52nd Annual ACM Awards Predictions
The countdown to “Country Music’s Party of the Year” is on!
We are coming down to the final days until Vegas goes Country and the Nashville music scene takes over the Sin City strip for the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards. As we look toward Sunday, April 2, Sounds Like Nashville’s Editor-In-Chief, Lauren Black, as well as SLN contributors Chuck Dauphin and Annie Reuter, share their thoughts on six of the top ACM Awards categories, including the night’s biggest honor, Entertainer of the Year, below.
Do you agree with their picks? Tweet us at @soundslikenash and let us know!
Entertainer of the Year
Lauren: Carrie Underwood
While an argument can be made as to why each of the nominees is deserving of this award, my money is on Carrie Underwood this time around. The past year marked a career-high for the superstar, and it would be an absolute shame if she wasn’t recognized for her achievements.
Chuck: Carrie Underwood
Let me say this first of all. Nobody entertains like Keith Urban. The Ripcord Tour was a sight to see. Bryan, FGL, and Aldean continue to pack them in night in and night out, but I continue to say that Underwood deserves to be rewarded for her outstanding Storyteller album and tour. This would seem like the ACM’s last chance to do what the CMA’s haven’t!
Annie: Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood traveled the globe for the better part of 2016 as part of her headlining The Storyteller Tour. Night after night, the powerhouse singer showed exactly why she is so deserving of this coveted award. Whether she was belting poignant songs like “Something In the Water” or wowing the crowd with an unexpected harmonica feature, Underwood’s talents stole the show as she exemplifies what a true entertainer is.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Lauren: Keith Urban
Fans got to hear some of Keith Urban’s best work yet with the release of his album, RipCord, which spawned hit after hit, including “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” “Break on Me,” “Wasted Time,” “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” and the much-buzzed about Carrie Underwood duet, “The Fighter.” Urban often seems to be overlooked for awards, but there’s no denying this is his year. Hopefully ACM voters feel the same.
Chuck: Chris Stapleton
Each year, I always say it’s going to be the year that Dierks Bentley finally breaks through in this category. I think he’s got a chance here, but the critical acclaim of Stapleton is just too much. Look for a repeat winner here!
Annie: Keith Urban
Keith Urban continues to diversify himself and 2016 was the year we saw Urban take over country radio with back-to-back No. 1 hits. “Break on Me,” “Wasted Time,” and “Blue Ain’t Your Color” couldn’t be more different from each other musically, but on each single Urban shared his expansive ability as a singer. It was on “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” though, that best showcased Urban’s power as a vocalist. The throwback song featured Urban’s ethereal vocals like we have never heard them before, further evidencing why the song was a multi-week No. 1 and that he should be the best contender for Male Vocalist.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Lauren: Carrie Underwood
In recent years, this category always seems to come down to Carrie Underwood versus Miranda Lambert. While Lambert returned to the spotlight with an impressive double album this past year, Underwood enjoyed substantially more commercial success with her Storyteller album and radio singles. This should be a clear-cut category with Underwood taking home the trophy.
Chuck: Carrie Underwood
Miranda released a triumph in The Weight of These Wings, while Maren soared into the stratosphere with HERO. Kelsea continued to add to her fan base, but in the end, I look for ACM voters to follow the lead of the CMA, and reward Carrie for what was truly a career year.
Annie: Carrie Underwood
It has been over a decade since Carrie Underwood shared her debut album, Some Hearts, with the world and with every release since the singer reminds us of her pristine pipes. Whether she’s headlining her Storyteller Tour, climbing up the radio charts or sharing videos of herself singing with her son, Underwood’s voice never disappoints.
Vocal Group of the Year
Lauren: Little Big Town
Although things were a bit quiet for Little Big Town during the ACM Awards eligibility period, the group will likely continue to reign over this category as they have since 2014. With new albums from Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum on the way, next year might be a different story.
Chuck: Little Big Town
Yes, Lady Antebellum is back. However, they were off for the bulk of the eligibility year. With the awards taking place in Vegas, place your bets on Little Big Town. I think you’ll be rewarded quite handsomely.
Annie: Little Big Town
Little Big Town continue their reign in country music with the release of The Breaker, another No. 1 song in the Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man” and the announcement of the first-ever artist residency at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. There is nothing this quartet can’t do which makes them a sure bet at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Lauren: Florida Georgia Line
With the success of the mega-hit “H.O.L.Y.” and their Dig Your Roots album, it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking this trophy home. Brothers Osborne pulled off quite the upset at the CMA Awards last November, but I’m not sure they can pull that off again. I’d place my bets on FGL this time around.
Chuck: Florida Georgia Line
Conventional wisdom might say that Brothers Osborne would repeat their CMA win from last November here, but FGL didn’t get the amount of nominations they did for nothing. Plus, Dig Your Roots was the best album they’ve delivered yet. I think this one stays with Brian and Tyler.
Annie: Brothers Osborne
Brothers TJ and John Osborne continue to leave their mark on country fans in the live setting. The guys spent much of 2016 on the road in support of their debut album, Pawn Shop, touring with Miranda Lambert as well as headlining their first set of dates with The Dirt Rich Tour. After four years of domination by Florida Georgia Line, the Vocal Duo of the Year award should rightfully be turned over to Brothers Osborne.
Album of the Year
Lauren: Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings
With the exception of her debut album, Kerosene, each of Miranda Lambert’s previous albums have been awarded the ACM Album of the Year Honor: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in 2007, Revolution in 2009, Four the Record in 2011, and Platinum in 2014. With that kind of track record, it’s hard to imagine Lambert’s streak getting broken. She poured her heart into The Weight of These Wings, and it’s very likely that ACM voters will send the superstar home with her fifth Album of the Year trophy on Sunday night.
Chuck: Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings
An interesting category, as you have the continuing commercial appeal of FGL, along with the loud bang heard by Maren Morris. Throw in albums by Dierks, Keith, and Miranda that have gotten some of the best reviews of their careers, and it makes predicting this one rather tough. Still, Miranda’s double-disc project packed an emotional wallop that resonated with fans, and set her into an Emmylou Harris / Lee Ann Womack trajectory as an artist who is just as concerned with artistic integrity as chart numbers. I think it’s hers to lose.
Annie: Keith Urban’s Ripcord
Keith Urban has garnered four back-to-back chart toppers off of Ripcord while his current single “The Fighter” is poised to do the same. The album itself is a versatile release that has the singer continuing to push his music forward with a blend of country, EDM, pop, urban and soul influences. Meanwhile, collaborations with Underwood, Pitbull and Nile Rodgers also showcase Urban’s ability to work within multiple genres while still remaining true to his country roots. One of the most diverse albums in the category, Ripcord deserves the Album of the Year trophy.
Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley will return to “Country Music’s Party of the Year” to co-host for the second consecutive year. The 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards will broadcast live from the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 2 (live 8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network.