2017 ACM Awards Preview

Country music giants will gather at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for tonight’s 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards. The show, which is one of the genre’s most prestigious awards, will feature must-see performances by a slew of nominees and artists including Florida Georgia Line, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, as well as co-hosts Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley. Before the fun begins, check out our predictions for who will reign supreme in the show’s top award categories. 

Entertainer of the Year

Should win: Keith Urban or Carrie Underwood

Will win: Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan

The night’s biggest award is also the most difficult to break down. Florida Georgia Line and Keith Urban are looking to pick up their first EOTY win, whereas Aldean hopes to take home the prize for a second-straight year. Both Urban and Underwood (who teamed up on tour in his native Australia and current single “The Fighter”) are worthy of the hardware as she is undefeated in the category with two previous wins and he is the night’s most nominated artist, though Aldean or perennial favorite Luke Bryan could wind up victorious.

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Male Vocalist of the Year

Should win: Dierks Bentley

Will win: Chris Stapleton

Now facing his fourth nomination in this category, co-host Dierks Bentley may finally receive a win. He topped country charts with “Somewhere on a Beach” and scored a winning collaboration with rocker Elle King on “Different For Girls,” making him a worthy contender. However, 2016 winner Chris Stapleton returns to lead this year’s pack of nominees, which also includes Thomas Rhett and veteran-winners Keith Urban and Jason Aldean.

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Female Vocalist of the Year

Should win: Carrie Underwood or Maren Morris

Will win: Miranda Lambert

After taking home this crown an unprecedented seven consecutive times, Miranda Lambert seems destined to continue her hot streak. She gained chart success with her latest album The Weight of These Wings, though it was not as well received as Maren Morris’ debut album Hero and she was bested by Carrie Underwood for the Female Vocalist of the Year prize at November’s CMA Awards. The talented Kelsea Ballerini and Kacey Musgraves also nominated.

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Vocal Duo of the Year

Should and will win: Florida Georgia Line

Florida Georgia Line has dominated this category since 2014, and are expected to hail victorious yet again. The duo, who are currently on tour, had a massive year with their third no. 1 album Dig Your Roots and singles like “H.O.L.Y.,” “May We All,” and “God, Your Mama, and Me.” They are in good company among fellow nominees Dan + Shay, Brothers Osborne, Maddie & Tae, and Big & Rich, though FGL has this one in the bag.

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Vocal Group of the Year

Should and will win: Little Big Town

Little Big Town continues to be the group to beat in this category. The four-piece vocal group is likely to pick up their third-straight win backed by their continued success from latest album The Breaker, along with their groundbreaking residency at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. Fellow nominees Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion and Eli Young Band will have to hope for better luck next year, because there is no stopping Little Big Town.

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Album of the Year

Should win: Ripcord – Keith Urban

Will win: The Weight of These Wings – Miranda Lambert

Album of the Year will be a toss up between Keith Urban (Ripcord), Maren Morris (Hero), Miranda Lambert (The Weight of These Wings), Florida Georgia Line (Dig Your Roots) and Dierks Bentley (Black). Urban’s ninth studio effort saw him experiment more with his sound and earned him Top 10 hits like “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” “Wasted Time,” and the Grammy-nominated “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” Though possibly more worthy of the prize, Urban will have to beat out 24-time ACM winner Lambert, who is also undefeated in this category.

Single Record of the Year

Should win: “Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw

Will win: “My Church” – Maren Morris

This category recognizes some of the year’s biggest hits between Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y,” Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” and Miranda Lambert’s “Vice.” However, we predict that the race will come down to Tim McGraw and Maren Morris. His “Humble and Kind” gave his lengthy and impressive career an even bigger boost, whereas her “My Church” catapulted her onto the country scene and earned the newcomer plenty of acclaim (including a Grammy award).

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Song of the Year

Should win: “Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw

Will win: “Die a Happy Man” – Thomas Rhett

“Humble and Kind” songwriter Lori McKenna has cleaned house at recent award shows for her composition of the Tim McGraw hit. She should add an ACM to the list of accolades, though Thomas Rhett‘s sweet ballad “Die a Happy Man,” which won Single Record of the Year here last year, could pull out a victory in this category as well. Other nominated songs include Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Eric Church‘s “Kill a Word” and Miranda Lambert’s “Vice.”

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Vocal Event of the Year

Should and will win: “Forever Country” – Artists of Then, Now & Forever

No other song in this category comes close to “Forever Country,” the genre’s homage to 50 years of the CMA Awards, which featured country superstars of the past and present. The stellar mashup video brought together 30 legendary artists, including most of the shows nominated artists, along with familiar faces like Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood and George Strait to sing a stirring medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and Nelson’s “On The Road Again.” It truly can’t be topped by the other nominated collaborations of Florida Georgia Line & Tim McGraw (“May We All”), Dierks Bentley & Elle King (“Different For Girls”), Kenny Chesney & P!nk (“Setting the World on Fire”) and Chris Young & Cassadee Pope (“Think of You”).

The 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards air tonight at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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