1. Entertainer of the Year
People Country picked Blake Shelton for this one, and I definitely agree. One of the criteria is "overall contribution to the Country Music image," and Blake Shelton has raised its profile substantially by representing the genre well on The Voice. Still , there's no denying that Taylor Swift is by far the biggest name of the five nominees.
2. Female Vocalist of the Year
Fifth time's the charm. Carrie Underwood has been nominated for this award in each of the past four years, but no luck. I'm going to side with People Country and pick her as the winner for 2013. Good Girl, Blown Away, Two Black Cadillacs, and See You Again were all hits off her latest album, and should be enough to catapult her over Miranda Lambert. Taylor Swift going home empty-handed at last year's CMA Awards makes me think she won't get many industry nods because of her pop leanings. I still don't see how Kelly Clarkson is country, and Kacey Musgraves is too new.
3. Male Vocalist of the Year
Okay, so I agree with People Country again – Luke Bryan, no contest.
4. Vocal Group of the Year
My impression is that some of these nominees have been stagnant on country radio over the past year. People Country says Little Big Town, but I say uh-uh. The Band Perry's sophomore album Pioneer produced DONE. and the chart-topping dark rocker Better Dig Two, competing against Little Big Town's singles Pontoon and Tornado. It's a tough call, but I'll bet on the younger, higher-energy act.
5. Vocal Duo of the Year
I don't know what People Country was thinking in predicting Thompson Square. They certainly make great music, but Florida Georgia Line has taken the country music genre (and more) by storm since its breakthrough.
6. New Artist of the Year
I would fall over if Florida Georgia Line didn't win (don't worry, I'll get someone to videotape). According to Country Weekly, Cruise broke the Billboard Hot Country Songs previous record (from 1955) by remaining at the top spot for 22 weeks. That should be more than enough.
7. Album of the Year
Sorry, Blake. People Country picked Based On a True Story, but I'm going with the underdog Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves. This album is unlike anything I've ever heard in country music, and should win over voters who like to see artists push the boundaries of the genre without leaving them.
8. Musical Event of the Year
People Country suggests the star power of Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban will make this a hands-down decision. I beg to differ. Florida Georgia Line gave real country music a huge stage by partnering with Nelly for a remix of Cruise. I think that's more noteworthy and a bigger deal than Highway Don't Care, as good a song as that is.
Other Picks (Not Addressed by People Country)
Single of the Year: Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
Song of the Year: Merry Go 'Round – Kacey Musgraves
Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally (Guitar)
Music Video of the Year: Highway Don't Care – Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban