The country music equivalent to the MTV Video Music Awards hits up Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Part of CMA Music Fest week, it’s a show where some of the biggest names in country music gather mainly to have some fun with crazy performances, including in-genre and out-of-genre collaborations. Last year featured a double dose of Maren Morris, Billy Ray Cyrus rocking out with Cheap Trick, Pitbull showing up for some reason, Fifth Harmony continuing their domination via a performance with Cam, Carrie Underwood bringing the house down, Pharrell Williams helping out Little Big Town, and even the Oak Ridge Boys getting some airtime. This year, they’ve scheduled Jason DeRulo to make his second CMT Awards appearance (freaking really), a tribute to the recently-passed Gregg Allman, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood performing together again, Miranda Lambert’s return after going M.I.A. last year, and out-of-genre appearances from soul legends Earth, Wind, and Fire and current hitmakers The Chainsmokers. But the Forecast is more focused on who actually has a chance to take home a trophy or two. Because of that, it’s time to look at the really small amount of categories this award show contains and predict some winners. (I’m not including Social Superstar or Performance of the Year in this.)
Male Video of the Year
Both Male and Female Video of the Year contain a live music video; those seem to be really popular in country. Even when Taylor Swift was country, she did it for a single on not one, not two, but three of her albums (and one on her pop album for equal measure, but who’s counting). Anyway, the one from this category comes from Jason Aldean; however, “Lights Come On” is not just simply footage from his concerts, as it also features behind-the-scenes footage and clips of Aldean reflecting on his latest tour and why he loves performing on live shows so music. Blake Shelton is taken aback by the beauty and moves of Ganna Bogdan in “Came Here to Forget” while Keith Urban serenades the broken soul of Amber Valletta in “Blue Ain’t Your Color”. Thomas Rhett tries some freeze-frame on for size in “Star of the Show” to visually interesting results. Luke Bryan probably has the most downhome video as “Huntin’ Fishin’, and Lovin’ Everyday” is just a ride through country life doing the titular activities four-and-a-half minutes. Finally, we have Eric Church bringing value back to the vinyl album by way of the protagonist in “Record Year” collecting them.
Who I Want to Win: “Came Here to Forget” to “Record Year”. The former was visually stunning while I admire the other for ambitious approach.
Who I Want to Win: “Blue Ain’t Your Color; I mainly see this one winning due to the song being such a massive smash.
Female Video of the Year
I finally get to discuss Lauren Alaina on a FearlessRiOT Forecast. For years, she never had that true breakthrough that put her name in the hat for award show season, aside from her one ACA victory in 2012. But thanks to her song and video about learning to accept yourself for who you are, she finds herself in two categories (three if you count Social Superstar), including in this field with her fellow country girls. Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert both utilize cars in their videos, but to different effect. Miranda’s crashes and she emerges without a scratch, looking to move ahead with life and soon finding herself at a crossroads. Morris, meanwhile, just rides around a neon palette universe her titular “80s Mercedes”. Kelsea Ballerini moves on from an immature boy (and rocks some elegant dresses) in the video for “Peter Pan”. Carrie Underwood‘s “Church Bells” is simply a live video; again, those seem to be really popular in country. Finally, the legendary Reba McEntire takes us from the cemetery to the church with her video for “Back to God”.
Who I Want to Win: “Road Less Traveled”. I want nothing more than to see Lauren Alaina take home at least one of these awards.
Who I Want to Win: “Vice” or “Church Bells”. Carrie, Miranda, and Taylor Swift have had this award on lock every year since 2006. With them both nominated this year, the other women stand virtually no chance.
Group Video of the Year
Little Big Town delivers the only bit of Taylor Swift this award show is gonna get. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna keep randomly bringing her up, but the now-popstar found time during her hiatus from the spotlight to pen LBT’s latest hit song (that’s right, it’s not a Pearl Jam cover). The music video features Karen singing in a kitchen while the other members play single parents raising their kids. Old Dominion’s video looks like their way of embracing technology old and new; a streak of light flashes in and out of the video, they band regularly performs in front of a background that looks like a windows screensaver, and the video starts with the various ways people consume music, from the old gramophones to radios to jukeboxes to CD players to digital means. There’s even VHS-like rewinds here or there. Lady Antebellum is back after their own side endeavors, including the family project that won Hillary Scott a few Grammys for in the Christian music field, with “You Look Good”. This song has two music videos, but the one that came out in time for nominations also features VHS video effects, as well as lots and lots of photographs. Eli Young Band lead singer Mike Eli drives a blue bronco on the beach in their video, and Midland apparently have their own moonshine-delivery business. And they do get busted.
Who I Want to Win: “Better Man”; Little Big Town is almost always my default pick here, and a group has to do something spectacular to make me vote against them.
Who I Want to Win: “Better Man” or “You Look Good”. Ever since Rascal Flatts‘ mainstream decline, Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum always win group awards, so the safe bets are always with them.
Duo Video of the Year
Florida Georgia Line are a clear favorite to win this category, as they usually are for most country awards they’re nominated for. Their music video for “H.O.L.Y.”, however, is pretty simple. Brian and Tyler sing on a cliff with a beautiful view while a woman, whose face we never see unless it’s with a pair of shades on, walks along a beach. Meanwhile, with “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” seriously being the song I know Big & Rich for, it’s not easy for me to get used to hearing the pair doing a not-silly song and video. Apparently a part of a full 18-minute four-song long-form video, this conversation with bartender Tim McGraw is only a fraction of a story. Dan + Shay tell a year-long story in around five minutes, starting with an intro reminiscent of “When I’m Gone” by Eminem and going on the year-long journey into the quest of sobriety for characters Sophie (Katie Stevens) and Noah (Pierson Fodé). LoCash’s video follows a woman (who’s blonde friend kind of resembles Alexa Bliss, if I can be honest) falling for a guy at the bowling alley. Somehow, they end up at a Checkers, which apparently still exist. A teen romance blooms between Stirling Everly and a fellow love interest as Brothers Osborne perform “21 Summer” at a seed shindig.
Who I Want to Win: “How Not To”; maybe it’s the story that has me here. Or the fact that I got an Eminem reference out of it.
Who I Want to Win: “H.O.L.Y.”, because Florida Georgia Line.
Breakthrough Video of the Year
Lauren Alaina is back, and her breakout hit “Road Less Traveled” has signaled her arrival as a big deal. I think the Georgia peach (which she for real sung about in her second-ever single five years ago) has a better shot at winning this award than Female Video of the Year. But it won’t be an easy fight. For one, she has to try to wrestle the award from another woman. “God Made Girls” was technically RaeLynn’s breakthrough, but given how controversial that song was, maybe the (mostly) first-person POV into the life of a little girl with divorced parents, “Love Triangle”, can net her a trophy. As for the guys in the category most of them seem to have had the same idea: performance videos, in some cases with some other subplot going on. Kane Brown’s “Used to Love You Sober” is a performance video, so is “Dirt on My Boots”, albeit that one has a subplot, Luke Comb’s “Hurricane” is a performance video that also contains a love subplot, and Brett Young is performing to a crowd of one, and that one person may have been a mirage at the end.
Who I Want to Win: “Road Less Traveled”; I’ve waited seven years for Alaina to get her just due, and if she wins this buckle, it’ll be the best validation since she had the #1 song on country radio a while back.
Who I Want to Win: Either “Road Less Traveled” or “In Case You Didn’t Know”; maybe Alaina winning is me being optimistic, especially since a woman hasn’t won this award in three years. She stands a chance, but I say Young is the one to beat.
Collaborative Video of the Year
And I thought Nostalgia Critic skits relied heavily on green screen; “Forever Country” is drowning in it. A video containing country legends like Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Reba, and Trish Yearwood mashing up “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “On the Road Again”, and “I Will Love You” with newer stars like Kacey Musgraves, Darius Rucker, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, and Luke Bryan (and I’ve only named half the credits), it’s beautiful green-screen magic. In comparison, we have Florida Georgia Line riding Tim McGraw’s cars on the race track, Keith Urban making Carrie Underwood and random people on the street dance to disco, Elle King and Dierks Bentley taking on the subject of male and female handlings of a breakup, Kenny Chesney and pop-rocker P!NK soundtracking a happy couple, and a man’s painful memory coming back to haunt him in “Sober Saturday Night”.
Who I Want to Win: “Forever Country”. I’m a sucker for this kind of an homage. Probably the closest country music will get to a DJ Khaled posse cut without really calling up DJ Khaled to do it. Only one problem: who gets the award if it does win? Will they Cady Heron the buckle?
Who Will Win: Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, with Carrie & Keith‘s popularity also providing them with “dark horse” status.
Video of the Year
This is always the hardest award to predict; fourteen nominees, and they always narrow it down to the final five or six AFTER I’ve posted my predictions. It’s really frustrating cause the video I predict probably won’t even make the final cut. But it’s not like I’m opposed to so many nominees in one category, especially when the videos warrant a nomination. And most of country’s heavy hitters made it in. Representing solo females is Carrie Underwood‘s spectacular live video for “Church Bells”, Miranda Lambert‘s strong “Vice”, and Kelsea Ballerini‘s beautiful “Peter Pan”. With groups, we have “Better Man”, “H.O.L.Y.”, and the “Forever Country” collaboration. And for the men, Keith Urban, Jon Pardi, Brad Paisley, Cole Swindell, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, and Dierks Bentley also have contributions. So many dudes in one field.
Who I Want to Win: “Vice”. It’s a pretty powerful music video about being able to pick yourself back up and move on with life.
Who I Want to Win: “Blue Ain’t Your Color. It was such a massive hit that I have no reason to believe that it’ll lose the biggest award of the night. Plus, Tim McGraw broke the Carrie/Miranda/Taylor streak for this award last year, so it is possible to defeat them.
What do you think of these predictions? Hit me up on Twitter @FearlessRiOT with your predictions and tune into the CMT Awards this Wednesday night on CMT!