When the Academy of Country Music proved it was possible to stage an entertaining awards show during a pandemic, it was just a matter of time before the Country Music Association would announce it was heading in the same direction – live performances without the burden of COVID-19 worries.
At next week’s ceremony, Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker will introduce performers in a safe environment and hand out trophies to musicians who, for the most part, haven’t been able to work.
Now in its 54th year, the CMA awards show will veer somewhat from the ACMs in terms of winners. That’s because the CMA is more traditional and, yes, has its favorites.
Who’s likely to win Nov. 11? Here are our predictions:
FEMALE VOCALIST: With seven nominations (the most of anyone this year), Miranda Lambert is likely to return to form by winning this category, the one she has dominated for years. Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris are her strongest competition, but it’s likely voters will embrace Lambert.
MALE VOCALIST: Luke Combs. He’s on a run, having won many of the other awards. Chris Stapleton is the last one who had a lock on this category. Now, he’s ceding to Luke.
GROUP: Sure Lady Antebellum shortened its name to Lady A, but that wasn’t enough to nudge Old Dominion, which seems in line for a win here.
DUO: Dan + Shay. When voters have to reach back for Brooks & Dunn to fill the field, the winners have to be the ones with the biggest hits. Besides, they made Justin Bieber a country singer.
ALBUM: If Luke Combs dominates the night, this is his. If not, Miranda Lambert’s “Wildcard” is the one to beat. Voters like to stray from the obvious with this category, so one of the others is just as likely. We’re going “Wildcard” in first, Combs in second.
SINGLE: Justin Bieber could be a winner if his collaboration with Dan + Shay (“10,000 Hours”) comes through here. That’s doubtful, but Luke Combs’ “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and Maren Morris’ “The Bones” seem stronger.
SONG: Luke Combs has two songs in this category (see how omnipresent he is?), but Lambert’s “Bluebird” and Morris’ “The Bones” are here, too. If two nods in one category cancel him out, Morris or Lambert will win.
EVENT OF THE YEAR: Here’s where Justin Bieber has a better chance. Still, you can’t fight “Be a Light” or “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” with a handful of blue-chip stars.
VIDEO: I’m pulling for Jake Owen for “Homemade” but it doesn’t see likely he’ll win. Instead, toss the bone to Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber for “10,000 Hours.”
NEWCOMER: Morgan Wallen and Carly Pearce will duke it out. Wallen got in trouble for breaking COVID-19 protocol, but that might help him win the prize.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: In other country competitions, the person with the most nominations usually wins this. But the CMA folks have given it to nominees with only one nod. Women, historically, haven’t done well in the category and, yet, this year there are two – Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. (The last time two women were in this category was 1979.) Keith Urban, a past winner, and Eric Church and Luke Combs complete the field. Because there’s that “too soon” fear among CMA voters, Combs may have to wait. The one who should win is Underwood, who fits the definition of “entertainer.” Look for her to repeat her ACM win here.
The Country Music Association Awards air at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 on ABC.
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