Four of last year’s nominees are ineligible this year: Carrie Underwood, the 2006 winner, and three artists who have been nominated the maximum two times – Josh Turner, Sugarland, and Miranda Lambert.   That leaves only one possible holdover, Little Big Town, who will likely score a second nomination.  That opens up the field for a lot of upcoming artists, so this is a wide open race.


Likely to Be Nominated:

Little Big Town
After scoring two surprise Grammy nominations and winning a new artist award at the ACM’s, it seems likely that Little Big Town will repeat last year’s nomination in the Horizon category.   With album sales of 1.1 million, they might even be the front-runners to win at this point of the game.

Rodney Atkins
Atkins has been the year’s big breakthrough story, scoring three huge hits off of his second album, which has scanned more than one million units.  His traditionalist sound gives him a leg up in this race, as that is the preferred style of a large bloc of CMA voters.

Could Be Nominated:

Taylor Swift
She’s had the #1 album for a few weeks now, and her popularity at retail has helped her catch on at radio, the reverse of how things usually work in country music.    I’m listing her as could be, rather than likely, because of two big variables: her age and her label, which could both work against her.

Jason Aldean
One of country music’s biggest success stories, his first album scanned more than a million units.   After only a few weeks, his foll0w-up has already sold over 300,000.    It was something of a shock that he wasn’t nominated last year, actually; even the CMA organizers had him on hand for the press conference.   He’ll probably have his shot this year.

Billy Currington
His second album has been a steady seller for nearly two years, now approaching 900,000 units sold.   With the deck cleared a bit, he should have a chance to get into the Horizon category.

Craig Morgan
I would guess that Morgan has a lot of fans among voters, given his traditionalist sound and his success at radio, but I think the lackluster sales of his current disc – barely 150k after nearly a year – may be hurting him from making the race.  Amazingly, even the powerful single “Tough” has yet to stimulate sales.

Bucky Covington & Kellie Pickler
Of the two season five Idol alums who’ve taken the country route, Pickler has had more success at retail, but Covington has broken through on a larger scale at radio.   I think they each have about an equal shot of breaking through this year.

The Wreckers
Something of a wild card.  Their sales are just under 800k, but they didn’t make it last year. Was that because of stiff competition or a feeling that they can get their due with a duo nomination?  Plus, radio has been cool to their later singles from the project, so that could hurt them with voters.

Jason Michael Carroll, et al.
There are a lot of newer acts who have had some radio success, and have sold in the 100-250k range with their latest albums: Jason Michael Carroll, Eric Church, Jack Ingram, Emerson Drive and Jake Owen.   Of them all, Carroll has sold the most units, currently nearing 250k.

Final Prediction:

Horizon Award

  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Billy Currington
  • Little Big Town
  • Taylor Swift