In the interest of full disclosure: No, we aren't going to vote in this year's CMA Awards, so our comments don't breach any sort of CMA rules. And in the interest of even further disclosure, Scott Roland is the husband to yours truly...since I talk about him quite a bit, it's time he introduced himself, don't you think?
Reader, meet Scott (or at least, his official short bio):
Scott Roland is the alter ego of a man who does a little bit of everything. A Nashville-based journalist and popular radio personality, Scott also serves as a living encyclopedia of country music history. He loves long road trips, spends far too much money at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, obsesses over the Dallas Cowboys and goes out of his way to spoil his children. Scott and his wife, novelist Gwen Masters, share a historic home on the outskirts of Nashville.
Now that we've all been introduced, let's get down to it!
Gwen: Since this is the beginning, let's talk about artists who are just beginning: The Horizon Award. Nominees are Rodney Atkins, Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift, and Little Big Town.
Scott: Once again this year, this is a very challenging category. Rodney Atkins has had a lot of success but his record label doesn't really have the blocks of votes needed -- not enough industry pull. Jason Aldean has the same problem. Little Big Town is probably the most talented of the five nominees, but again, Equity Records is faced with the same problem as Aldean and Atkins -- plenty of talent but not enough industry backing. That leaves us with the two opening acts for Brad Paisley's tour this year. While Kellie Pickler has the Sony/BMG machine behind her, Taylor Swift has the undeniable numbers to assure that she wins this crown. My pick? It's Taylor.
Gwen: As usual, you're the realist and I'm the idealist. I look at artists and think about who should be at the top of the heap from an artistic standpoint, which never, ever jives with the industry view. So I'm hoping the CMA finds Taylor Swift a bit too young for this one, as her big hits have come in the last year, but she doesn't have a history beyond that. Jason Aldean, however, has turned in a flat-out amazing second album, and he's been around for a few years with a major presence. Broken Bow doesn't often make a misstep with their acts, so I'm thinking: Jason Aldean.
Scott: Well, that's what the definition of the Horizon Award is: Most career development in the past year. So taking a look at where each of the performers were a year ago, versus right now, I don't see any other choice but Taylor. But remember, that's by definition, not necessarily by opinion.
Gwen: The definition makes sense, but like I said, I have an idealistic view, and it doesn't all have to be about sales and high-powered publicists and sex appeal. Hopefully, CMA voters will go with their hearts instead of the industry pocketbooks.
Scott: Numbers are hard to disagree with, my dear.
Gwen: You're right on that. Moving on, let's visit the category I'm sure you're most interested in, Scott: Female Vocalist.
Scott: The nominees are Carrie Underwood, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, and...who is the fifth nominee?
Gwen: Miranda Lambert. Interesting that you left her name out...
Scott: It's a fairly easy category to dissect this year. While I'm as big a fan of Reba as anybody, one duet with Kelly Clarkson does not an award-winner make. Alison Krauss simply doesn't have the radio support to figure in this from a female vocalist standpoint, and Miranda is simply too new.
Gwen: But Carrie Underwood was so new last year, you could practically say she was still a baby.
Scott: True, my dear...but Carrie has the numbers behind her, where Miranda does not. In this category, it really comes down to Martina and Carrie. While I personally think Martina could be the Female Vocalist every year, if you look at the statistics for this year, it's a fairly easy pick. Carrie Underwood takes it home.
Gwen: Now that we've talked about sexy females who can sing, let's go to one of my favorite categories: Male Vocalist. Nominees are Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Josh Turner and Keith Urban.
Scott: Wow. In this category we have a huge contrast -- the newness of Josh Turner, combined with the time-tested appeal of George Strait.
Gwen: Before we go any further, congratulations are in order to Josh. He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, and by the time the CMA airs, he will be a member. I think we'll see quite a bit of Josh on the nominee list in the future.
Scott: Most definitely. Josh is a very deserving artist for the Opry honor. I think it will probably be the only honor he gets this year, as he is simply too new against this competition. On the other hand, I don't see the grand veteran, George Strait, reclaiming his Male Vocalist throne. I think while Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban both have had stellar years, the popularity of Brad Paisley -- with both fans and industry -- nets him this award.
Gwen: I agree with your points on Josh Turner and George Strait -- Josh has some seasoning to go yet, and I just don't see George taking this one home. Brad Paisley is a fantastic artist, but he's not exactly the best vocalist out there, and that's what this category is about, right? So don't discount the two big names from the last few years -- Kenny and Keith. Keith has been the reigning champ in this category, but I think the overall tone of the industry for the last few years has been turning away from him, and that leaves Kenny as the winner this time -- but only by a very thin margin.
Scott: Do you really think Kenny is the better vocalist?
Gwen: If we were going by terms of vocal ability alone and not taking the whims of the industry into account, Josh Turner would win the talent contest. No question.
Scott: Well, you know what they say about opinions...
Gwen: That's true, and I love you anyway -- even though you're wrong.
Scott: Wait a minute. Are you PMS-ing again? Should I take cover?
Gwen: No, we should just move on to Vocal Duo of the Year . Look -- a list of actual contenders! Nominees include Big & Rich, Montgomery Gentry, Brooks & Dunn, Sugarland and The Wreckers.
Scott: Finally, this category has a little bit of competition. You've got the stage moxy of Sugarland. The quirkiness of Big & Rich is finally starting to take flight. Montgomery Gentry have matured one-hundred-fold as artists over the last year. The Wreckers have already gone to solo projects, so they aren't really contenders anymore. At the end of the day, you're still going up against one of the best voices in the business -- Ronnie Dunn. So Brooks & Dunn gets my pick.
Gwen: Personally, I'm a huge fan of both Big & Rich and Montgomery Gentry. I would love to see Eddie and Troy take the award home this year, and in a perfect world, they would be my pick. Brooks & Dunn have won it for years and years, and my affinity for underdogs makes me hope somebody else takes it -- though, given the climate of the industry and the fact that Brooks & Dunn are the darlings, it probably won't happen.
Scott: The fact that Kix Brooks is on the CMA Board probably doesn't hurt their chances, either.
Gwen: Are you saying it's really about who you know and not so much about what talent you have? Surely you jest!
Scott: I'm not saying anything of the sort, but it is a contest. Their harmonies are enough to win it, but every little edge on their competitors doesn't hurt.
That's it for Part One of our CMA Predictions. Check back tomorrow for Part Two!