STORY WRITTN BY MESFIN FEKADU/ AP Music Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In one corner you’ve got the starring members of the country boys’ club: The veteran George Strait; the Australian guitar player who rocks the shaggy bangs, Keith Urban; the best-selling party boy Luke Bryan; and the funny, tall guy, Blake Shelton.
In the other corner: A blonde with a megawatt smile — and a swag that is so tough, even all the boys are afraid of her.
That’s why Wednesday’s Country Music Association Awards, set to air on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, will be Miranda Lambert’s big night. She is nominated for nine awards — more than any other artist — including entertainer, album, song and single of the year.
She’s also her own competitor: Lambert only has a chance to win seven trophies since she is nominated twice for both music event and music video of the year.
Here’s how the night will play out at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee — or at least some educated guesses:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: Blake Shelton; George Strait; Keith Urban; Luke Bryan; Miranda Lambert
While Blake Shelton continues to build his buzz with “The Voice” and Keith Urban with “American Idol,” the real competition is between Luke Bryan, whose album sales have been continued to kill it in challenging times; George Strait, who won the award last year and retired from the road this year; and Miranda Lambert, whose fiery vibe has dominated country airwaves this year. Look for the Lambert to crash the boys’ party Wednesday with a well-deserved win, and a first in the top category for the 30-year-old star.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: “Crash My Party,” Luke Bryan; “Fuse,” Keith Urban; “Platinum,” Miranda Lambert; “Riser,” Dierks Bentley; “The Outsiders,” Eric Church
The Grammys ignored Luke Bryan’s album, though it topped the charts and solidified his superstar status in country music. It seems unlikely the CMAs will make the same mistake.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR: “Automatic,” Miranda Lambert; “Drunk On A Plane,” Dierks Bentley; “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Eric Church; “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill; “Mine Would Be You,” Blake Shelton
Who doesn’t love a Tim McGraw and Faith Hill duet? But who doesn’t love a song about getting drunk on a plane to Mexico after your fiancé dumped you? Exactly.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR: Carrie Underwood; Kacey Musgraves; Martina McBride; Miranda Lambert; Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift may sell over a million albums this week, but her chances of winning are about the same as most of today’s album sales: Low. Lambert will earn her fifth consecutive win here.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR: Blake Shelton; Dierks Bentley; Eric Church; Keith Urban; Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have both won the male and female vocalist honors four years in a row. We call it their good luck charm, and no one wants to break up a happy home, including the CMAs.
Follow Mesfin Fekadu at twitter.com/MusicMesfin