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We pick the winners at this year’s CMA Awards, guaranteed!*
*Not actually guaranteed, but it’s a darn-fine educated analysis.
Will Win: Luke Bryan
Should Win: George Strait We were: RIGHT
Come on, did you really expect us to say someone besides George Strait deserved to win this one? He’s a legend and he’s retiring from the road, so he’s been kicking tail all over the country to say farewell. But this has been Luke’s year from the beginning, from his slew of massive hits to an even bigger album and tour.
Will Win: Red
Should Win: Same Trailer Different Park We were: WRONG
We’ve spilled a lot of ink gushing over how much we love Kacey’s Same Trailer Different Park, a savvy debut album that’s as tuneful as the songwriting is sharp. But Red is the multi-platinum and critically acclaimed juggernaut that keeps on barreling along with a motorcade full of huge hooks.
Will Win: “Cruise”
Should Win: “Cruise” We were: RIGHT
Like it or not, Florida Georgia Line’s breakout smash fairly recently broke a decades-old country chart record. That should tell you all you need to know about what single was really reaching lots of ears in the marketplace over the last year. Also, you’re humming it right now, aren’t you?
Will Win: “I Drive Your Truck”
Should Win: “Merry Go ’Round” We were: RIGHT
It’s tough to call. Both “I Drive Your Truck” and “Merry Go ’Round” are masterfully written country songs carrying powerful messages, but Lee’s recording was a bigger commercial success in terms of radio airplay. “Merry Go ’Round,” on the other hand, is a wonderfully sympathetic treatment of small-town despair in a year when every other song seemed to say life was all good.
Will Win: Blake Shelton
Should Win: Jason Aldean We were: RIGHT
Blake took home the vocalist prize the last three years and hasn’t slowed down yet. However, Jason’s star rose to Milky Way heights with Night Train, his most vocally confident album to date.
Will Win: Carrie Underwood
Should Win: Carrie Underwood We were: WRONG
Miranda Lambert’s taken this one home for the last three years, but has only a new Pistol Annies album to her credit this year. Carrie gets the edge for keeping the hit streak going with Blown Away.
Will Win: Little Big Town
Should Win: Little Big Town We were: RIGHT
Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry have both had admirably big years with new albums, but LBT’s Tornado is the culmination of a long journey that displays these industry darlings at the top of their game.
Will Win: Florida Georgia Line
Should Win: Thompson Square We were: RIGHT
Though they don’t have a monster, gazillion-selling song like “Cruise” to their credit, Thompson Square just keeps right on notching the hits and being super-adorable.
Will Win: “Highway Don’t Care”
Should Win: “Highway Don’t Care” We were: RIGHT
The usually mixed-bag Musical Event category is stacked this year, with several No. 1 singles, and Tim McGraw’s breathtaking “Highway Don’t Care” is one of the finest things he’s ever laid down. Blake’s “Boys” was a surefire conversation starter, but it doesn’t match the car-pool trifecta of Tim, Keith and Taylor.
Will Win: Florida Georgia Line
Should Win: Kip Moore We were: WRONG
If the New Artist category is really about awarding promising, exciting new talent, this should go to Kip, who has quietly racked up a series of successive No. 1 hits since his debut album, Up All Night, appeared. But it’s hard to deny FGL’s leap from being virtually unknown new kids to country’s newest headliners. They’ll cruise right to the podium.
Will win: “Highway Don’t Care” Should win: “Tornado” We were: RIGHT
Little Big Town and Shane Drake evoke the language of classic suspense films—stormy skies, a creaky gate and a child jumping rope all intersperse with scenes of the villain doing his dastardly deeds, and LBT looks flawless in gray and black, stomping the streets on a mission. But it's kind of tough to compete with country's favorite leading man Tim McGraw, who displays his finely honed film acting chops for a dramatic narrative that gives the song an entirely new meaning. Put those cell phones down, kids.