Album Review — Luke Combs’ ‘What You See Is What You Get’

It’s hard to believe it was just over two years ago that Luke Combs made his entrance into the greater country music scene with his smash single “Hurricane” and now today is undeniably the biggest star in the genre. While I don’t see Combs as one of the best voices or songwriters in the genre, I understand (and enjoy) his appeal and see why he’s had such a meteoric rise: he has a humble, “aw shucks,” good ole boy persona who is undeniably country and even “paid his dues,” building up an impressive grassroots fan base as an indie artist before signing onto a major label. And I only see his star continuing to rise.

Combs made a pretty solid debut with his first album This One’s For You, adding even more quality songs on his deluxe version of the album. So I was eager to see if he could top his debut effort with his sophomore album What You See Is What You Get. Unfortunately he doesn’t and right away before even listening to the album, seeing the track list at 17 songs struck me as a red flag. In today’s streaming world, it’s easy to see this as a label decision to stuff the album to milk streaming numbers (hip hop is especially infamous for this tactic). I also rarely find that albums of this length are able to maintain a high level of quality throughout, as almost all of these albums have filler stuffed in the middle. Before I touch on this more though, the album starts off pretty good.

Opening song and lead single “Beer Never Broke My Heart” is a solid and catchy country rocker. It’s well-treaded territory in country music: an ode to beer over girls that break your heart. Combs of course pulls this off thanks to having the persona I described above. It’s his “secret sauce” and why he’s risen in popularity above everyone else in country music. “Refrigerator Door” is a song about the sentimentality of all the pictures and magnets that adorn a refrigerator door and the nostalgia it generates within Combs seeing them. Again a solid song, it doesn’t blow me away. It’s a little predictable, but it also feels heartfelt.

“Even Though I’m Leaving” is very much along this same sentiment. You know right away somebody is dying in this song by the end of it, in this case the father. In comparison to other songs in this same vein, it’s not as meaningful and well written as Eric Church’s “Monsters,” but it’s also not so on the nose and cut and paste as Scotty McCreery’s “Five More Minutes.” Still despite the predictable nature, I really enjoy the song, as it truly does tug at the heartstrings and resonates with the listener. “Lovin’ On You” is a fun and simple song that works because of Combs’ enthusiastic delivery. I feel like it’s one of the more overlooked songs on the album, but it shouldn’t because it’s actually one of the better ones.

“Moon over Mexico” is Combs’ take on a beach song and it’s just okay. The song is just a bit too sleepy for my tastes, as it just doesn’t really convey a beach feeling to me. And it’s kind of an overall awkward fit with Combs. “1, 2 Many” sees Combs joined by the legendary Brooks & Dunn and I fell in love with this song instantly. It not only fits Combs well, but bringing on one of the all-time great party country acts in Brooks & Dunn elevates this song from pretty good to memorably great. The energy of this song is infectious, the lyrics are catchy and the harmonies of the three at the end is the mighty exclamation point needed to cap this song off.

Unfortunately this is followed by easily the worst song on the album, “Blue Collar Boys.” I’m so sick of these songs about redneck boys versus city boys and preaching superiority over the other. It’s such a tiring, predictable and pretentious theme that even Combs with his endearing persona can’t pull it off. To all country artists out there thinking about doing these songs: Please stop! “New Every Day” is a song about learning from mistakes and breakups and becoming a better person as a result. It’s a great message and the instrumentation does a good job creating a reflective feeling to match the lyrics.

Remember what I said at the beginning of the review about long albums almost inevitably having forgettable filler? Well “Reasons” fits this description to a T. It’s bland and forgettable. “Every Little Bit Helps” is carried by Combs’ energetic delivery. It’s your standard, getting over you heartbreak country song, but Combs’ secret sauce comes through for him again. “Dear Today” allows the listener to hear Combs in a more stripped down environment and it sounds great. The only problem is it feels like a logical concluding track to an album, but instead it’s #11 out of #17 on this album. Cull this album down to 12 tracks and have this song as the closer and it’s without a doubt better than his first album.

The album’s title track is an anthem about Combs himself: who he is, what he stands for and how he doesn’t portray himself to be anything other than what he is. It feels like a genuine and honest declaration from Combs, which is refreshing because so many artists fail to pull off these type of songs because they tend to mischaracterize themselves. But Combs actually describes himself in the same way myself and I’m sure many others see him as through his music.

“Does To Me” was a song I was really looking forward to hearing thanks to the Eric Church feature, but after thoroughly listening to it I’m underwhelmed. I expected so much more out of this collaboration. The song is about finding more meaning in the little things in life than what other people do, but it just doesn’t do anything memorable with the subject matter. On top of it Church’s feature feels like a wasted opportunity, as he barely shows up for a few lines that I won’t even remember (Church also covered this topic better with “Some of It,” making this song worse). I would have rather heard both of them 50/50 on a song they wrote together, but I feel like the label forced Combs into pushing this album out too quickly that prevented this from happening.

“Angels Workin’ Overtime” has an enjoyable “honky tonk” vibe, but the premise/hook of the song makes me gag with how cliché and unoriginal it is. It’s like one of those throw pillows that says “Bless This Mess” or the stick figure family you see on the back of a car. It’s just so basic and empty! So I’m sure it will be a smash hit. The same came be said for “All Over Again.” It’s a song that blatantly placates the label with it’s pop country sound and it’s generic, “Hurricane”-like lyrics. Again this will probably be a hit, much to my chagrin when there’s so many other great songs on the album.

At least the album closes with two great love songs in “Nothing Like You” and “Better Together.” The former song’s subdued nature allows Combs’ passion to shine through in the lyrics, while the latter utilizes the piano well and once again allows Combs’ vocal performance carry the song. But once again I have to question the track placements: Why put two quite similar songs back-to-back to close the album? It just cheapens the impact of both songs on the listener. Again I really enjoy both songs, but they shouldn’t be right next to each other on the album.

While Luke Combs doesn’t deliver a bad album in What You See Is What You Get, I can’t help but overall feeling like this album is a missed opportunity for Combs to deliver something great. If this album was a more reasonable length and if the fluff and bad songs were cut, this album could have easily been one of the top ten country albums you’ll hear this year. So while I wouldn’t call this album a sophomore slump, it’s certainly no slam dunk either.

Grade: 6/10

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [March 6]

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 1)
  2. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  5. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Down 4)
  6. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 1)
  7. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 2)
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song]
  9. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 1)
  10. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Down 4) 
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  13. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  14. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  15. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Down 1)
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  17. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  18. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Down 1)
  19. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1
  20. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1 (Up 2)
  21. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Down 1)
  22. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Down 1)
  23. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” 
  24. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 2)
  25. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Down 1)
  26. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Down 1)
  27. Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” -5 (Up 1)
  28. Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2 (Re-Enters Top 30)
  29. Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man” +4 (Up 1)
  30. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2 (Down 3)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -24

The pulse drops five spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #5 to #2
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Up 3 from #31 to #28

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Runaway June – “Lipstick” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Little Big Town – “Better Man” – Down 4 from #1 to #5
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Down 4 from #6 to #10

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” (Radio and Blake just can’t bear the thought of one week in the top 30 without a single from him, so chart jacking!)
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” (This one appears to be out of gas now. We’ll see if EMI fights to keep it alive)
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (The Fritos song finally appears done. No one will remember it)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (54 weeks. I bet it’ll reach the top 10 in another 25 weeks)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” (You can start panicking and worrying, Miranda fans. I’m being generous putting it here and not above because this is surrounded by radio darlings. Not good.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song”
  • Brothers Osborne – “It Ain’t My Fault”

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 27]

little-big-town-better-man

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 
  2. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  5. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 
  6. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1) 
  7. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song]
  9. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 2)
  10. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” 
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 2)
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  13. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 2)
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 
  15. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  17. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Up 2)
  18. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Down 1)
  19. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1 (Up 1)
  20. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 2)
  21. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 
  22. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1 (Up 1)
  23. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  24. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Up 1)
  25. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Up 1)
  26. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 1)
  27. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2 (Up 1)
  28. Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” -5 (New to Top 30)
  29. Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3 (Up 1)
  30. Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man” +4 (Re-Enters Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -19

The pulse improves six spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
  • Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” – Up 5 from #33 to #28
  • Sam Hunt – “Body Like A Back Road” – Up 3 from #18 to #15

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Out of the Top 30 (#31)

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend”
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”
  • Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song”

 

Call me crazy, but is this gerrymandering really helping anyone? What is the point of all this blatant chart jacking?

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 21]

little-big-town-better-man

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  2. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 1)
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 4)
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 2)
  5. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Down 5)
  7. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Down 2) 
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  9. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 1)
  10. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  11. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 1)
  13. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 1)
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Up 3)
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 1)
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Down 1)
  17. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  18. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  19. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  20. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1 (Up 4)
  21. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Down 1)
  22. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 
  23. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  25. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Up 2)
  26. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 
  27. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 2)
  28. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2
  29. Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -25

The pulse improves one spot this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” – Up 4 from #7 to #3
  • Luke Combs – “Hurricane” – Up 4 from #24 to #20
  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #8 to #5

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Down 5 from #1 to #6
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Down 2 from #5 to #7

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red”
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (Fun fact: The music video for this song was released on January 29, 2015)
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Appears to finally be losing momentum. But I still want to see it somehow reach top ten)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”
  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”

 

Notes: RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” has went recurrent and is done. Parmalee’s “Roots” and Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” both appear to be finished. Chris Lane’s “For Her” appears destined to be stuck in the mid 30s muck (but this is a good thing). LoCash’s “Ring on Every Finger” is struggling to build momentum like its previous singles. I bring all of this up because these are most of the songs directly behind the next four songs I see entering the top 30. Essentially there’s a vacuum there ready for someone to take advantage and it’ll be interesting to see who fills it. Blake Shelton’s “Every Time I Hear That Song” will of course be a hit. But then you have Justin Moore’s “Somebody Else Will” and Dylan Scott’s “My Girl.” They’re the closet in airplay, but radio doesn’t seem that keen on either. Scott has yet to have a hit and Moore’s last single took forever to climb the charts (never forget it went recurrent one week after going #1). Brothers Osborne’s “It Ain’t My Fault” is off to a good start, much better than their last single. They should reach the top 30 no problem. Billy Currington’s “Do I Make You Wanna” could make it by sheer process of elimination. Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” seems like the next logical choice and something radio would get behind. Finally you have Drake White’s “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” quietly marching up the chart and looking like a possible sleeper hit.

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

Reacting to The Absolute Joke of the 2017 ACM Awards Nominations

pile_of_shit

Let’s be honest, I’ve never been that fond of country music award shows. Outside of the 2015 CMA Awards that helped launch Chris Stapleton to a brand new level of stardom, I’ve pretty much scoffed at these shows. As I’ve said before, no other genre spends more time patting themselves on the back than country music. This is evident by the heaps of award shows held throughout the year and this trains the viewer to basically not give a shit. But nevertheless we keep an eye on these shows in hopes they get it more right each time. Well we now have the nominations for the 2017 ACM Awards and there’s no other way to put it. These are an absolute joke. My first reaction was are these the mainstream country radio awards? Because it’s mostly a list of radio darlings that programmers fall over themselves to play. After seeing these nominations it makes me not want to watch and may not. Each category seems to have its own joke, so let’s pick through each.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

No Eric Church or Chris Stapleton, but sure Aldean and Florida Georgia Line get nominations. Complete failure already before we even get to the more insane nominations. I know the ACMs are in the tank for Aldean, but could they be any less discreet about it? The only nomination even worthy of winning is Carrie Underwood for her excellent touring numbers and consistently churning out hits and I give her a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Aldean and Bryan are the odds on favorites here.

Male Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Once again Eric Church isn’t a nomination. Church released the best album of his career and is releasing the best singles of his career. And every awards show is stiffing him. I guess the industry is pissed he isn’t giving them radio fodder anymore. But I’m guessing Church doesn’t give a shit. Another category with one worthy candidate in my mind: Chris Stapleton. Remember when Dierks Bentley was considered one of the good guys at these shows? Then he decided he wants to be Luke Bryan and make a bunch of cheesy and stiff adult contemporary schlock. No Tim McGraw. Also no Blake Shelton in any categories. Well there’s some good news.

Female Vocalist

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

I don’t know why Kacey continues to go to these awards show when she and everyone else knows she’s just a token nomination to fill out the field. What did she do in 2016 to earn a nomination? She didn’t release any new music. And keep in mind this isn’t a jab at her. She’s one of the best on a major country label. You would think Miranda is the shoe-in to win, but with her turn towards a more songwriter/Americana-like side I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Maren Morris wins. She seems poised to usurp Lambert as the new female darling in mainstream country and is racking up awards like crazy.

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Big & Rich are a Vocal Duo nomination in 2017…..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! They released one single last year that took like 40 weeks to peak at #14 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They’re completely irrelevant. What in the hell makes them deserving of a nomination? Maddie & Tae are a complete token nomination like Musgraves above. I don’t see Dan + Shay being quite in the position to win yet. So it’s between CMA 2016 Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne and past years favorite Florida Georgia Line. I’m hopeful the former wins, but being a radio favorites show I expect the latter to win.

Vocal Group

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

Eli Young Band?! Where are they getting these joke ideas for nominations? You’re telling me Eli Young Band is a nomination, but not Zac Brown Band who at least had a song reach the top 15 in the last year and are a mainstream staple? Get out of here! Lady Antebellum was on hiatus for all of 2016. Rascal Flatts are irrelevant. Yet despite this joke of a category, the best group Little Big Town should easily walk away with this award.

New Male

  • Kane Brown
  • Chris Janson
  • Chris Lane
  • Jon Pardi
  • Brett Young

Out of all the categories, this actually might be the one I have the least qualms with because these are all new male artists who have did something notable in the last year. Despite not being a fan of him, Kane Brown is deserving based on the fact that he does sell well and has great streaming numbers. While you and me might not like him, there are many he does resonate with and it’s ironic he’s one of the few nominations where the ACM looked beyond radio. Hands down this should go to Jon Pardi, who achieved a #1 album with California Sunrise, racked up a #1 hit in “Head Over Boots” and is on his way to another #1 in “Dirt on My Boots.” And I think it actually does go to him because his accomplishments blow the others out of the water. If anyone else wins I’m calling shenanigans.

New Female

  • Lauren Alaina
  • Cam
  • Brandy Clark
  • Maren Morris

That’s right they couldn’t even fill out the nominations for this one. Hey ACMs: Margo Price and Aubrie Sellers. Did you forget they exist? How is Brandy Clark new? This is just another award for them to give Maren.

New Vocal Duo/Group

  • A Thousand Horses
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • LoCash
  • Maddie & Tae

None of these are really new, but then again barely anything else makes sense with these awards. I’m guessing Brothers Osborne or Dan + Shay win here.

Album

  • Dierks Bentley – Black
  • Florida Georgia Line – Dig Your Roots
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord
  • Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings

This should 1000% go to Miranda Lambert for her great album. But it’ll probably go to Urban or Morris or maybe even Bentley. You could take the best material from all of the non-Lambert ones, put it in one album and it still wouldn’t top Lambert’s album.

Single

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

Key distinction is this is single. I’m kind of surprised Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” isn’t here, but rather under Song below. I don’t give Lambert a chance here either sadly. I could see any of the other four winning.

Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Tennessee Whiskey”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

I would be happy with any of the bottom four winning, but watch one of the top two win. If I had to pick the winner I would definitely go with “Kill A Word,” being the best song of the nominations and for Church getting screwed over in general.

Video

  • Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

With all due respect to the other videos, “Fire Away” is the no-brainer best video. It’s one of the powerful music videos I’ve watched in years and takes the song to a whole new level of meaning. Instead though “Forever Country” will probably win because it’s done insane numbers on YouTube and sold well (also great numbers on this very blog). The only hesitation I have of it winning is this song was specifically made for the ACM’s chief rival show CMA’s 50th Anniversary. How ironic would that be if it won an ACM Award?

Songwriter

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Luke Laird
  • Hillary Lindsey
  • Shane McAnally
  • Lori McKenna

McKenna has to win this one, right?

Vocal Event 

  • Dierks Bentley (feat. Elle King) – “Different For Girls”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • P!nk (feat. Kenny Chesney) – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Chris Young (feat. Cassadee Pope) – “Think of You”

I could see a case made for any of these conceivably winning. I think this will largely depend on the other categories’ winners.