Country music fans, rejoice! The industry’s biggest stars will gather tonight for the coveted CMA Awards, which celebrates the genre’s best with veteran hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. Let’s break down all the categories and potential winners.
Music Video of the Year
Should & will win: “Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw
This hit single that left a huge impact had an equally moving music video, complete with inspirational footage from Oprah Winfrey, which was incorporated at McGraw’s request.
Musical Event of the Year
Should win: “Home Alone Tonight” – Luke Bryan with Karen Fairchild
Will win: “You Are My Sunshine” – Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton
“Home Alone Tonight” brought together two of country’s most prominent voices in Luke Bryan and Little Big Town’s Morgan Fairchild, and gave Bryan his 13th number one single on the U.S. Country Airplay chart. However, Chris Stapleton has become a CMA favorite after his historic breakthrough last year, and will likely take home this award with his wife, Morgane.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Should win: Joey + Rory
Will win: Florida Georgia Line
If this category is treated delicately, Joey + Rory will receive the honor. It would be the first win for the husband and wife, and would be a posthumous honor for Joey Feek, who tragically lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. However, Florida Georgia Line is the top contender for the award, having won the category last year and continuing to gain chart success with their latest album, Dig Your Roots.
Vocal Group of the Year
Should & will win: Little Big Town
The title of Vocal Group of the Year for 2016 belongs to Little Big Town, just as it has for the past four years. While veteran acts like Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, and Zac Brown Band are also nominated, along with newcomers Old Dominion, they won’t be able to dethrone Little Big Town from the achievement this year.
Single of the Year
Should win: “Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw
Will win: “Nobody to Blame” – Chris Stapleton
McGraw’s anthem about following the Golden Role was a megahit, and came at a time when the world seemed to need it most. “Humble and Kind” struck a chord with nearly every listener’s heartstrings and is rightfully nominated. However, Stapleton’s “Nobody to Blame” was already named Song of the Year at this year’s ACM Awards and is from his acclaimed debut album Traveller. Given Stapleton’s track record at the CMA’s, he is expected to take home another piece of hardware for this category.
Song of the Year
Should & will win: “Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw (Songwriter Lori McKenna)
This category which recognizes the songwriters behind the year’s biggest hits belongs to Lori McKenna, who penned McGraw’s virtuous “Humble and Kind.” The song is a clear runaway based on the impact it leaves listeners with and delivers a message that sticks with you. However, we would not be surprised or mad if Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” is announced as the winner, as the sweet love song he wrote for his wife left an equally uplifting message with listeners.
New Artist of the Year
Should win: Kelsea Ballerini
Will win: Maren Morris
Ballerini took home the New Female Vocalist of the Year award at this year’s ACM Awards, however, Morris was not among the nominees. The two ladies are up against the Brothers Osborne, Old Dominion and Cole Swindell for the honor, but as the most nominated artist of the night, Morris is a shoo-in to come out on top.
Album of the Year
Should win: Storyteller – Carrie Underwood
Will win: Mr. Misunderstood – Eric Church
Underwood’s latest album produced the hit singles “Smoke Break,“ “Heartbeat,” “Church Bells,” and “Dirty Laundry,” and was her fifth consecutive number one album. Eric Church, on the other hand, saw an equally successful fifth album with Mr. Misunderstood. The album received widespread critical praise and spawned the number one single “Record Year,” which earned Church three other CMA nominations. He is a strong contender to come out on top in this category, which also recognizes Keith Urban, Maren Morris, and Dierks Bentley as nominees.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Should & will win: Chris Stapleton
Stapleton made his mark known in 2015 when he dethroned Blake Shelton as the Male Vocalist of the Year. With millions more aware of his name and more press thrown his way over the past year, the Nashville native is bound to repeat this well-deserved prize. It should be known that this is a close category, with four tremendously talented nominees in Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley alongside Stapleton.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Should win: Carrie Underwood
Will win: Miranda Lambert
Underwood and Lambert are both superstars in their own right. Underwood took home the women’s top prize for three straight years before Lambert came steam-rolling in, winning every year since 2010. Newcomer Maren Morris could be a dark horse for the award, as she is the most nominated artist of the night.
Entertainer of the Year
Should win: Garth Brooks
Will win: Luke Bryan
The CMA’s most sought after award will go to either past winners Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, or first-time nominees Carrie Underwood and Chris Stapleton. With an illustrious career spanning nearly three decades, Brooks is a country legend who still releases music and knows how to get a crowd pumped. He could very well take home his fifth Entertainer of the Year crown, but Luke Bryan is on the hunt for a three-peat and is on track to achieve it.