The 2021 Country Music Association Awards are about a month away, airing on Wednesday night, November 10 live on ABC. So let’s take a look at who will win the six CMA artist categories, including the biggest award of the night …
Entertainer of the Year
It’s been 10 years since Taylor Swift won this award for the last time in 2011, making her the last woman to win to date. A decade before that, Shania Twain and The Chicks won this award back to back in 1999 and 2000, which made them the first women to win since Reba McEntire had done so in 1986. So perhaps enough time has passed for the CMAs to be gracious enough to award a woman this time around; after all, it’s pretty wild that neither Miranda Lambert nor Carrie Underwood has ever won this category.
However, I’ll play it safe and predict an Eric Church repeat here; if he won last year, he might have an even better chance this time around with a full album (“Heart”) and hit song (“Hell of a View”) on the table. Will the CMAs find yet another way to snub women in country? We’ll find out.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, and Church will likely battle this one out. I’ll give Stapleton the edge since he’s beloved by the country industry, and his album “Starting Over” will likely win Album of the Year. While Combs has had a bigger hit song this year (“Forever After All” reached number-two on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 singles chart), he didn’t drop a new album to help his chances.
Female Vocalist of the Year
This category often goes to the artist with the most buzz, whether it’s commercially (Maren Morris) or critically (Kacey Musgraves). So I’m going with Gabby Barrett, but I wouldn’t rule out a Carly Pearce upset after her Album of the Year nomination for “29” and her Musical Event win last year for “I Hope You’re Happy Now” with Lee Brice. Miranda Lambert also has a pretty amazing record here (she has won it seven times, more than any other artist), so she could get name-checked if it comes to that, especially considering that she’s the only nominee here who’s also up for Entertainer of the Year.
Vocal Duo of the Year
This award will be a horse race between Brothers Osborne and Dan and Shay. Both bands have won this award before. The former have had a big year, earning an Album of the Year nomination for “Skeletons,” as well as having the added goodwill of TJ Osborne’s coming out of the closet.
However, Dan and Shay are the bigger act commercially, and also had a pretty good year with successful singles “I Should Probably Go to Bed” and “Glad You Exist” (though it definitely wasn’t as big a year as the past few for them), not to mention they beat Brothers Osborne at the ACM Awards earlier this year even though Brothers Osborne had an Album of the Year nomination there too. I’m going to give the slight edge to Brothers Osborne, since there might be a little Dan and Shay fatigue, but it should be a close race.
Speaking of fatigue, can you believe that this category has had the exact same nominees for three years in a row? Switch it up, CMAs!
Vocal Group of the Year
This category is a little up in the air. Old Dominion should be set for a fourth consecutive win, especially since they’ve arguably had the biggest year among the nominees with their country hit “I Was on a Boat That Day” and a new album (“Time, Tequila and Therapy”) out a month before the CMAs ceremony.
However, this year they haven’t dominated as much as their previous winning years, so that could open up a possibility for a Lady A win, who’ve had a decent year as well with their single “Like a Lady” and their EP “What a Song Can Do (Chapter One).” Little Big Town also won this category for six consecutive years from 2012 to 2017, so don’t rule them out either.
New Artist of the Year
Since artists are allowed to submit here for two years, a lot of the time the winner is someone who has already been nominated the previous year. This gives Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, and Gabby Barrett an edge here. Barrett has undoubtedly had the biggest year, following up her 2020 crossover smash “I Hope” with another hit, “The Good Ones,” so this should be an easy win for her.
However, a win for Allen would be significant, since he would be the first Black artist to win here since Darius Rucker in 2009, and only the second ever to prevail. Fellow nominee this year Mickey Guyton would become the first Black female artist to win this prestigious award.
Meanwhile, Andress surprised at the Grammys by being country’s lone representative in Best New Artist, and her type of music is perhaps more lyric-based than most of her fellow nominees, giving her added “serious artist” cred. Hell, even Hardy could win simply due to having a lot of success with his album “A Rock” and single “Give Heaven Some Hell.” So while Barrett does have a pretty good chance to win, don’t rule out an upset.
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