With great nominations for the 53rd Annual ACM Awards comes great winners as well.
Gearing up for the big Vegas ceremony, many artists will prepare their performances and their acceptance speeches in hopes they will return to Nashville with a trophy (or two!) in hand. From the individual artist categories to the musical groupings, every award comes with its own prize and pride of being crowned with that specific title. The most dominant of them all though, ACM Entertainer of the Year, really makes an impact on an artist and their career, which makes quite the stir leading up to the event night.
Sounds Like Nashville dissected some of the biggest categories of the evening to strategically predict who will come out on top with a victory in hand. Analyzing the albums released and the success of certain tours, each listing holds a shining beacon who may, or may not, triumph with the respective title. From Album of the Year to the Vocalists of the Year, SLN made our final cuts at the winners and wanted to share the possible yet undetermined results based on the work done throughout 2017.
Do you agree with their picks? Tweet us at @soundslikenash and let us know!
Tune in to the 53rd Annual ACM Awards on Sunday, April 15, at 8 p.m. EST on the CBS Television Network.
Entertainer of the Year
SLN Pick: Each of the men nominated in this category is equally deserving of the honor. Within the past year, every nominee has gone on to cement exactly why they’re Entertainer of the Year material, between massive sold-out tours, new music and providing a one-of-a-kind fan experience for those who crave their music. Among them though was Garth Brooks, who took over 2017 and made it his own. Not only did the singer wrap his massive three-year tour across the United States, with many of the dates sold out, but he also released the first part of his five-part anthology, surprised fans at CMA Fest and earned the title of CMA Entertainer of the Year. This year, we think it’s Garth’s ACM title to lose.
Female Vocalist of the Year:
SLN Pick: These five women devoted themselves to their craft through all of 2017, so the category is really anyone’s game. Kelsea Ballerini released her second album, Unapologetically, to critical acclaim and earned another No.1 single with the song “Legends.” Maren Morris also earned her first No.1 song with “I Could Use A Love Song” and expanded her empire with a massive pop collaboration with Zedd. Carrie Underwood led one of the only female headlining tours through much of the year and Reba not only released an ultra-personal album, but also transformed herself into the one and only KFC Colonel Sanders. While each of those accolades is well-deserving of the title, we think it’s Miranda Lambert who will take home a win because of the critical success of her two-part album, as well as her intense touring schedule.
Male Vocalist of the Year
SLN Pick: This category is a tough one to choose, because it features the best of the best. Thomas Rhett was surprised by his win in the category last year, and has had an equally as momentous, if not more so, year this year. But so has Chris Stapleton. Both Rhett and Stapleton are industry and fan favorites, but we think it’ll be Stapleton who will take home the title. The singer not only toured the nation, but also released not one, but two albums over the year. In addition to his releases, the singer swept his GRAMMY nominations and will likely do the same at the ACMs.
Vocal Duo of the Year:
SLN Pick: The duos category shook things up a bit this year by introducing new nominees such as the teamwork between Tim and Faith and LOCASH coming in hot. McGraw and Hill finally made their work together official with a sensational Soul2Soul run throughout last summer as well as a poignant collaborative album that highlighted both of their voices to the best of their abilities. Dan + Shay kept their flame alive by releasing “Road Trippin'” to radio and toured all year long, but the impact wasn’t as strong as Florida Georgia Line or Brothers Osborne. While FGL could snag their fourth win in the grouping for their genre-transcending sound and electric concerts, Brothers emulates that edge that the industry leans toward right now and they continue to seize their opportunities with grand potential above their competition.
Vocal Group of the Year
SLN Pick: LANCO and Midland rightfully earned their spots in the Vocal Group of the Year category for bursting onto the country scene with their distinctive approaches. Midland’s twist on traditional music left fans and industry members flocking over their vintage style, winning the hearts of critics with their debut release and upbeat live shows. LANCO, on the other hand, got the genre swooning over their No. 1 hit, “Greatest Love Story,” which led to bigger and better opportunities for the band. Old Dominion’s play-on-words sound dominated their album, Happy Endings, which received a nomination itself and therefore, boosting up their chance to take home the trophy that much more. Although Lady Antebellum celebrated a lot of life accomplishments in 2017, their career mirrored the same excitement when they progressed superbly on Heart Break and rocked out across the country for their huge You Look Good Tour. Ultimately, Little Big Town takes the cake though, for their harmonious work on The Breaker and selling out countless shows during their Ryman residency in Nashville. That alone earns them enough cred to walk away with the prize for the fourth consecutive year.
Album of the Year:
• The Breaker – Little Big Town
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville
• California Sunrise – Jon Pardi
Producers: Bart Butler, Jon Pardi
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville
• From A Room Vol. 1 – Chris Stapleton
Producers: Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton
Record Label: Mercury Records
• Happy Endings – Old Dominion
Producer: Shane McAnally
Record Label: RCA
• Life Changes – Thomas Rhett
Producers: Julian Bunetta, Jesse Frasure, Dann Huff, Joe London, Thomas Rhett
Record Label: The Valory Music Co.
SLN Pick: A tough category filled with eclectic options makes this a difficult decision to nail down. The Breaker quite literally broke hearts with its happy highs and emotional lows, and yet still captivated exactly what Little Big Town is all about: unity. Although California Sunrise holds on to the group despite being one of the older albums listed, Pardi created a cool West Coast sound without losing the authenticity of traditional country. A dark horse could lie within Happy Endings as Old Dominion continues on their quest to configure the best rhyme schemes all while establishing the classic themes of country music in a modern way on their sophomore release. Here’s where things start to get really tricky because Life Changes from Rhett combines an introspective approach while diversifying the genre of country to a new degree and From A Room: Volume 1 by Stapleton captures the true heart and soul of the format with the singer’s distinct vocals. Although Life Changes spotlights Rhett’s inventive way of bending the lines of music genres without losing touch with his country core, it’s the magnetizing and comforting style of Stapleton’s sound that makes us lean toward a win for From A Room: Volume 1.