Awoman hasn’t won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year prize in 11 years.
This year two – Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert – are up, but they might just take a back seat to Nashville’s bad boy, Morgan Wallen. Back in the industry’s good graces (after apologizing for a racial slur), he could win the top prize and extend the drought to 12 years.
Considering Loretta Lynn (the first female to win Entertainer of the Year) is going to be the subject of a tribute, it’d be kind of heartless not to cap the night with a win for Underwood or Lambert. Both should win prizes but both could be applauding someone else.
By category, here’s how the night should shake down:
BEST VOCAL DUO:
Brothers Osborne. The two have been on the radar all year long and don’t seem likely to be bested by ones who have been in the hunt many times before. Check that box.
BEST VOCAL GROUP:
Old Dominion. Still strong, still grateful, they seem likely to collect. If there’s a surprise winner, it could be Midland, the most avant garde of the five nominated.
BEST NEW ARTIST:
Walker Hayes may have thousands of people creating TikTok videos to his “Fancy Like,” but Lainey Wilson seems like the one to beat. She has a host of nominations and should go home with something. This is it.
“Palomino,” Miranda Lambert. She’s a sure bet in this category (one she’s won twice before) and doesn’t have Chris Stapleton in the hunt. Luke Combs (“Growing Up”) and Old Dominion (“Time, Tequila and Therapy”) could be threats, but they have other opportunities.
“You Should Probably Leave,” Chris Stapleton. He could be bested here by “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” by Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde, but he will win something for the song.
Here’s where “You Should Probably Leave” seems like a lock. “Never Wanted” and “Things a Man Oughta Know” could be the songs that stand a second chance.
MUSICAL EVENT OF THE YEAR:
“If I Didn’t Love You” (Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood) has been performed everywhere they’re willing to go. It has the strongest star power but CMA voters could give “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” its support if they’re tired of Jason and Carrie.
Here’s how the CMA can honor its last female Entertainer of the Year. Taylor Swift is nominated with Chris Stapleton in this category (for “I Bet You Think About Me”) and produced a great video. But, she still has her detractors (they won’t get over her shift to pop) and could lose to any of the others, who would make the night a little more interesting. If there’s going to be a sweep for Lainey, this would be one she should pick up (for “Never Say Never”).
Miranda and Carrie have had their day; Carly Pearce won last year, which leaves Ashley McBryde and Lainey Wilson. We’re betting Wilson, simply because she was nominated in so many categories, she can’t be denied everything.
Never bet against Chris Stapleton. He’s always a good default choice. Luke Combs would be a safe choice, too. But Morgan Wallen has that following that could spell success here. The CMA might not give him the big prize, but this would certainly be a good first step.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR:
Carrie and Miranda are both due and either one could get it. Carrie is more of an entertainer than Miranda, which gives her an edge. But Miranda has won more CMA trophies than any female (George Strait is the record holder), so there’s that. Luke Combs won last year; Chris Stapleton has never won and Morgan is the odd man out. If the voters want to be safe, it’s Stapleton’s. If not, we’re going with Carrie Underwood. She should be in this company.