The Academy of Country Music’s award ceremony is just around the corner with the Queen of Country Music herself, Reba McEntire, hosting the festivities. We here at Lula 1892 have spent weeks combing over the nominees, listening to songs not once, not twice, but ten times through, and casting our wishlist for the perfect ACM year. Without further ado, let’s hand out some shiny new trophies!
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
It should go without saying that we are disappointed there are no female nominees for this category. Surely there were women good enough to nominate, but as has been the case so many times before, the Academy did not find a single female artist worthy of this title in 2018. Sit with that for a moment, and let it sink in. No country singing woman measured up? None of them? We call your bluff, Academy. We expect you to do better next year.
That said, this is a list with some fantastic, worthy men on it. It was a tough choice between Chris Stapleton and Garth Brooks, but Mr. Brooks will always have our hearts. If we were casting a perfect awards season, this old faithful singer would walk away with Entertainer of the Year.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
In our adoration for the old guard, as it were, of Country music, Reba McEntire is among our list of the greats. While all of the women on this list are mind-blowingly talented, none have the wide discography, immersive concert experience, or heart that McEntire has. With forty shows already announced for 2018, and thirty under her belt for 2017, there’s no sign of the sixty-three year old songstress slowing down any time soon. With the release of her Gospel Album Sing it Now: Songs of Hope and Faith, and the reissue of My Kind of Christmas in conjunction with hosting CMA Country Christmas, McEntire had fans traveling the world to see her do something new all twelve months of 2017. She’s already announced she’s working on a new album in 2018, and is still selling out the arenas she’s playing. This, for us, is a no brainer. Just hand the woman the award, already!
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Chris Stapleton. Chris Stapleton. CHRIS STAPLETON. Can we say it any louder? Stapleton not only writes music that hits the heart with every line, he’s an extraordinarily talented vocalist who often throws back to a traditional, gritty sound. We’d watch him from the back of a dive bar or front row at the Opry. He is hands down the best on this list and by far the most deserving.
VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
This was a tough one. We love Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and it was our first inclination to hand it over to them immediately, but Dan + Shay are giving everyone in this category a run for their money. They might not have gotten our vote, but with the release of “Tequila”, we became Dan + Shay devotees, just like the rest of the world. Shane Tarleton knows what he’s doing with those two.
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Little Big Town
It’s deeply unfair to put two bands as quirky and original as Little Big Town and Midland into one category. With their own distinct styles that touch on traditional country music while adding a modern, fun twist, we almost feel as if two Vocal Group awards should be handed out. We don’t make the rules for the Academy, so we must choose one. Little Big Town will take this one for us; with Midland’s win of New Vocal Group already announced, it’s only fair to hand this one to someone else.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Breaker – Little Big Town
California Sunrise – Jon Pardi
From a Room Vol. 1 – Chris Stapleton
Happy Endings – Old Dominion
Life Changes – Thomas Rhett
We might be biased toward Little Big Town- but they’re deserving of all the bias in the world. Breaker is a brilliant album, featuring songs that will no doubt become classics to be covered by young hopefuls in honky tonks for decades to come. “Beat up Bible” is a song that reaches right out and grabs the heart, and everyone has been in the situation the group penned in “Better Man”. “Happy People” provides the signature quirk the band is so well known for. Little Big Town hit it out of the park with Breaker.
SINGLE RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Better Man” – Little Big Town
“Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt
“Broken Halos” – Chris Stapleton
“Drinkin’ Problem” – Midland
“I’ll Name the Dogs” – Blake Shelton
Single Record has got to go to Midland. “Broken Halos” was a close second, but “Drinkin’ Problem” is so catchy, it’s easy to mistake it for a song one has been singing along to since the early 90’s. The opening chord reeks of heartbreak and two stepping, washed down by straight whiskey. The boys of Midland are channeling George Strait, Alan Jackson, and a little Ronnie Dunn with this one. Really, as long as “Body Like a Back Road” doesn’t win, we’ll be happy. Great song-wrong genre. Anything with a drum loop and rap in it makes these Dobro loving gals over here at Lula weep a little bit.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt
“Female” – Keith Urban
“Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert
“Whiskey and You” – Chris Stapleton
Between Miranda Lambert’s hard rocking songs about strong liquor and bar lights lie heart wrenching melodies with lyrics that channel heartbreak and loss better than any singer on the scene right now. Her only real competition as far as lyrical integrity is concerned is Stapleton’s “Whiskey and You”…and we wouldn’t be mad if he won it, either. We’ve gotta run with Miranda on this one; this song brings it home so well, she deserves the ACM.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
“Black” – Dierks Bentley
“It Ain’t My Fault” – Brothers Osborne
“Legends” – Kelsea Ballerini
“Marry Me” – Thomas Rhett
“We Should Be Friends” – Miranda Lambert
This was a toss up between “Marry Me”, “We Should Be Friends”, and “Legends”. While Ballerini’s video definitely got points for making us cry, Lambert’s video was more fun to watch. “Marry Me”, however, is a wonderful blend of heartfelt and fun and showcases the song in the most relevant, entertaining way. The cinematography is simple, yet beautiful, and the entire project comes together beautifully.
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
Hillary Lindsey was an easy choice for this category. Though her catalog is not as full as some others on this list, the integrity of her writing is always consistent and she’s penned some of the most beautiful, and catchy, hits in the genre. As the only woman nominated in this category, we’d like to see Lindsey take this award home.
VOCAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
“Craving You” – Thomas Rhett Featuring Maren Morris
“Dear Hate” – Maren Morris featuring Vince Gill
“Funny (How Time Slips Away)” – Glen Campbell And Willie Nelson
“The Fighter” – Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood
“What Ifs” – Kane Brown Featuring Lauren Alaina
With 2017 being such a heartbreaking year in America for violence and loss, Maren Morris and Vince Gill did a critically important thing by recording “Dear Hate”. Not only is it musically beautiful, the message behind it is poignant and relevant to the times we are faced with.
Be sure to tune into the 53rd Academy of Country Music awards THIS Sunday, April 15th, at 8/7c on CBS to see how many award winners we can check off our wish list!