The 2019 CMA Awards Complete Preview

(Tune in Wednesday night for Saving Country Music’s LIVE Blog of the CMA Awards)

The 53rd ANNUAL CMA AWARDS

When: 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 on ABC.

Where: The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN.

Hosts: Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire.


THINGS TO WATCH FOR

• The 2019 CMA Awards will have a strong focus on the women of country music, with Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, and Dolly Parton hosting, a massive collaborative performance involving 13 total performers to open the show, a 8-woman performance later, and many other women attending as performers and presenters. It’s a fair question to ask just how much individual face time the women involved in these collaborative medleys will be afforded, and if this is the best way to present women as opposed to giving them more individual performance slots to shine. But it is better than no time at all. The biggest moment for the women of country could be if Carrie Underwood wins Entertainer of the Year at the end of the night. Look for this to be the crowning moment of the 2019 CMA Awards if it comes to fruition, as the cameras fade with Carrie Underwood “crying pretty.”

• Kris Kristofferson will be paid tribute, though he won’t be there. Instead he’s elected to keep his gig Wednesday night in Davenport, Iowa. The lineup the CMAs have fielded to pay tribute to Kristofferson is also a little mild, with Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Chris Janson, and John Osborne set to do the honors. At least they’re paying attention to the songwriting legend.

• There will be a lot of country legends on hand, including Willie Nelson who will perform with Kacey Musgraves, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and more. Some of these legends will only get small snippets of screen time in collaborations or presentations, but as a whole, it’s more legends than we normally see on an awards show.

• Maren Morris leads all nominees with six, but may not win any, or just one or two. The big drama will be for Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year, which will likely see Eric Church and Carrie Underwood going toe to toe for the night’s two top prizes.


THE PRESENTERS

As part of the CMA’s focus on women, they are bringing in multiple former Female Vocalist of the Year winners as presenters, including Janie Fricke (1982, 1983), Kathy Mattea (1989, 1990), Pam Tillis (1994), Trisha Yearwood (1997,1998), and Martina McBride (1999, 20002, 2003, 2004).

Other artist presenters include Craig Morgan, Jennifer Nettles, Morgan Wallen, Midland, Blanco Brown, Kristin Chenoweth, and Deana Carter.

Non-performer presenters include DJ Bobby Bones, reality TV contestant Hannah Brown, and comedian Jim Gaffigan.

UPDATE: Jimmie Allen, Cody Johnson, actress Reese Witherspoon, and Good Morning America personality Lara Spencer have been added as presenters.


PERFORMERS & PERFORMANCES

• Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Crystal Gayle, The Highwomen, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Jennifer Nettles, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Carrie Underwood, and Gretchen Wilson will all participate in a “history-making” performance to open the show.

• Kelsea Ballerini, Lindsay Ell, Ashley McBryde, Carly Pearce, Little Big Town, Maddie & Tae, and Runaway June will also perform in a collaborative “special performance.”

• Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Chris Janson, and John Osborne will perform a tribute to Kris Kristofferson. UPDATE: Joe Walsh has also been added to the tribute.

• Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves will collaborate on a rendition of “Rainbow Connection.”

• Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton will perform their duet “Dive Bar.”

• Brooks & Dunn will team up with Brothers Osborne on their song “Hard Workin’ Man.”

• Chris Stapleton and Pink will perform Pink’s current single “Love Me Anyway.”

• Dolly Parton will perform with For King & Country, Zach Williams, and a local Christ Church choir on a medley of “God Only Knows,” “There Was Jesus,” and “Faith.”

• Eric Church will sing “Some Of It.”

• Miranda Lambert will perform “It All Comes Out in the Wash.”

• Lady Antebellum will team up with Halsey on a surprise song.

• Carrie Underwood will sing her new single “Drinking Alone.”

• Maren Morris will perform “GIRL.”

• Luke Combs will sing “Beer Never Broke My Heart.”

• Keith Urban will perform “We Were” co-written by Eric Church.

• Dan + Shay (“Speechless”), Reba McEntire (“Fancy”), Old Dominion (“One Man Band”), Thomas Rhett (“Remember You Young”), and Blake Shelton (“God’s Country”) will also perform. +songs added/updated.


AWARD NOMINEES & PREDICTIONS

Winners already announced:

  • Video of the Year: Kacey Musgraves – “Rainbow”
  • Musical Event of the Year – Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road”

Entertainer of the Year

Carrie Underwood breaks the male-dominated monopoly on this category over the last few years, as she should. Since this has basically become a touring award, she deserves to be right up there with the rest after the numbers she’s tallied behind her Cry Pretty Tour 360. Eric Church also gets his due as a nominee, even if you would only give him an outside chance to win unless voters deem it is “his year.” For the love of God, don’t let Keith Urban 2-peat here. What an abomination of the country music record books he somehow won last year. Everyone is tired of giving Stapleton awards, though he deserved the nomination. But if you consider it as a touring award, it’s Garth’s to lose.

Garth Brooks – Potential winner
Eric Church
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood – WINNER
Keith Urban


Album of the Year

Holy hell what a weak field. If you’re an independent music fan, fall to your knees and be thankful a list like this does not represent your top tier of listening habits. In the current “climate,” there will be a desire by some to vote for Maren Morris, but Cry Pretty would be the more solid choice if we simply want to award a woman. But Eric Church has been a favorite of this category over the years. This is the award he wants, and he’ll trade all his Entertainer votes to get it if he can. And out of this field, he probably deserves it. His latest single “Monsters” proves that.

Center Point Road, Thomas Rhett
Cry Pretty, Carrie Underwood – Other Potential Winner
Dan + Shay, Dan + Shay
Desperate Man, Eric Church – Winner
Girl, Maren Morris


New Artist of the Year

This is arguably the strongest New Artist field in the last 15+ years. All of these artist could, and probably should get it, including Morgan Wallen and his mullet. Cody Johnson has arrived. Ashley McBryde deserves any award she’s nominated for, though is probably an outlier due to lack of commercial performance. Midland is good, but is better to compete in the group category. Carly Pearce doesn’t feel new at all, but wouldn’t be a bad pick here either. This is a toss up.

Cody Johnson
Ashley McBryde
Midland
Carly Pearce
Morgan Wallen


Single of the Year

This is “God’s Country” to lose. It’s the mammoth country single of 2019, like it or not. Lord don’t just give it to Stapleton just because he’s Stapleton. It will hurt his reputation due to the backlash more than it will help. “Girl” would be the “woke” option, but is a bland, monotone, non-country song that doesn’t deserve it.

“Burning Man” – Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne
“Girl” – Maren Morris
“God’s Country” – Blake Shelton – Winner
“Millionaire” – Chris Stapleton
“Speechless” – Dan + Shay


Song of the Year

“Rainbow” is the best song in the field by a long shot. Voters love Musgraves as they’ve evidenced over the years. But it’s taken us this long to get to a Luke Combs nomination, and the tear he’s on, he’s bound to win something. And once again, “God’s Country” is the big song of 2019. Competition is tough here.

“Beautiful Crazy” – Luke Combs – Potential winner
“Girl” – Maren Morris
“God’s Country” – Blake Shelton – Potential winner
“Rainbow” – Kacey Musgraves – Should win
“Tequila” – Dan + Shay


Female Vocalist of the Year

If Carrie Underwood is up for Entertainer of the Year, then this should be hers to lose. But with the attention Maren Morris receives, and the love voters have for Kacey Musgraves, they could emerge as dark horses. It’s a reset year for Miranda, so fans shouldn’t be mad if she’s not a contender here. And Ballerini? Few people can name you two songs from her still.

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris – Other Potential Winner
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood – Winner


Male Vocalist of the Year

Luke Combs is far and away the biggest country music artist at the moment, and arguably the biggest breakout star in the history of the genre. Truth be told, he probably also deserves Entertainer of the Year too.

Dierks Bentley
Luke Combs – Winner
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban


Vocal Group of the Year

Midland has a real good shot at this. Lady Antebellum is struggling with their relaunch, Zac Brown is struggling even harder with his, and Little Big Town isn’t doing anything relevant at the moment. Old Dominion is the only other one with a shot.

Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Midland – Potential Winner
Old Dominion – Potential Winner
Zac Brown Band


Vocal Duo of the Year

Sweet to see Brooks & Dunn nominated here, but they won’t win. Neither will Maddie & Tae, though they deserve it most simply from the strength of “Die From A Broken Heart.” Florida Georgia Line are has been’s. Award shows love Brother’s Osborne, but have they done enough in 2019? (hasn’t hurt them in previous years.) Unfortunately, it looks like this is Dan+Shay’s to lose.

Brooks & Dunn
Brothers Osborne
Dan+Shay – Winner
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae – Should win


Musical Event of the Year

Already won by Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X for “Old Town Road”

“Old Town Road” will win this, if for no other reason than to get the rest of the world off of country music’s back. Should it win? The song has been a monster, so whatever. This is the CMA’s “also ran” category, so people shouldn’t consternate too much one way or the other. The other thing going for “Old Town Road” is it’s a pretty weak field. That “Brand New Man” remake was a banger and did well, but in no way defined 2019. The controversy around “Old Town Road” did.

“All My Favorite People”- Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne
“Brand New Man” – Brooks & Dunn and Luke Combs
“Dive Bar” – Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton
“Old Town Road (Remix)” – Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus – Winner
“What Happens In A Small Town” – Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell


Video of the Year

Already won by Kacey Musgraves for “Rainbow”

Video of the Year rarely has anything to do with the actual video, and is usually treated as a secondary song category for ones the CMAs want to highlight, but not for Song of the Year or Single of the Year. Under this premise, expect it to go to Kacey Musgraves for “Rainbow,” or perhaps Maren Morris with the emphasis on women.

Eric Church – “Some Of It”
Blake Shelton – “God’s Country”
Maren Morris – “GIRL” – Other Potential Winner
Kacey Musgraves – “Rainbow” – WINNER
Dierks Bentley & Brothers Osborne – “Burning Man”


Musician of the Year

Paul Franklin played all that badass steel guitar on the new Midland record. Cool to see Jenee Fleenor get a nomination here. Mac McAnally usually wins this by default.

Jenee Fleenor
Paul Franklin
Mac McAnally
Illya Toshinsky
Derek Wells