Final nominees for the 57th CMA Awards will be announced Thursday at 8 a.m. ET. It’s been an exceptional year for country music, with artists like Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs dominating the pop and country charts. Newer acts like Zach Bryan and Oliver Anthony Music have seemingly come out of nowhere to top the charts and, in some cases, the national conversation.
While it’s easy to predict a handful of the nominees, several of the categories are harder to figure out because in some cases, like new artist of the year, there is such a wealth of talent to be considered.
The CMA Awards, which are voted on by eligible CMA members, will be handed out Nov. 8. Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning return as co-hosts on the program, which will air live on ABC. The eligibility period for the 2023 show is July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023. According to CMA rules, “singles, albums, music videos and qualified music products for the annual show must have been released or reached peak national prominence during the eligibility period.”
Below are my predictions for the artist categories. I decided to go young this year, given the strength of some of the artists coming up.
Entertainer of the Year
Combs is the reigning champ here, having taken home the award in 2022 and 2021. He has to be seen as a shoo-in to be nominated again given the success of his current arena/stadium tour. Everyone else has also been here before in different stages of their careers and even in different centuries: Wallen received his first nomination last year; should Twain be nominated, it will be for the first time since she won in 1999.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Nashville is still serving up too many solo male artists who sound indistinguishable from each other, but there is also a crop whose voices are instantly recognizable and who are leading a new generation. Not to take anything away from the veteran superstars who are still hitting it out of the park, but it feels like this is the time to honor some of the newer voices. Combs is the veteran here, having made his major label debut a whopping six years ago. Though I only picked five here and was fairly adventurous with my choice to stay with the relative newbies, it is hard to imagine someone like Chris Stapleton, who holds the record for most wins at six and has won the past two years in a row, not getting a nod here… so it’s entirely possible that he may take the slot I’ve given to Jelly Roll or HARDY.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Similar to the male vocalist category, I’m going out on a limb and counting on the relative newcomers to fill the category this year. Miranda Lambert holds the record with seven wins, but she’s between labels and has been a little quiet while she transitions to a new label. Wilson is the reigning winner, while Pearce won in 2021. Carrie Underwood, who has won or been nominated for 16 out of the past 17 years, is also usually a deserved automatic nod, but it feels like some of the newer talents are having a moment.
New Artist of the Year
Not only is new artist the most competitive artist category this year, but it’s one of the most competitive new artist categories in years. While all of the above artists have had extraordinary years, with Jelly Roll, Moroney, Smith and Zimmerman all scoring at least one No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and Bryan debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, there are seriously at least five other artists who could hear their names called on Thursday instead, including ACM Awards new female artist winner Hailey Whitters, Warren Zeiders, Jackson Dean and Corey Kent. Oliver Anthony did not come into prominence until after the eligibility period closed, so look for him to be nominated next here if he’s still in the country conversation.
Vocal Group of the Year
Little Big Town
Zac Brown Band
Old Dominion has dominated this category winning it for the past five years, while Little Big Town took home the trophy for six consecutive years before that and then Lady A for three years prior to LBT’s run. We live in a time of solo artists ruling the charts for the most part, with very few new groups coming onto the landscape. So while this category feels static (which is not to diminish any of the very talented acts above), here’s hoping that at least Parmalee grabs its first nomination in the category after more than two decades together. Their “Take My Name” was Billboard’ s No. 1 Country Airplay Song of 2022 and they have another winner this year with “Girl in Mine.”
Vocal Duo of the Year
Brooks & Dunn
Dan + Shay
Maddie & Tae
Like the vocal group category, vocal duo feels ripe for new blood. Brothers Osborne, who have won five of the seven past years, and Dan + Shay, who won the two years that Brothers Osborne didn’t, are locks to be nominated and deservedly so. Brooks & Dunn are still touring (thankfully), but haven’t put out new music since 2019. That, however, will not stop them from being nominated. Since Florida Georgia Line broke up, it’s been, quite honestly, a little hard to fill the other slots. One will likely go to eight-time nominees Maddie & Tae, who released the second half of an album in September, or to LOCASH, who have been nominated twice before, with the last spot perhaps going to new duo Tigirlily Gold, who have their first single on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart with “Shoot Tequila.” Message to A&R executives: now would be a good time to find some really great duos to help fill the dearth.