55th CMA Awards: One-Week Away Predictions

by Jim Casey
55th-cma-awards-one-week-away-predictions

The 55th CMA Awards are a mere seven days away.

Yes, on November 10, the biggest players in the country music industry will descend on Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for a night of must-see performances and can’t-miss winners.

And this year’s show feels especially exciting with the return of a live audience after the pandemic-altered telecast of 2020. Because, really, this show is for the fans. Sure, the artists want the awards—regardless of what they say on the red carpet—but this event is known as “Country Music’s Biggest Night” for a reason. It is. And it’s fueled by the fans in the audience—and that translates for those watching at home.

Let’s get some predictions on paper the record for the 55th CMA Awards. Do the more than 7,000 industry professionals who vote get it right every year? Nope. There are far greater forces at work. At least that’s my position. But that’s what makes the show fun. You can’t predict who will win with any effectiveness. However, that’s never stopped me from trying—year after unsuccessful year.

The 55th CMA Awards air live on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. CT on ABC with host Luke Bryan. Without further ado, chew on these predictions (just don’t bet your mortgage on any of it).

Single of the Year

  • “Famous Friends” – Chris Young with Kane Brown
  • “The Good Ones” – Gabby Barrett
  • “Hell of a View” – Eric Church
  • “One Night Standards” – Ashley McBryde
  • “Starting Over” – Chris Stapleton

Winner: “The Good Ones”

Gabby’s “The Good Ones” was a monster hit. The Platinum-certified single topped both the Billboard Country Airplay chart and the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for multiple weeks. Gabby’s “I Hope” really had a solid case for this award in 2020 (over Maren Morris’ “The Bones”), so in basketball parlance, this will be a well-deserved make-up call.

Song of the Year (songwriters)

  • “Forever After All” – Luke Combs, Drew Parker, Robert Williford  
  • “The Good Ones” – Gabby Barrett, Zach Kale, Emily Landis, Jim McCormick 
  • “Hell Of A View” – Casey Beathard, Eric Church, Monty Criswell  
  • “One Night Standards” – Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally, Ashley McBryde 
  • “Starting Over” – Mike Henderson, Chris Stapleton  

Winner: “One Night Standards”

Voters love a “clever” title in this category. Past winners over the last three years include “Beautiful Crazy,” “Broken Halos,” and “Better Man.” “One Night Standards” is pretty damn clever.

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Luke Combs
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton

Winner: Luke Combs

Based on the parameters of the award, Chris Stapleton should never lose. His voice is unmatched any time he opens his mouth. Having said that, Luke Combs takes it for the third year in a row. Luke’s multi-week single success reigns supreme.

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Gabby Barrett
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Ashley McBryde
  • Maren Morris
  • Carly Pearce

Winner: Gabby Barrett

This year, it’s really a two-person race: Gabby or Carly? I’m leaning Gabby. Her voice is stunning. And her singles are crushing it. Plus, Carly’s gonna get some hardware in another very important category. See below. And typically, voters do like to spread some of the wealth.

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady A
  • Little Big Town
  • Midland
  • Old Dominion
  • Zac Brown Band

Winner: Old Dominion

This is the biggest toss-up. Have any of the nominees distinguished themselves head-and-shoulders above the others? Not really. However, my gut says Old Dominion takes it for the fourth year in a row, but Lady A may slip in there based on the success of their No. 1 single, “Champagne Night.”

Duo of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Winner: Brothers Osborne

Much like Vocal Group of the Year, Duo of the Year could go a number of ways (I know, that doesn’t make much sense). The best album from a duo came from Brothers Osborne, so that’s my horse. But watching Brooks & Dunn win would be amazing.

Album of the Year

  • 29 – Carly Pearce
  • Dangerous: The Double Album – Morgan Wallen
  • Heart – Eric Church
  • Skeletons – Brothers Osborne
  • Starting Over – Chris Stapleton

Winner: 29

Before you say anything. Have you listened to each album? Multiple times? From start to finish? While I was leaning toward Stapleton initially, I now think Carly’s 29 is the winner. She sounds amazing. The songwriting is fantastic. Song selection is on point. She nailed it. Winner, winner.

CMA Entertainer of the Year

  • Eric Church
  • Luke Combs
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood

Winner: Luke Combs

With the exception of Eric Church (who won in 2020), none of these nominees have copped CMA Entertainer of the Year. Hard to believe neither Carrie nor Miranda has one of these trophies. However, my gut says voters are ready to anoint Luke after a year that included multiple No. 1 singles, and a bunch of virtual performances that kept folks entertained. He also has made the gradual climb that comforts voters: 2018 New Vocalist of the Year, 2019 and 2020 Male Vocalist of the Year, 2019 Song of the Year, and 2020 Album of the Year. Entertainer of the Year at the 55th CMA Awards feel right.

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