This year could be a game changer for the folks behind the Country Music Association's annual awards.
Because there are so many artists nipping at the heels of power couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, the two may not have a stranglehold on most of the awards. Sure, they'll probably get something but a couple of sweeps? Don't bet on it.
Taylor Swift is back in the hunt with a big album, Carrie Underwood wants to make history and a little duo called Florida Georgia Line is trying to cruise to the top on the basis of one hit.
Toss in newcomer Kacey Musgraves (who gave Lambert some of her best songs) and you can see this isn't going to be business as usual.
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host once again and the fun starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.
Who will win? Here are some likely suspects:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: Blake Shelton has the “I’ve already won this” card in his deck. But it could be the time he passes it on to someone else. George Strait is an interesting choice (since he’s about to quit touring) but Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan have the momentum that comes from folks voting online. If Blake isn’t still in the hunt, it’s Luke Bryan’s year. Taylor Swift? Never count her out.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR: By virtue of its nonstop play on radio, “Cruise” will win.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Creatively, Kacey Musgraves should win. Economically, it’s Taylor Swift’s to lose. But Carrie Underwood is a powerhouse and “Blown Away” did just that. Give it to Carrie, who’s co-hosting.
SONG OF THE YEAR: It would be really cool to see Bob Dylan take this for “Wagon Wheel.” But, quite likely, Kacey Musgraves will win for one of the two she has in competition – “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Merry Go ‘Round.”
FEMALE VOCALIST: This is a toughie. Taylor Swift is the biggest artist in country music. Carrie Underwood is the new queen and Miranda Lambert hasn’t worn out her welcome. But here’s the rub: If Carrie or Miranda wins, she’ll join those all-time champs – Reba and Martina McBride, who have four wins. Who better to be in their company? Voters will probably say Carrie.
MALE VOCALIST: Sea change. Blake has won this for a couple of years. Now it’s time to pass it on. Jason Aldean seems primed. But he and Luke Bryan could split this and Entertainer of the Year. So, if one gets one, the other will get the other. Blake has a shot, but don’t count on it. There are guys waiting in the wings.
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR: Little Big Town. They’re on a high that started last year. Lady Antebellum didn’t have enough to bump them and The Band Perry is still early into its “Pioneer” cuts.
VOCAL DUO: The only lock: Florida Georgia Line. They’ll cruise to a win.
MUSICAL EVENT: Hard to beat Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for “Highway Don’t Care.” (If “Cruise” wins here, too, the Pistol Annies should protest.)
VIDEO: Oh, boy. Pick an act that doesn’t get an award somewhere else. If Carrie’s on a roll, she could get a third trophy with this, but let’s not be greedy.
NEW ARTIST: Should go to Kacey Musgraves. Will go to Florida Georgia Line.
Miranda and Blake? Flip any one of the others out and they've got trophies. The 47th edition is going to be a surprise-filled night.