Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Brian Dugger

Swift, Aldean, Underwood expected to shine

Every year I promise I won't embarrass myself again by attempting to pick the winners of the Country Music Association awards, and every year I fail to listen to my wise inner voice.

It's just not an easy thing to predict how 11,000 industry professionals are going to vote. Sometimes biases get in the way, or sometimes a voting member just doesn't like a nominee. Typically, the most deserving person wins, but certainly not all the time.

It is safe to say, however, that the CMA awards show is always a treat for fans, and this year will be no different. The show airs Thusday on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. and will once again be hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. Some of the scheduled performers include Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, the Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Paisley, and Underwood.

Let's take a look at a couple of the categories and give it a shot as far as who will be taking home some hardware.

Female vocalist: Underwood, Swift, Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, and Martina McBride. Voters tend to lean toward the artists who stay true to country's traditional roots, and that's probably why Lambert was the winner last year. This year she's got an Album nomination for "Four the Record" and a song nomination for "Over You." Swift is probably the most talked about artist in the world right now with the release of her new album, "Red." Underwood's disc, "Blown Away," is fantastic, but it was released in May, so she was only a couple of singles into the album heading into final voting. But I think that's good enough for her to take the prize away from Lambert.

Male vocalist: Aldean, Luke Bryan, Shelton, Church, and Keith Urban. I think you can take Urban out of the mix, but after that, you can pretty much flip a coin. Shelton won it last year, which always gives an artist the edge, but Aldean, Bryan, and Church are having unbelievable years. On Friday morning, Aldean sold out his July show at Boston's Fenway Park in seven minutes. Bryan has produced four big hits off of his current album, "Tailgates & Tanlines." Church has the most nominations for the show with five, and I think his album, "Chief," should win. But in this category, I've got to believe that Aldean will come out on top.

Entertainer of the Year: Aldean, Chesney, Paisley, Shelton, and Swift. Chesney has won this category four times. If he wins again, he will surpass Garth Brooks for the most ever. But I believe this is going to come down to Aldean and Swift, who won it last year. Swift's new album is going to shatter some recent sales marks, but she may have irked some of the traditional voters with her heavily pop-influenced sound her music has these days. But there's no denying her popularity, and the fact is that she's a global superstar. Like it or not, I think Swift repeats.

Brian Dugger's column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.

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