2012 CMA Award Nominations, Observations, Predictions

September 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  35 Comments

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s hard to dispute that the CMA Awards are the most important night in country music every year. The nominations announced last week had a few interesting wrinkles, so let’s take a in-depth look at what’s coming up on November 1st and make some predictions.

Kelly Clarkson for Female Vocalist of the Year

Yeah, this is a very confusing nomination. As pop artists go, she may be one of the the good guys, but a CMA nomination? Yes she’s dabbled slightly in some crossover material like her “Don’t You Wanna Stay” duet with Jason Aldean, but unless I missed the memo, Kelly has never put out a country album, doesn’t bill herself as a country act on tours, and doesn’t run primarily in country circles. Sure, I think we all anticipate Kelly making a country move soon, but it hasn’t happened yet.

But don’t worry, Kelly Clarkson has no chance of winning this award, and if she did, it would be a PR nightmare more than a gift (You think Carrie Underwood fans are crazy now?). It would have been good to see a name like Kellie Pickler get the attention, even though she would have little chance of winning it. There wasn’t another name they felt met the caliber of the other nominees in country, and so they reached out to pop.

“Roll Me Up And Smoke Me” with Willie Nelson & Snoop Dog for Musical Event of the Year

I both love and hate this nomination. Yes, we should be happy that Willie’s name, along with Jamey Johnson’s and Kris Kristofferson’s who also collaborated on the song are even being mentioned in connection with the CMA’s. And no, I do not see this as some watershed moment in the mono-genre just because of Snoop Dog’s involvement. “Roll Me Up…” is still solidly a country song. It just once again reinforces Willie’s identity with pot instead of all the other great things he could and should be known for (including his marijuana advocacy), and it seems like a nomination stretch to attempt to be showy by the CMA. Nonetheless it is a very fun song done by some very cool people, and there’s much worse things that could have be given this recognition.

Down Year For Taylor Swift

Her last album Speak Now is pretty long in the tooth at this point having been released almost 2 years ago, and she hasn’t had a hit single in a while. Her new album Red will have been out for less than a month when the CMA’s hit, and her new single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” may be a little too pop for the CMA’s tastes, leaving them reluctant to vote for her. I’m sure in 2013 Swift will again be the CMA’s darling, but 2012 may take a Taylor Swift breather.

We’re Lucky There’s No Lionel

Except for a buried mention in the “Musical Event of the Year” category, Lionel Richie and his album Tuskegee didn’t make any of the major lists; a pleasant surprise. Despite lacking a major single, the album has been one the biggest blockbusters of 2012 so far. But don’t worry Richie fans, I’m sure the ACM’s who’ve whored themselve for Lionel plenty, including throwing him an unprecedented hour-long special on CBS, will reward the commercial success of Tuskegee greatly.

***UPDATE (10-31-12) Jason Aldean’s Cheating and Taylor Swift’s Chart Success

It will be interesting to see how the CMA votership reacted to the news about Jason Aldean being photographed with a woman that wasn’t his wife in an LA Bar. The news broke on September 30th, and the final round of voting for the CMA’s commenced on October 4th. Aldean, who’s up for the most awards this year, may see his support diminish because of the scandal.

Similarly, Swift has been making headlines since the last round of voting started. With Billboard changing their chart rules, she now has a firm grip on the #1 spot on the country charts with her pop anthem “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and two other songs charting in the top 20. Does this increase her chances of taking home a trophy, or will there be a Taylor Swift backlash because of the overtly-pop aspect of her new hit songs?


Entertainer of the Year

  • Taylor Swift
  • Brad Paisley
  • Jason Aldean – Winner
  • Blake Shelton
  • Kenny Chesney

Slight chance Taylor Swift could walk away with this, or maybe even Blake Shelton based on his work with NBC’s The Voice, but I think it’s Aldean’s to lose. His was the monster album this last cycle that kept churning out singles.

***UPDATE – As I said, it was Aldean’s to lose, but he may have lost it with his cheating scandal back in September. Also Taylor Swift now has to be considered a serious contender from the strength of her Red album becoming the best-selling debut in a decade, and the chart success of her song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. Or, these two big events could cancel each other out, and Blake Shelton could find himself the beneficiary. In the end though, I still think Aldean has the greatest chance, but it all of a sudden it is a much tighter race.

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church – Second Choice
  • Blake Shelton- Winner
  • Keith Urban

This is a three horse race, with Blake Shelton inching ahead from the strength his realty TV personality gives him. This may be where Eric Church’s smack talking comes back to bite him. In a neck and neck race, folks will remember how he called out Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, and others and will give the nod to the nominee with a cleaner nose. Aldean’s My Kinda Party has been such a commercial success, it’s hard to rule him out completely, but it’s rare an artist wins both Entertainer and the top gender category in the same year.

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Carrie Underwood – Winner
  • Taylor Swift
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride

This might be the biggest toss up of the major awards, but I think the other contenders might split the difference and leave Carrie Underwood with the win. Again, it’s an off year for Taylor, but she can never be completely counted out. Miranda is the other solid contender. I’m not sure if her album Four The Record or the supporting tour were strong enough for the nod this year, but when you combine it with her Pistol Annies material, it’s a pretty impressive body of work.

Album of the Year

  • Chief – Eric Church - Winner
  • Four The Record – Miranda Lambert
  • Home – Dierks Bentley
  • Own The Night – Lady Antebellum
  • Tailgates & Tanlines – Luke Bryan

I just don’t think the other albums have shown the remarkable strength Chief has. It’s been stalled out in the Billboard Top 5 for what seems to be eons. This will override any concerns about Eric’s extra-curricular gum flapping off-stage.

 Single of the Year

  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – Jason Aldean – Winner
  • “God Gave Me You” –  Blake Shelton
  • “Home” –  Dierks Bentley
  • “Pontoon” –  Little Big Town
  • “Springsteen” –  Eric Church

This is a pretty tenuous prediction because “Dirt Road Anthem” is so late in the calendar cycle. And though it angers me so that it may be the front runner to win, if you are going to give it to the most successful and influential song in country for this calendar cycle, it’s hard to dispute it. “Home” is also a little late in the cycle, and let’s not forget Jason Isbell claims it’s his. “Pontoon” and “Sprinsteen” as singles are a little early in the cycle, so give me Blake Shelton’s “God Gave Me You” as a runner up.

Other Nominees

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band – Winner

Where’s Rascal Flatts? They’re just as bad as these other bands. If they’re bitching, they have a legitimate beef. If I were Zac Brown, I’d be ashamed to be in this company.

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Big & Rich
  • Love and Theft
  • The Civil Wars
  • Thompson Square
  • Sugarland

If The Civil Wars ever had a chance, it would be this year, but I’d still only make their odds 1 in 5. Sugarland hasn’t done much this year. Beyond that, it’s a total toss up.

Song of the Year

  • “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Will Hoge and Eric Paslay
  • “God Gave Me You,” Dave Barnes
  • “Home,” Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers, and Dierks Bentley
  • “Over You,” Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton – Winner
  • “Springsteen,” Eric Church, Ryan Tyndell, and Jeff Hyde

Seeing Will Hoge win a CMA would be a small, cool victory. “Over You” might edge the others from the star power involved and the sentimentality that tends to dominate this category.

New Artist of the Year

  • Lee Brice
  • Brantley Gilbert – Winner
  • Hunter Hayes
  • Thompson Square

Brantley and his bad Affliction T-shirt will probably take it, and the world will be a worse place for it.

Musical Event of the Year

  • “Dixie Highway,” Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band
  • “Feel Like a Rock Star,” Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw
  • “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” Willie Nelson, Snoop Dog, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson
  • “Safe and Sound,” Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars – Winner
  • “Stuck on You,” Lionel Richie and Darius Rucker

This may be both The Civil Wars’ and Taylor Swift’s best chance at a 2012 CMA, boosted by The Hunger Games’ commercial success.

Music Video of the Year

  • “Come Over,” Kenny Chesney
  • “Over You,” Miranda Lambert
  • “Pontoon,” Little Big Town
  •  “Red Solo Cup,” Toby Keith
  • “Springsteen,” Eric Church

If “Red Solo Cup” wins, look for even more mainstream country fake-viral videos.

Musician of the Year

  • Sam Bush – mandolin
  • Paul Franklin – steel guitar
  • Dann Huff – guitar
  • Brent Mason – guitar
  • Mac McAnally – guitar



35 Comments to “2012 CMA Award Nominations, Observations, Predictions”

  • yawn. sorry, man.


  • just out of curiosity, what is your opinion on The Band Perry? I know they are really pop country but i would say they aren’t terrible. They write their stuff, play their own instruments and have a more “country” sound than rascall flatts or lady antebellum. they definitely aren’t ground breaking in anyway but they dont offend my ears when my girlfriend puts them on. The two brothers look goofy as hell though.


    • I concur The Band Perry is probably better than your average pop country fare, and it’s probably because The Country Music Anti-Christ Scott Borchetta extends a level of creative freedom to them as opposed to many Nashville-based label owners. But it’s still nothing I’m in a rush to buy or listen to.


    • It’s not healthy for your girlfriend to listen to The Band Perry.


      • And you should destroy any remnants of their existence that your girlfriend may have, and replace them with good/traditional/real country musical albums and trinkets.


  • I wonder what Dale Watson has to say about all this :D


  • Just more proof that the chasm between real country music and what sells to the average TV viewer (those who buy music with their eyes) has gotten so wide that it may never be bridged again.

    I, personally think live TV has outgrown itself and is gagging on it’s own attempts to appease the pop culture.


  • I’m not a huge fan of Willie Nelson, but he certainly is a legend. A song that pairs Willie Nelson with Snoop Dog, or whatever it is, is like a recipe that pairs filet mignon with dog shit.


    • I think it’s a good song. As for Snoop Dog, he sings (yep, sings) one verse and does a serviceable job. Plays it straight and he doesn’t call attention to himself. For that, I was grateful.


  • Well I guess I will have to wash my hair that night and miss the show.


    • Funny I’ve being washing my hair for years that night.


  • I wonder if the reaction to a Kelly Clarkson victory will be similar to the reaction to John Denver’s victory in 1975. The historical parallels are truly eerie. In 1975, Nashville country music had been going in the pop direction for over a decade, first with the Nashville Sound and then even further with the countrypolitan trend. John Denver’s CMA win was simply the last straw for hard-core country fans. Seems like a Kelly Clarkson win could ignite a similar backlash among country fans today who are frustrated with pop country. I’ve checked a lot of country music forums over the last several days, and the prospect of Kelly Clarkson winning Female Vocalist at the CMA appears to be a real emotional breaking point, and the belief that the CMA has jumped the shark is widespread.


    • I just don’t see it occurring though, except for on the very off chance that all the voters disperse amongst all the other nominees to the point where it is addition by subtraction and Kelly ends up with the most votes by accident, which may have been the exact thing that happened in the nomination process.

      The problem here may be just as much procedural as the CMA vying for popularity.


      • Nonetheless, it’s still interersting to ponder the possibility of Kelly Clarkson winning. The question then is who would play the role of Charlie Rich (maybe this time just tearing up the envelope instead of burning it)?


  • I’ll add one more thing: a win by “Dirt Road Anthem” for Single of the Year in addition to Kelly Clarkson for Female Vocalist could result in an even stronger backlash.


  • Here are my thoughts:
    1. I love Willie but I’m so over the marijuana references to him. We get it he smokes pot, so what? Let’s turn our attention to his remarkable guitar playing and song writing.
    2. As for Eric Church..I know he gets alot of flack on this site but I still think Chief was a good album compared to other mainstream country albums out last year.
    3. Miranda Lambert had a solid album this year as always. She knows how to play all sides of the country spectrum from pop, traditional, bluegrass, rock, etc. I think her band Pistol Annies album was one of the greatest to come out this year.
    4. Zac Brown Band I know doesn’t consider themselves country but they can pick a good country guitar riff with the best of em.
    5. I know Eli Young band is more pop country even though they come from the Red Dirt world, but those guys sure know how to write a great song and melody.
    6. The worst out of all of these has to be Big and Rich, Thompson Square, Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, The Band Perry, and Lady A.
    7. I just found out Hunter Hayes is the same little kid that played with Hank Jr. many years ago. See below for video.


    • Hey, I give Eric Church a lot of credit for trying to be inventive and progressive in the country format without relying on the cheap avenues of rap or pop. At the same time, the dude is an ass and deserves whatever his actions have bred for him. If he won Album of the Year or any other awards, I wouldn’t have a problem with it compared to some of the other nominees.

      My worry for Miranda is that “Four The Record” just wasn’t very commercially successful. I hate that this is a factor, but when making predictions, this is one of the most important things to take into account. I think the Pistol Annies along with Rascal Flatts should have been nominated in the vocal group category. They both have bigger skins on the wall than Little Big Town.


      • I disagree with you. Four The Record won Album of the Year at the ACM’s this year so I don;t think there will be any hesitation that she will win it at the CMA’s. I think she will take it home.


        • The ACM’s are notorious for horse trading and block voting by labels, while the CMA voting is much more wide open and hard to manipulate. Miranda Lambert won because her label wanted it to. No offense to Miranda, out of the lot she may be my favorite, but I just don’t see it happening.

          Here’s a story about how the ACM’s are manipulated by record labels.


          • Well I guess we will have to see. I mean she won Album of the Year for Revolution at the CMAs so I still think she can win it again for Four the Record. Personally I’m glad that the record labels chose Miranda to win some awards. The girl deserves it. We really don’t know what happens behind closed doors. I’m sure all these award shows are rigged. I’m glad Miranda got her opportunity to win some awards because I thought she deserved it from day 1.


      • I count myself in the middle of the road when it comes to country… I lean towards tradition, Waylon and Cash are my favorites, but I enjoy some (not most though) of top 40 country as well, specifically Miranda, Eric Church, Brad Paisley, and Dierks Bentley… And I love some of the music I’ve discovered here, such as The Turnpike Troubadours and Jason Eady… I guess I said all that to say, while Pontoon sucks majorly, Little Big Town is pretty good as a whole… I’d love to see a review on here on their new cd, you should do one Trigger! It’s hit and miss, but I’d be curious what your thoughts were. Keep up the good work!


  • While I agree with your analysis on “Album of the Year” on why “Chief” is probably the favorite, I’m curious as to why you don’t see Luke Bryan’s “Tailgates and Tanlines” as a formidable rival.

    We’re in agreement, surely, that it is a disastrous chunk of aw-shucks mediocrity. Yet, in assessing the commercial viability of the nominations, it’s hard to argue this isn’t a leading contender. It has sold nearly a million and a half units to date, and its fourth single, “Kiss Tomrrow Goodbye”, is briskly on its way to a probable third-consecutive #1 for Bryan this cycle.

    I still think “Chief” probably has the edge because of Church’s cult popularity beyond the conventional country listening demographic (being a featured act at Metallica’s metal festival, playing festivals that lean more to college/hipster audiences, et cetera) and because it has enjoyed superior critical stature, but I find it a bit baffling why you don’t even raise the point of Bryan’s stature in terms of commercial appeal and personable likability?


    • That’s probably a good point. Commercially, the two albums have been neck and neck for quite a while. I think Eric has the edge for the things you said, but maybe I just can’t even bring myself to think of Luke Bryan winning the Album of the Year. I’d almost rather see Kelly Clarkson win Female Vocalist because at least we can chalk that up as an anomaly.

      Luke Bryan for Album of the Year. Please no.


      • Suppose that Luke Bryan does win, you reckon he’ll have his “thank you” speech written on his hand?


        • Ha! Burn! Had forgotten about that. What a tool.


  • Lady Antebellum members seem like nice people, but I’m tired of them coasting along, getting nominations for a mediocre piece of work. Their latest album is not good enough for album of the year IMO. They can’t find another album to nominate? How about Alan Jackson’s album? Or the Pistol Annies?


  • Backlash, really? I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s possible for Nashville to “jump the shark” where fans of commercial country music are concerned. Every time music row releases something that makes me think the world’s coming to an end, its a ginormous hit. I’m almost at a place where it doesn’t piss me off anymore. Now I’m working on feeling that way about americana. Everything zen, everything zen.


  • My word, the only three nominations worth a damn were Brad Paisely for Entertainer, ZBB for Group, and Willie Nelson for Musical Event.

    The rest of it was bullshit.

    Does anyone remember when real artists got rewarded at these things? I think I can, I think it last happened in the 90s…


  • What ? no Michael Jackson Montgomery “Ice Cold Beer In A Pickup Truck” ???


    • Which is still stuck in my head, I blame Trigger fully for it. Not even the discovery of new rock bands from Germany, getting ahold of a new-to-me Hank3 album that I’ve listened to non-stop, or even techno can drown out the never-ending chorus in the back of my mind. JMM sought to change music, and I think he succeeded…


  • So, Luke Bryan almost choked to death on a piece of flatbread pizza? “Flatbread” pizza? I bet it was from one of those places that preys on mind-numbed hipsters, where the pizza is fully “sustainable” and costs $40. Does that make him an outlaw?


  • I’m way late with the comment on this as I just stumbled upon your site but I agree with your analysis here.

    I was truly shocked to see Clarkson’s name included in the nominations and absolutely agree that she won’t win, although I’d love it just to see some fanbases explode. I also agree that she’ll be making a true crossover in the years to come, but this nomination is very premature. She’s said that she’d really love to do a real true old school country sounding album and not one with this pop-country stuff but she doesn’t know how many people would like that from her. I wouldn’t bet against her on that, just not sure when it would turn up.

    She’s always done a good job with incorporating country into her concerts since she started out and on any given night, she’s been doing it more and more recently. I think you’d probably be surprised that she actually does primarily run with the country crowd, it’s just not publicized as much. She’s very tight with the Blake/Miranda/Reba/Kix Brooks/Ronnie Dunn/Lee Ann Womack crowd and many other behind the scenes people. (insert snickering now) Heck, she’s just made the permanent move to Nashville this year after splitting time between there and Texas for the last 6 years because most everything business-wise is based out of there and just as importantly, her significant other (Reba’s stepson) is based there.

    Sorry for this comment, I hate myself for typing it up because I also hate to read these types of comments.


  • 2 reason why Kelly could win female vocalist:




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