In the final edition of CMA Forecast, I’m taking a look at the Entertainer of the Year category.   Will this be the year that some new faces are in the running for the first time?   A major shake-up is unlikely, but I suspect that for the first time since 2001, this isn’t going to be an all-boy’s club.


Certain to Be Nominated:

Kenny Chesney
As the reigning champ and country music’s biggest box office draw, his nomination is a given.   The real question is whether he’ll tie Alabama and Alan Jackson for second place in total wins with a third victory in four years.

Likely to Be Nominated:

Brad Paisley
I’ve been saying it all year long, and I believe it now more than ever: 2007 will be the year where Brad Paisley takes home some big awards.  I do believe he’s the front-runner for Male Vocalist and Album, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him play spoiler and take home Entertainer over Chesney and Rascal Flatts.

Rascal Flatts
They have the numbers at retail, the plays at radio and the sales at the box office to make them a given for an Entertainer nomination.   But their public whining has brought attention to the fact that they aren’t awards favorites.  Sure, they’ve picked up a lot of ACM’s, but they’ve been limited to the Vocal Group wins at the CMA’s and have yet to win a Grammy.   Their sales are impressive in comparison to most of the competition, but let’s be honest: Album sales between 4 and 5 million are not record-breaking, eyebrow-raising achievements, and that appears to be their ceiling.    So yes, a nomination is likely, but a victory may be far more elusive.

Carrie Underwood
Too soon?  I’d normally say yes.  But may I remind you of the Dixie Chicks?  They were nominated in 1999 while they were still working their first album and had yet to headline a tour.   What they did have on their side was overwhelming enthusiasm from all corners of the music industry.  Underwood is winning big awards at every show including the Grammys, just like the Chicks were doing back in the late nineties.

Back then, the industry was hungry for a big act that embraced tradition while the pop crossover era was reaching a fever pitch, and the Dixie Chicks were enthusiastically championed as the genre’s saviors because they met that need.  Today, the country music industry is desperately hoping for a superstar act that can appeal to wide demographics and sell records like the superstars of the boom years.  With a 6x platinum debut, Underwood has the top-selling country album of the entire century.   She’s everything the industry has been praying for, and they’re going to embrace her as warmly and tightly as they can.   An Entertainer nod is the only way to up the ante from last year, and the voters just might give it to her.

Keith Urban
I sense that the final slot is a toss-up between the 2005 winner and the hosts for the past three years.    Urban has a big-selling album and a great year at radio on his side, plus widespread respect for his talents as a musician.   As I’ve said in previous posts, how deep his support still is among the industry will be revealed by this upcoming ballot.   I think he’ll still be in the race, but it’s not a given.

Brooks & Dunn
Nor is a nomination for this duo, even though they won big last year and they host the show.   They were nominated five times in the last six years, but they didn’t make the cut in 2005, and they haven’t put out a new album since 2005.   If they make the cut, it will be over more deserving acts this time around.   And let’s be honest: it wouldn’t be the first time these guys were chosen over stronger competition…

Tim McGraw
Just ask this guy.   How he failed to secure a nomination in this category after having the year’s biggest tour remains a mystery, and I’m sad to say that I believe that fate will be repeated this year, despite another big year at the box office and a new album that is selling at a solid rate.   I hold out hope that “If You’re Reading This” reminded voters of what a deep and essential artist Tim McGraw is, but I’m not confident that hope is justified.

George Strait
He hasn’t been nominated since 2002, so a nomination this year would be an unexpected surprise.   As I’ve written in the other categories, I suspect that there is going to be a lot of Strait sentiment this year.   A nomination here would indicate that it’s deep enough to score him some wins this fall.
Final Prediction:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban