The competition is noticeably slimmer for the female vocalist race, with far fewer women having success at country radio, retail, or both. One of the interesting things about this race in the past few years has been the ability of acts not being played on the radio to break through. I expect that trend to surface again this year.


Certain to Be Nominated:

Carrie Underwood
Not only is she certain to be nominated, she’s guaranteed to win. The suspense in this category is non-existent. She’s the biggest act in country music right now and the most widely embraced by the industry. The only question hanging in the air is how many other awards she’ll take home in addition to Female Vocalist of the Year.

Martina McBride
This year’s other certain nominee has been a staple in this category for nearly a decade, winning it four times along the way. She’s the only core female artist at radio this century, and she’s a BMG act. She’s a lock for a nomination.

Likely to Be Nominated:

Miranda Lambert
She’s proven her chops with her follow-up to the platinum-selling Kerosene. Radio hasn’t warmed to her yet, but that isn’t stopping people from buying her albums. She’s the most critically acclaimed of any of the contenders, and she has cred with the traditional base. I’m tempted to call it a certainty, but I’ll hedge my bets a bit and just call it very likely.

Could Be Nominated:

Alison Krauss
She’s riding high on the charts right now with her first solo release in almost a decade. This is the first year in a long time where I can say she deserves a vocalist nod more than a vocal group one. I suspect that she’ll get both, as she did in 2005.

Sara Evans
From this point on, I’m not very confident. I’m giving Evans the edge to be the fifth nominee because she’s been nominated for five of the past six years, and she’s a BMG act. She had a weak year at radio and retail, but I’m not sure Big Machine records has enough clout to pull off a nomination for…

Taylor Swift
She has the #1 album right now and is jaw-droppingly popular with young fans. I’m very tempted to say she’ll get a nomination, but then I remember that voters have the option of the Horizon award slot. Sure, Carrie Underwood was nominated immediately for Female Vocalist, but other big female breakthrough artists like LeAnn Rimes and Gretchen Wilson had to wait a year, and they sold a lot more records than Ms. Swift. But I still haven’t convinced myself that she won’t get nominated.

Faith Hill
I guess she has a shot because she was nominated last year, but that was on the strength of a huge tour and a very successful year at radio and retail. She hasn’t put out a new album this past year, and despite them both being great singles, “Stealing Kisses” and “Lost” didn’t break through at radio. I actually think she deserves to be the fifth nominee over Evans, but I don’t think it will happen.

Gretchen Wilson
Her album has only been out a few weeks, and it’s already dead in the water, sliding down the charts due to lack of radio play and general excitement around her career. She may have won in 2005 and been nominated last year, but I just don’t see how she can make the final cut this time around.

Reba McEntire
I’d write her off, but I’m afraid to do so completely, now that she has her fastest-rising single in eleven years. Can a big push from MCA get her in the running for the first time in three years? Stranger things have happened. If this project does well, she might just be a multiple nominee next year.

Final Prediction:

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Sara Evans
  • Alison Krauss
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Carrie Underwood