The annual CMA Awards is country music's big night, and this year's bash (airing Wednesday at 8 pm/ET, on ABC) includes performances by Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, the Eagles, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood, among others. And, of course, there will be the trophies themselves, handed out in a dozen categories. Here's a guide to the major awards, along with our picks for the winners.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Josh Turner, Keith Urban
Winner? It's nice to see Turner in this category, a sure sign of things to come for the talented baritone. But we expect the timeless Mr. Strait's name to be called.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood
Winner? Everyone — especially Faith Hill, it seemed — was surprised when Underwood won last year. Don't expect as many mouths to drop when she (deservedly) wins again.
Single of the Year
Nominees: "Anyway," Martina McBride; "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood; "Lost in This Moment," Big & Rich; "Ticks," Brad Paisley; "Wrapped," George Strait
Winner? Known for his clever wordplay, Paisley outdid himself with "Ticks," putting a backwoods spin on barroom pickup lines. But Underwood's scorcher about an unfaithful boyfriend has some serious legs — and crossover appeal. "Before He Cheats" will be hard to beat.
Album of the Year
Nominees: 5th Gear, Brad Paisley; It Just Comes Natural, George Strait; Long Trip Alone, Dierks Bentley; Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing, Keith Urban; These Days, Vince Gill
Winner? Expertly structured and easily accessible, Paisley's album is the standout. 5th Gear finishes first.
Entertainer of the Year
Nominees: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Keith Urban
Winner? Chesney was impressive in selling out all those football stadiums this summer, but Paisley has really hit his stride, releasing yet another knockout album and mounting an ambitious tour. This is his year.
Vocal Duo of the Year
Nominees: Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Sugarland, The Wreckers
Winner? Sugarland was nominated for best vocal group in 2006, but since becoming a duo, they've landed here. They'll win some day, just not now. It'll go to Brooks & Dunn.
Vocal Group of the Year
Nominees: Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas; Dixie Chicks; Emerson Drive; Little Big Town; Rascal Flatts
Winner? Is the country community starting to warm up to the Dixie Chicks again? It seems that way, as they've scored their first nomination since 2003. But Rascal Flatts have been unbeatable for the past four years. They'll do it again this year.
Music Video of the Year
Nominees: "Anyway," Martina McBride; "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood; "Moments," Emerson Drive; "Online," Brad Paisley; "You Save Me," Kenny Chesney
Winner? Playing out like a mini-sitcom, Paisley's "Online" is a hoot. But Underwood's hot-and-feisty clip will nab the top spot.
Nominees: Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift
Winner? With a knack for writing solid songs that belies her young age, Swift has a promising and long career ahead of her. She'll beat out her closest competition, Little Big Town.
For more on the CMAs, visit our Online Video Guide.
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