CMA Awards predictions: Who will (and should) win at the 2019 show?

USA Today Entertainment 3 weeks ago

The competition is friendly but fierce at Wednesday's Country Music Association Awards, which air live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena at 7 p.m. CT on ABC. Here are our picks for who will take home the night's top prizes – and the performers who also deserve the recognition.

Entertainer of the Year

Should win: Carrie Underwood

If not now, when? Underwood just wrapped her most elaborate concert tour yet. She's hosting the CMAs for the 13th straight year – now in the company of the legendary Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.

She's the lone woman up for the top prize – in a year where the conversation has only grown louder about the lack of female artists on country's airwaves, festival lineups and awards ballots. 

Will win: Garth Brooks

Still, no category features tougher competition than Entertainer of the Year. Garth Brooks, for one, has made a strong case to win the award for a record-breaking seventh time, between his stadium tour, and hit duet with Blake Shelton. Eric Church has swung for the fences, too, booking two-night stays at arenas across the country and playing at Nashville's Nissan Stadium for a record-setting audience of 56,521.  

Male Vocalist of the Year

Should and will win: Luke Combs

It's been two years of breakneck momentum for 29-year-old Luke Combs. In 2019, he set a new record by having all six of his singles reach No. 1 on country radio. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and he'll play two nights at Bridgestone Arena in December. It seems inevitable he'll pick up the Male Vocalist prize along the way.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Should win: Carrie Underwood

For the same reasons she deserves to win Entertainer of the Year. And as a bonus, she's unmatched in terms of sheer vocal power. But it's not that simple...

Will win: Kacey Musgraves

There's a fair chance that while Underwood's label (UMG Nashville) will throw all their voting weight behind her for Entertainer of the Year, they'll choose to support their other nominee – Musgraves – for Female Vocalist.

Politics aside, Musgraves has had a stunning year, and is arguably country's biggest crossover success since Taylor Swift.

Vocal Group of the Year

Should win: Midland, for their excellent sophomore album "Let It Roll."

Will win: Old Dominion. The quintet picked up the award last year, continued their winning streak at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April, and they're hot off their hit single "One Man Band."

Vocal Duo of the Year

Should and will win: Dan + Shay

Nothing seems like more of a lock this year, even though this duo has lost in the category for five straight years. But now, they've charted another multi-week No. 1 single, ("Speechless"), scored their sixth No. 1 "All to Myself" in August, dropped a new duet with Justin Bieber that was an instant world-wide smash, and just announced an arena tour with back-to-back dates at Bridgestone Arena in March. They're also the only duo nominated for Album of the Year.

New Artist of the Year

Should win: Ashley McBryde

Thanks in part to her brilliant "Girl Going Nowhere," McBryde has had a remarkable year, earning a Grammy nod for Best Country Album and stealing the show with her performance at the ACMs. 

Will win: Morgan Wallen

The "Voice" alum and Florida Georgia Line collaborator earned a platinum single of his very own this summer with "Whiskey Glasses," and numbers can be hard to argue with in this category.

Album of the Year

Should win: Maren Morris, "GIRL"

Morris' sophomore effort is a stellar mix of pop sweetness and emotional depth, and a testament to the talent of producer Busbee, who died in September at age 43.

Will win: Eric Church, "Desperate Man"

Perhaps no modern country star cares more about crafting an album as a whole than Church, and he's won in this category twice before for "Chief" and "Mr. Misunderstood."

Single of the Year

Should win: Dan + Shay, "Speechless"

Will win: "Speechless" or Chris Stapleton, "Millionaire" 

Dan + Shay's crossover smash ballad looks like the one to beat in this category, but don't discount Stapleton's appeal to industry voters, nor the power of UMG Nashville's voting block.

Song of the Year

Should win: Kacey Musgraves, "Rainbow" 

The song that's quickly become Musgraves' signature ballad has brought audiences around the world to tears, but country radio has failed to give it adequate support.

Will win: Blake Shelton's "God's Country," or Luke Combs' “Beautiful Crazy”

Shelton has called "God's Country" his "biggest hit yet," and that's saying something, considering it's his 26th No. 1. We're betting CMA voters either pick his faith-informed song, or "Beautiful Crazy" by the unstoppable Combs.

Musical Event of the Year

Should win: Has any song been more of an "event" in the last decade than "Old Town Road?" With their genre-pureeing collaboration, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus had the entire nation talking, thinking and caring about what we call country music – while becoming the longest-reigning No. 1 hit of all time. 

Will win: Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton's "Dive Bar." Easily the most high-wattage collaboration of the last year, Brooks and Shelton joined forces for the first time on a George Jones-meets-the-Stones rocker.

Music Video of the Year

Should and will win: Maren Morris, "GIRL."

With respect to strong, touching efforts from Kacey Musgraves ("Rainbow") and Eric Church ("Some Of It"), the gorgeously shot clip for "GIRL" (directed by Dave Meyers) is in a class of its own. 

Musician of the Year

Should win: Jenee Fleenor

Nashville fiddler Fleenor is best known as a longtime member of Blake Shelton's band, contributing fiddle, guitar, mandolin and background vocals. She’s also first-ever female in the Musician of the Year category, which was added to the ceremony in 1988.

Will win: Mac McAnally

For 10 of the last 11 years, the prize has gone to McAnally, who's most frequently seen on stage with Jimmy Buffett. He's having a very good year, too: last month, he earned a star on the Music City Walk of Fame.


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