Point: Luke Bryan FTW in These Way-Too-Early 2018 CMA Awards Predictions
The two-time winner is Taste of Country's pick to bring home the most hardware on Nov. 14, but will he win the night's big award, Entertainer of the Year? That award typically goes to the artist with the most success onstage, on the radio and elsewhere. Check, check and check or Mr. "Shake It for Me" ... but we could have said the same thing in 2017 when Garth Brooks won.
Picking winners from a group of five is easy, so for this month's Point/Counterpoint we've challenged our friends at the Boot to pick winners from the second-round CMA ballot of 15 to 25 artists (per category). We're not totally blind. We can guarantee Shania Twain won't win Female Vocalist of the Year and Sam Hunt won't win Male Vocalist or Entertainer. After that, it's a matter of assessing the competition ... or just flat-out guessing.
Feel free to tell us where we got it wrong in the comments section below. The 2018 CMA Awards air on ABC at 8PM ET on Nov. 14.
Single of the Year: Kane Brown (Feat. Lauren Alaina), "What Ifs"
Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" and Florida Georgia Line's collaboration with Bebe Rexha should battle for this award, which is often give to the year's biggest radio hit, but neither artist has been showered with industry acclaim lately, so we're going to go with the new guy in Kane Brown. "What Ifs" is has been a smash on and off the radio. It could be a very good night for this Georgia kid.
Song of the Year: Luke Bryan, "Most People Are Good"
Most years, the winner in this category is obvious. It's the critic's pick or the one that is capable of bringing you to tears. That kind of poignancy simply can't be found among the 22 songs on the second-round ballot of potential CMA Awards nominees. "Five More Minutes" by Scotty McCreery comes closest, and he deserves a nomination — but Bryan's "Most People are Good" is the song that turned his haters around. It's the right song at the right time.
See the Top 10 Songs of 2018!
Album of the Year: Keith Urban, Graffiti U
Jason Aldean's Rearview Town has a shot in the Album of the Year category as well, as does Bryan's latest. Chris Stapleton would be the favorite, except his From A Room: Vol. 2 feels like a sequel to his CMA-winning album from 2017. This is a category that allows for surprises, so don't be surprised if someone like Kacey Musgraves or Ashley McBryde gets deserved credit. Brothers Osborne are also worthy choices.
Vocal Group of the Year: Old Dominion
Little Big Town have won this award six straight years and the smart money would be on the "Summer Fever" singers to earn a seventh, but smart people don't make CMA Awards predictions in August, so ... Old Dominion will take over this category on Nov. 14! A string of No. 1 hits that have gone gold or platinum will pay off for this talented group of friends. Quietly the "Hotel Key" singers have been creating some of the best music in country. They've paid their dues and have friends in all the artists they've written hits for.
Vocal Duo of the Year: Dan + Shay
On paper, it's difficult to argue that Florida Georgia Line shouldn't win this award by a wide margin, but they haven't since 2015! After two straight years, Brothers Osborne will relinquish their hold on the award. Dan + Shay's sweet harmonies are just too seductive.
New Artist of the Year: Brett Young
Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
This awards is only occasionally about the most pure singer, but we're in a cycle where that brings tremendous value to the voting process. This is going to be Stapleton's award until he stops trying, and with two albums released in 2017, an active touring schedule and singles on the radio, he's clearly not close to slowing down.
Female Vocalist of the Year: Kelsea Ballerini
It's been a heck of a run for Miranda Lambert, but after seven Female Vocalist wins in eight years, she's going to pass the torch to someone new, and it's not going to be Carrie Underwood (lock her in for 2019, though). The "Cry Pretty" singer, remember, took a break for most of the year, creating space for the first non-Carrie, non-Miranda winner since Taylor Swift in 2009. In 2018 that will be Kelsea Ballerini.
Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan
This is not a category for surprises. The Entertainer of the Year Award isn't given to an industry darling or a dark horse — it goes to the guy everyone thinks it's going to go to, even if they refuse to admit it. Luke Bryan is the guy this year, with everything clicking in 2018. Hit singles, and impressive new album and a massive stadium tour put him ahead during a calendar year that found other frontrunners like Brooks and Eric Church resting.
See the Best and Worst from the 2017 CMA Awards Red Carpet