cma_award.jpgThe final nominees for the 2007 CMA Awards will be announced live on August 30. With another year of decreasing record sales behind them, the Nashville music industry will be looking to rally the faithful and celebrate the few bright spots that the genre can claim right now.

The CMA is the most significant genre award show by a wide margin. Unlike the fan-voted CMT Awards and the radio industry-dominated ACM’s, the CMA is the one award that truly reflects the Nashville music industry. It doesn’t have the prestige of the Grammy, which is voted on solely by those who actually create music, but since it encompasses voters who make their livelihood working with country music, it reflects how the preferences of the country music industry as a whole.

While voters exist around the world, membership is dominated by those who work on, and with, Music Row. Most of the big employers purchase memberships for their entire staff. It is important to keep that in mind when forecasting who will be nominated and eventually win. The biggest labels have the most clout, and as the past couple of years have shown, it’s the Sony BMG behemoth that can wrangle the most nominations.

In the run-up to the announcement of the final nominees, I’ll be making predictions for each major category after exploring the possible nominees, and their likelihood of ending up in the final five. Artists are ranked in three levels: Certain to Be Nominated, Likely to Be Nominated and Could Be Nominated. They are ranked within those categories as well in the order of likelihood. Final prediction for the five nominees are listed at the end.

First up:


Certain to Be Nominated:

Brad Paisley
He’s a core act at radio, and is arguably the most respected male artist today that hasn’t won this award. He’s been a nominee for six of the past seven years, and he’s the reigning ACM champ. In a very competitive category, he’s the only lock for a nomination.

Likely to Be Nominated:

Kenny Chesney
Despite being known more as an entertainer than a singer, he’s been in this category for the past six years. I’ve been expecting him to drop out of it for about as long, but that BMG voting block is pretty strong. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him left off, but I’m not expecting it.

Keith Urban
I get the sense that enthusiasm for Urban has cooled in the past year, but he’s still doing well at radio and he has been the winner of this award for three years running. Only Vince Gill and George Strait have been able to pull off that feat, so I expect him to at least contend for the award again.

Could Be Nominated:

George Strait
He wasn’t nominated in 2006, and he wasn’t nominated in 1992, but every other year from 1984 on, he’s been up for this award. He’s had a big year at radio and I think that the CMA will embrace this Hall of Famer again in this category.

Josh Turner
I’m going with my gut on this one. The traditionalist bent of the voting bloc, coupled with his fantastic year at retail, makes me think that Turner will end up a finalist. His ineligibility for Album and Horizon make this the logical place to show him some love. He’ll probably win this in the future.

Alan Jackson
Being a core BMG act and the most respected male vocalist of his generation can’t guarantee a nomination for him this year. He’s still got a great shot, but lukewarm reception to his latest album among the traditionalists that are usually behind him may keep him off the list.

Tim McGraw
He’s still one of the biggest male artists the genre has, but he hasn’t been nominated since 2003 for this award. I’m doubtful he’ll be back in the race again. There are simply too many male artists who are doing well for them all to be nominated.

Rodney Atkins
He’s still pretty new, so a Horizon award nomination seems more likely. But the man did sell over a million records, more than many of the top-tier male acts. In a less competitive year, he’d have a good shot. In 2007, he has an outside chance.

Vince Gill
Warm reception to his four-CD opus These Days will probably land him more votes in this category than he’s received in years. This 2007 inductee to the Hall of Fame could slip in here, but nominations for Album and Vocal Event seem far more likely.

Dierks Bentley
I’m only even considering him as a remote possibility because he was nominated last year, but that was before his third album was released. His big sales drop-off makes it highly unlikely he’ll be nominated again, given how highly competitive this category is.

Toby Keith
It wouldn’t be fair to not discuss Keith at all, given his immeasurable vocal talent and continued success at radio and retail. But the reality is he hasn’t been a contender since 2004 for this award, and now that he has his own label, his support among the voters is simply too weak.

Final Prediction:

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Josh Turner
  • Keith Urban