing my views out there as I outline this year’s nominees rather than saying I’m a bigger fan of them than the others in every circumstance. This is not a here is “who should win” or “who will win” it’s just my outlook and for the record I was not the voting member for Team Think Country so it’s just me as a country music fan trying to justify my opinions!
Album of the Year
(Center Point Road: Thomas Rhett, Cry Pretty: Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay: Dan + Shay, Desperate Man: Eric Church and Girl: Maren Morris)
I have only really listened to 2 of these records over and over again so it is a two horse race between ‘Girl’ and ‘Desperate Man’ which I definitely feel are 2 of the strongest records across all genres over the year. For me ‘Girl’ just has more songs that I want to play on repeat and feel I want to sing along to such as ‘A Song for Everything’ and ‘The Bones’ are such powerful tracks along with the feel-good ‘All My Favorite People’ plus more significantly it has had a lot more exposure internationally that has me edging this to Maren.
Single of the Year
(Girl: Maren Morris, Burning Man: Dierks Bentley & Brothers Osborne, God’s Country: Blake Shelton, Millionaire: Chris Stapleton and Speechless: Dan + Shay)
I only have 1 of these 5 songs on my regular playlists and I see the other 4 more as great songs rather than that out and out memorable singles so ‘Burning Man’ it is for me! The singles aspect is harder to judge than ‘Song of the Year’ when you live in the UK as we don’t encounter the songs as a single so don’t really know how to compare them in context beyond which one I like the most.
Song of the Year
(Tequila: Dan Smyers, Nicolle Galyon & Jordan Reynolds, Rainbow: Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally & Natalie Hemby, God’s Country: Devin Dawson, Michael Hardy & Jordan Schmidt, Girl: Maren Morris, Sarah Aarons & Greg Kurstin and Beautiful Crazy: Luke Combs, Wyatt B. Durrette III & Robert Williford)
For me this really is the most competitive category and genuinely the most difficult to call because all five nominations really stand out for deserving this award. Absolutely no complaints whatsoever where this goes as I genuinely love all 5 songs: I’m a huge fan of Maren and Kacey where these are up there as the strongest songs that they have put out, ‘Beautiful Crazy’ is such an incredible song and I would love to see Devin Dawson get the well-deserved recognition as the awesome songwriter that he is but just based on how I have heard crowds sing along to it, I have to say ‘Tequila’ takes this for me.
Musical Event of the Year
(Maren Morris feat. Brothers Osborne: All My Favorite People, Brooks & Dunn feat. Luke Coms: Brand New Man, Blake Shelton & Garth Brooks: Dive Bar, Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus: Old Town Road (Remix) and Brantley Gilbert & Lindsay Ell: What Happens in a Small Town)
As much as ‘All My Favorite People’ has had probably more plays on my party and road trip playlists than anything else since ‘Girl’ came out because I love it plus find it so fun and relatable then Lindsay Ell is my girl who I am so so so so so happy for her that this song with Brantley has made it to number one BUT can anyone really argue with ‘Old Town Road’ seeing Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus taking this award? Global phenomenon and played every 30 seconds everywhere on the planet, really can’t see any reason for this to this not to win given the global impact of the song for the genre!
Vocal Group of the Year
(Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Midland, Old Dominion and Zac Brown Band)
From a UK perspective this is the most interesting and probably should be one of the toughest to call as this is 5 acts that have a very strong fanbase on this side of the Atlantic and have actively worked to regularly build it by touring extensively in Europe. Lady A headlined C2C during the 12 month period, LBT and Zac Brown Band have also headlined the festival over here too then Midland are a band that just continues to excite everyone that has ever seen them live but Old Dominion just bring it and get the entire crowd going every single time you see them whilst just churning out hit after hit after hit so I am really excited to see the boys back at the o2 in March and hope they have the award to accompany them!
Vocal Duo of the Year
(Brooks & Dunn, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line, Maddie & Tae and Dan + Shay)
Even before their collaboration with Justin Bieber came out into the world, Dan + Shay have pretty much been one of the hottest properties in all music over the last 18 months! They have pretty much picked up everything in front of them, have toured globally (same could be said of Brothers Osborne) and most importantly the way that crowds react and sing along to them is like nothing I have seen elsewhere so this literally is that things are so massive for them right now there is no other place to look regardless of who is nominated.
New Artist of the Year
(Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, Midland, Carly Pearce and Morgan Wallen)
This is probably the award where my heart really comes into it because not only do I think there is a clean cut winner as a musician, a songwriter and performer but Ashley McBryde is genuinely one of the most awesome, kind and real people you will come across so I really want her to win just for being Ashley and think she really deserves this! She was the first person I saw singing on stage anywhere in Nashville, TN and the first person I have got on a plane to go to Europe specifically to see play a show! What she brings to the table is so incredible with how honest she is as a songwriter and the way she has the perfect blend of being heartfelt with being so badass in her songs and when she performs on stage plus she has made the most conscious effort to regularly tour outside of North America. Now I’m gonna be honest with you but I don’t know much about Cody Johnson and beyond a pair of drinking songs I couldn’t tell you much about Morgan Wallen either, then Midland I have definitely warmed to a lot as for me you probably need to see them live to fully get the whole experience and again they are already regular tourists outside of North America so them like Carly who again wowed audiences over this side of the pond and has made huge strives with being a girl that kicked off her career with a ballad that went astronomical just can’t quite bring enough to change my mind.
Male Vocalist of the Year
(Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban)
Thomas Rhett is the only one of the 5 to have brought a record out during the period, Luke Combs has just risen to an astronomical level with how everything that he releases just goes crazy and he is the first country artist since Taylor Swift back in 2009 to sell out 2 consecutive nights at Shepherds Bush Empire during the period, Stapleton in addition to this sorcery he has to conjure, captivate and fully control American audiences that they are in the palm of his hand like no over with that spine chilling vocal also featured on Ed Sheeran’s new record then Dierks ran one of the longest most successful tours across the US I have seen listed in terms of dates and also does a fantastic amount promoting and fighting for equality with female artists. However we waited a long long time to have Keith Urban playing shows again in Europe, he has already booked to come back, regularly appeared on our prime time chat shows (which other country artists are not doing) and has astronomical success in his home continent so this has been his year in my eyes.
Female Vocalist of the Year
(Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Carrie Underwood)
I have wrote 4 versions of this with a different winner each time changing my mind trying to justify why I think Kelsea or Maren or Miranda or Kacey should win this. I am personally not a big Carrie Underwood fan where I am a massive fan of each of the other 4 women nominated. That is my personal viewpoint it’s nothing malicious but she just doesn’t push my buttons in the same way other artists do. Kelsea for me gave the best live performances of the 5 girls when I saw her during the time and also ‘Miss Me More’ was the first and only number one by a female artist on country radio over this period. Then there’s Miranda, well what more do you need to add? These ultimate shows of female empowerment with the tours she has put on plus she rounded up Ashley and Angaleena to bring us another Annies album during this time. Kacey has just had a phenomenal level of global success and toured selling out arenas on every corner of the planet off the back of ‘Golden Hour’ and her impact with regard to the LGBT community that has done so much to grow the genre internationally particularly in Asia made it almost a dead heat for me with Maren Morris. This was where I initially went with this due to the album being being my pick for Album of the Year and what her influence has been to cross the genre over so much along with her growth as an artist in Europe and again being another vocal supporter for the LGBT community so I’m going to stick with my first instinct and say that over this period Maren would get my vote.
Entertainer of the Year
(Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban)
I’m going to keep this short and sweet! His stadium shows are over 3 hours long, he was the first person to ever solo headline the Nissan Stadium in Nashville during this time and he broke Taylor Swift’s attendance record in doing so! The acoustic hit-o-rama medley during those shows and like he did at CMA Fest is legitimately the most incredible thing I have ever seen on stage so in my eyes it is an absolute travesty if this award is not in the possession of Eric Church!
In the UK alas we don’t have ABC (and also the broadcast will begin at 1 in the morning our time) so we have to wait until Friday 22nd November to see highlights on BBC4 at 11:10pm but we will have plenty of coverage on our socials and the site in the meantime to bring you all the latest from country music’s biggest night!