2018 CMA Awards Picks and Predictions

Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Shotgun Seat’s CMA Awards picks and predictions! It looks to be another great show, and be sure to share your own thoughts in the comments!

Entertainer of the Year

Should win:

Luke Bryan

Keith Urban – Amanda Walsh

Jason Aldean

Kenny Chesney – Annie Dineen, Lydia Simonetti

Chris Stapleton – Markus Meyer

 

Will win:

Luke Bryan

Keith Urban

Jason Aldean – Markus Meyer, Annie Dineen, Amanda Walsh, Lydia Simonetti

Kenny Chesney

Chris Stapleton

 

Markus: A weird mix of veteran heavyweights, modern commercial stars and award-darling Stapleton. Underwood feels like the obvious miss here. I think Aldean takes it, and probably deservingly so. He’s had a monster year, in terms of album sales and also having two giants in “You Make It Easy” and “Drowns the Whiskey”. Some have speculated his rising profile is due to him being at the forefront of the tragic Vegas shootings, and his subsequent reaction, and there may be something to that. Surely it has not been an easy year for Aldean and his family, and I’d be happy to see him win this, especially in a year when it’s warranted.

Annie: Totally agreed with Markus on Aldean’s year. My “should” goes to Kenny, because of the stadiums (not that that’s unusual) but also because of the emotional and musical dexterity of Songs for the Saints. In either case, we’ve got artists beautifully tackling the aftermath of tragedy in their own ways, and I feel like the Entertainer award encompasses je ne sais quois like that.

Amanda: I definitely agree with Markus and Annie as far as the year Jason Aldean has had, and if he does win EOTY then it’s not a disappointment at all. While I thought Chesney’s Songs for the Saints album was great and undoubtedly better than his last, my ‘should win’ goes to Keith just because (even though every artist in this category is worthy) he truly is one hell of a performer and I can’t remember the last time he won this award, if he has. Also, I love that for his last few tours he’s made it a point to bring out female openers with him, from Maren to Kelsea and Lindsay Ell. He’s truly one of the biggest supporters of female artists and he should be recognized for it.

Lydia:  My should win goes to Chesney.  After seeing him at so many of his stadium tour I continuously walk away in awe at his energy and genuine awe of the passion of this fans.  With that said I do think it will go to Aldean. He’s also very deserving of the award. As Markus said, he sort of took on the face of the Vegas tragedy and handled it with grace.  I think the increased name recognition will edge him out over the others in the category this year.

 

Male Vocalist of the Year

Should win:

Keith Urban – AW

Chris Stapleton

Luke Combs – AD, LS

Thomas Rhett

Dierks Bentley – MM

 

Will win:

Keith Urban

Chris Stapleton – MM

Luke Combs – AD, AW

Thomas Rhett – LS

Dierks Bentley

 

Markus: This is kind of an interesting category. Stapleton’s the safe pick, and I will always pick him until he loses, but don’t discount Rhett, who has become arguably the hottest name in the genre. I also don’t hate Bentley’s odds, as the votes are maybe split between Stapleton and Rhett leading him to a win? I think it’s certainly his best shot in a while. Maybe Combs pulls off an upset win, too. I tend to think it’s still too early, but you never know. The way he’s blown up has been insane. Urban’s the only one I see as having next to no shot, as the CMAs continue the annual tradition of nominating Urban for 6,000 awards and giving him none. Should be a good one to watch.

Annie: I dunno, my money’s on Combs here. The way he’s built a following and turned that into commercial success has been unreal, and as he chugs solidly through #1 after #1, I could definitely see him pulling off a win against the more established stars.

Amanda: I agree, it’s definitely an interesting category this year. I’m slightly surprised to see Combs already nominated for Male AOTY considering he’s still relatively new. I would have expected to see Pardi’s name on this list with how much his popularity has grown. I like Combs and appreciate how he built his following, but I still can’t get behind all the hype. His voice is great, but the songs are mediocre in my opinion. I’m not going to be surprised if Rhett, Stapleton, or Combs wins but I would like to

Lydia: Pulling for Combs on this.  He’s got a different, distinguishable traditional country sound and his steady trail of number No. 1’s doesn’t hurt.  I think he’s more than proved he’s here to stay. I’d like to see him win over some of the veterans in this category but I think the love affair with Thomas Rhett is far from over and will lead to a win for him.  

 

Female Vocalist of the Year

Should win:

Miranda Lambert

Carrie Underwood

Maren Morris – AD, AW

Kelsea Ballerini

Kacey Musgraves – MM, LS

 

Will win:

Miranda Lambert – AW

Carrie Underwood

Maren Morris – MM, AD, LS

Kelsea Ballerini

Kacey Musgraves

 

Markus: The Lambert death grip on this thing has to be over, right? It really is too bad, because I feel like the excessive awarding of her has somewhat blinded the fact that she remains among the most compelling artists in mainstream country. Anyways, that’s beside the point, as I’d be shocked if she won this year. I see this as largely Underwood vs. Morris, and actually think the latter wins it. She has a ton of momentum, and just oozes with superstar potential. In the past year, she’s had a monster crossover hit, a #1 airplay hit, a couple platinum certifications, and loads of media exposure. I also think there’s a non-zero chance that Musgraves pulls off an upset here, though I don’t really foresee it.

Annie: I’m gonna guess Maren this year. She’s followed up a stellar debut with crossover stardom, an opening slot on the Niall Horan tour, etc etc. We’ll see if her next album takes her out of country contention completely, but for now I could see her snagging this here.

Amanda: I really really hope and would love to see Maren or Kelsea win this award. I think they’re both amazing vocalists and performers and have worked their butts off this year and proven themselves more than worthy. It’s not that Miranda and Carrie aren’t worthy, but it really is time to the new talent start winning more awards and hopefully start a domino effect that bring more attention to the younger and newer talent that’s out there, particular among females. Unfortunately, I can totally see Miranda or Carrie walking away with this award.

Lydia: I don’t think there’s even a chance of Maren Morris not winning this.  She just continues to grow in popularity and combined with her crossover success I think it’s a no-brainer.  That being said, I’d love to see Kacey Musgraves pick this up. Her distinctive vocals immediately captivate my attention and she’s a strong, confident female artist who doesn’t seem to try to please anyone other than herself.

 

Album of the Year

Should win:

Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour – MM

Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume 2 – AD

Dierks Bentley, The Mountain – LS

Thomas Rhett, Life Changes

Keith Urban, Graffiti U – AW

Will win:

Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour

Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume 2 – MM, AD

Dierks Bentley, The Mountain – LS

Thomas Rhett, Life Changes – AW

Keith Urban, Graffiti U

Markus: Actually a very strong field if you ignore Urban’s… um… creation. The Musgraves and Bentley projects are exceptional, Stapleton’s is incredibly solid, and I love Rhett’s, though its non-countriness is obviously a turn-off in a country awards show. I, again, refuse to bet against Stapleton in this category, though I think Musgraves has a very, very real shot at this. Bentley and Rhett are also strong possibilities. Its competitive to be sure, though I’ll reiterate that it’s hard to say it won’t be Stapleton again, at least for me.

Annie: I’m with Markus on this being a tight category. I don’t think TR’s experimentation will get the nod, although I still believe “Sixteen” is one of the most perfect country songs from the past year. I think Stapleton is probably enough of a voter darling that he’ll hold this one down.

Amanda: I honestly really liked Urban’s latest album and think it deserves to win for the few stellar songs that were on it. However, I also think both Stapleton and Bentley are deserving as well. It’s hard not to root for Rhett because of the number of hits and catchy numbers he had on Life Changes. I really won’t be surprised if he wins based on his popularity and number of radio hits.

Lydia: I really love Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain.  It was a breath of fresh air from him and the vibe of the project returned to the sound of his Up On the Ridge album (which to me is one of his strongest). The project comes across as genuine and not simply trying to make a commercially successful album.  Although it’s probably a longshot, I’m picking it to win this category.

 

Single of the Year

Should win:

Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”

Midland, “Drinkin’ Problem”

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – MM, LS

Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”

Dan + Shay, “Tequila” – AD, AW

 

Will win:

Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”

Midland, “Drinkin’ Problem”

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – LS

Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be” – AW

Dan + Shay, “Tequila” – MM, AD

 

Markus: This is the toughest one to predict. It could very easily be any of these five, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised with any outcome. I’ll go with “Tequila” on gut feeling alone. “Meant to Be” is the commercial smash, but I also get the feeling the industry will be a little hesitant to reward it. A total toss-up. Though in terms of quality, it is nice to see Aldean/Lambert, Midland and Stapleton recognized for strong, traditional-based efforts.

Annie: As Markus said, this could go in any direction; “Meant to Be” and “Tequila” both crossed over successfully, the former obviously setting records in the process. “Drowns The Whiskey” is a force of superstars bringing their A game. I don’t see this going to Midland just because everyone else is so much more established, but beyond that, I’m definitely not etching my prediction in steel here.

Amanda: This could definitely be one of the most interesting and shocking wins of the night. Personally, I’m okay with any of these songs winning except for Midland’s “Drinkin’ Problem.” I think Dan and Shay have a real shot of taking this home because of how many people have been singing this song live with them on every video I’ve seen on social media, and they definitely deserve the win. However, “Meant to Be” broke a record, if I’m not mistaken, and given FGL’s consistent popularity despite what people will admit, this could very well take home the award. Aldean and Lambert’s song feels too new to win this early, but I think it’s worthy of the nomination without a doubt.

Lydia: I’ve got to go with Aldean and Lambert on this for both ‘should’ and ‘will’ win.  I think the two heavy-hitters are taking this one for sure.


Song of the Year

Should win:

Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Backroad”

Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – LS

Dan + Shay, “Tequila” – AD, AW

Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl” – MM

 

Will win:

Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Backroad”

Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos” – MM, AW

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – AD, LS

Dan + Shay, “Tequila”

Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl”

 

Markus: I don’t have another “Body Like a Backroad” take in me. I just don’t. I’m not strong enough. It’s a joke that this travesty was nominated once, let alone twice, in the SONG category. Anyways, “Drunk Girl” is an incredibly powerful song, and I would love to see the CMAs make a statement and give it the award. And you know what? They just might.  I still think Stapleton is the (worthy) frontrunner here though, with Aldean and Dan + Shay also having reasonable shots.

Annie: Ugh god. I’m sorry but “Drunk Girl” is the most misguided attempt at sweet and I’ve been trying so hard to bite my tongue in written form for so long about it. The “difference between a boy and a man” is not that one takes advantage of a woman and one doesn’t. I could go on and on. Anyway, I loved “Tequila” for its presentation and for managing to be original with regard to liquor and nostalgia, and Jason/Miranda turned in a beautiful effort.

Amanda: Again, I can see this being an interesting win. Dan + Shay definitely deserve the win just for Shay’s vocal performance alone on this song. I can totally see Stapleton walking away with the win, though, and “Broken Halos” is 100% worthy in lyrics alone. I wouldn’t be upset if Lambert and Aldean won, but I think “Body Like a Backroad” had its time already. As far as “Drunk Girl” goes, I have to agree with Annie in it’s unfortunately a misguided attempt at sending what was supposed to be an important message. It missed its mark but just might surprise anyone.

Lydia: Again, I think the combo of Aldean & Lambert both should and will win.  The song is beautiful and nostalgic as Annie said. I think we’ve moved beyond both “Body Like a Backroad” and “Broken Halos”, although the latter is an exceptional song as well.  

 

Vocal Group of the Year

Should win:

Lady Antebellum

Old Dominion – AD, LS

Little Big Town

Midland – MM

LANCO – AW

 

Will win:

Lady Antebellum

Old Dominion – MM, AD, LS, AW

Little Big Town

Midland

LANCO

Markus: I think this is finally the year LBT is taken down. Listen, I love them, and they’ve won on the back of some great material over the years. However, they’ve also won a handful of times in years when they’ve done nothing, so I’m glad we have some fresh blood here, even though they’ll be replaced by the “blah” Old Dominion, in all likelihood. I do love Midland and LANCO, though, and I think the former has a decent shot at the award.

Annie: Old Dominion aren’t writing moving and shaking music, but they’ve made themselves movers and shakers within country, and I’m cool with that being recognized. I’ve been digging their recent releases more than, say, “Snapback,” but maybe that’s just me.

Lydia: I love that Midland and LANCO are nominated in this category and would be pleased if either won, but I think I have to go with Old Dominion.  I enjoy their clever writing and sound, though I do think LANCO is on the verge of breaking out and it’d be fun to see them win.

 

Vocal Duo of the Year

Should win:

Brothers Osborne – MM, LS

Dan + Shay – AD, AW

Florida Georgia Line

Sugarland

Maddie & Tae

 

Will win:

Brothers Osborne – LS

Dan + Shay – MM, AD

Florida Georgia Line

Sugarland – AW

Maddie & Tae

 

Markus: My theory here is that the CMAs want to be the platform that lifts Dan + Shay to superstar status, and have thus given them all these nominations. I think they take this one, and it’s nice to finally have four legitimately viable candidates (I love Maddie & Tae, and will likely be all-in on them during their next album cycle, but they’re not a realistic contender this year.) Brothers Osborne and FGL could very well win as well, but I think the CMAs really want to recognize Dan + Shay this year.

Annie: Listen, I’m 100% here for Dan + Shay. While they may have seemed a little Radio Disney at their inception, Shay is a top notch vocalist and Dan pours a great deal of intention and thought into the production and product, and it all shows. Their melodies are interesting and their stories are well told (and YES at that Kelly Clarkson feature), and I’m very ready for them to be getting recognition for it.

Lydia: I cannot bet against Brothers Osborne. I just can’t.  I also won’t be surprised one bit if Dan + Shay win this.  I completely agree with Annie with regards to their melodies and Dan’s strong vocals, so I can’t say I’d be totally bummed if they won.

Amanda: 100% echoing what Annie said about Dan + Shay. Those guys are some of the most talented and hardworking people in music right now. I’m totally behind rooting for them and think they absolutely deserve this win. I’m not a BO fan, but I acknowledge their musical talents, even though I wasn’t impressed with their latest album. I don’t think Maddie and Tae are at the point in their career yet where they should be nominated for this category, but I do believe they will be and will deserve the win after new album is released. I don’t see FGL taking it this year, honestly. With Sugarland back with a solid album this year, I’m thinking they begin their duo takeover again.

 

New Artist of the Year

Should win:

Brett Young – AW

Luke Combs – AD, LS

Lauren Alaina

Midland – MM

Chris Janson

 

Will win:

Brett Young

Luke Combs – MM, AD, LS, AW

Lauren Alaina

Midland

Chris Janson

Markus: Listen, I don’t want to be the guy that keeps piling on to the ‘New Artist’ debate, but come on. Janson and Alaina are not new artists. Anyways, I think this is comfortably Combs’ to lose, with Midland maybe sneaking in.

Annie: Brett Young is having an incredible breakout run and I’d say this is his in a heartbeat, except that Luke Combs is having an EVEN MORE INCREDIBLE breakout run and that’s the end of that.

Lydia: Luke Combs all the way.  Yes, Brett Young is steadily rising to superstardom, but Combs stands out.  He’s the real deal for sure and I think this may be his time to shine.

Amanda: I don’t agree with Janson and Alaina being nominated considering hey are not new artists. I think Alaina was thrown in just to say there’s a female nominee. I’m not saying she’s not worthy of an award, just not this award. I would love to see Brett Young win this one, but I do believe Combs is going to take it. Honestly, as long as Midland doesn’t win, I’m really okay with whoever takes this award home.

 

Vocal Event of the Year

Should win:

Dierks Bentley feat. Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man” – LS

Maren Morris feat. Vince Gill, “Dear Hate” – MM

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – AD

David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” – AW

Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”

 

Will win:

Dierks Bentley feat. Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man”

Maren Morris feat. Vince Gill, “Dear Hate”

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns the Whiskey” – MM, AD, LS

David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be” – AW

 

Markus: It just better not be “Meant to Be”. There are three exceptional efforts here from Dierks, Aldean, and Morris. Rewarding Rexha/FGL would be blatant commercial pandering. Just don’t do it CMAs.

Annie: I can’t lie, the David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney song got me through a lot of stress to sunnier times this summer. But I think “Drowns the Whiskey” should and will get the award here.

Lydia: I’d love for the Dierks Bentley/Brothers Osborne collaboration “Burning Man” to win this. Their unique sounds blended together really well. It’s one of those songs that you can’t help putting on repeat. Although I loved it, I honestly don’t think it can top the commanding performance put forth by Aldean & Lambert with “Drowns the Whiskey”.  

Amanda: Country radio played the crap out of “Meant to Be.” Pop radio played the crap out of it. I’m afraid to say, this one could very well win. Any of the others are no doubt worthy, but “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” was DLM’s first #1 since “Dust on the Bottle” and I just think this should win, hands down.

Music Video

Should win:

Dan + Shay, “Tequila” – AD

Thomas Rhett, “Marry Me” – MM

Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl”

Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty”

Sugarland feat. Taylor Swift, “Babe”

 

Will win:

Dan + Shay, “Tequila” – MM, AD

Thomas Rhett, “Marry Me”

Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl”

Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty”

Sugarland feat. Taylor Swift, “Babe”

Markus: In a shocking twist, I have gone out of my way to watch the Video nominees this year, and I guess these are pretty good. I still don’t really care about music videos at all though, and the Rhett one is the only I have gone out of my way to rewatch. I think “Tequila” takes it though, and while it is a cool video… I don’t really get it? Like, what exactly does it have to do with the song? It is cool, and an interesting idea, it just feels incredibly off the wall.

Annie: The visuals for “Tequila” were gorgeous and that’s all I have to say about that.

Lydia: I can see both The “Tequila” and “Marry Me” videos both winning.  However, I think Dan + Shay’s was beautifully done so I’m going with that.  

Amanda: Each of these videos have reasons to win with the exception of Janson’s. I can see “Marry Me” taking home the win because so many people talked about how this song tugged at the heartstrings, and I get it. I agree with Lydia and Annie about the visuals in “Tequila” being gorgeous. If I’m being honest, though, I can also see “Babe” winning and think it deserves to. Whether you like it or not, and whether you think it’s too simple and boring, I think it tells a story that’s all too relatable. The fact that Swift co-wrote the song with Train’s Pat Monahan, sings on it and stars in the video are all a big part of what make this an amazing song. I don’t think the song would be as successful without her vocals added to it (thank you Kristian Bush).