Rare Country predicts the winners for The 50th Annual CMA Awards Michael ZornInvision/AP
Michael ZornInvision/AP

The winners for The 50th Annual CMA Awards will be revealed live on the big show at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, Nov. 2 on ABC.

Since we at Rare Country eat, breathe and sleep country music 24/7, we thought we’d round up some of our thoughts on who will, or who should, take home the CMA trophies this year. Please enjoy these picks from our super-excited staff members — Tricia Despres, Tammy Ragusa, Melinda Lorge and Hunter Kelly:

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Garth Brooks
Luke Bryan
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban

Tricia: “Attention boys, this is Carrie’s year. From her tour to her album to her hosting duties on The 50th Annual CMA Awards, no one else deserves this award as much as she does.”

Hunter: “It’s Carrie Underwood’s first time nominated for CMA entertainer of the year, and there’s no doubt she’s had a big enough year to earn a win in this category. Her Storyteller Tour has been thrilling fans across the country as she performs hit after hit after hit on the tour’s massive stage.

The argument for Carrie to win Entertainer gets even stronger if you look at her track record at country radio over the past decade. None of the other nominees, not even Garth Brooks and Keith Urban, have been so consistent when it comes to having every song they’ve ever released to country radio reach No. 1 or No. 2 on the Billboard Country Songs and/or Airplay charts. The woman has never not had a hit. We say it’s time she was recognized for being the most consistent hit-maker in the format.”

Tammy: “It was an incredible year for ALL of these artists with huge tours, big records and unparalleled fan engagement, but Garth is Garth. He’s going to be a tough one to beat.”


Melinda: “Carrie Underwood deserves to win this year. It’s definitely been a long time coming for her fans. Her Storyteller Tour also makes her a stand out with it’s dramatic production and 360-degree stage.”

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“Black” — Dierks Bentley
“Mr. Misunderstood” — Eric Church
“Ripcord” — Keith Urban
“Storyteller” — Carrie Underwood
“Hero” — Maren Morris

Tricia: “Carrie’s magical night will continue as she takes this one for an album that elevated her to new heights as a country songstress.”

Melinda: “Eric released ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ to his Church Choir fan community first, and he continues to prove that he’s a game changer. With singular songs like ‘Kill a Word’ and ‘Record Year,’ he’s a tough one to beat.”

Tammy: “Competition is tough at this year’s CMA Awards, including in the AOTY category, but one had tongues wagging across formats — Maren Morris. ‘Hero’, come on down!”

“Die a Happy Man” — Thomas Rhett
“Humble and Kind” — Tim McGraw
“My Church” — Maren Morris
“Nobody to Blame” — Chris Stapleton
“Record Year” — Eric Church

Tricia: “It was a song everyone couldn’t stop singing, and it was a song that elevated Thomas and Lauren to superstar couple status. It’s the last hurrah for an unforgettable song that also took this category at the ACM Awards in April.”


Melinda: “Maren Morris’ ‘My Church’ is a breakthrough hit that ties into the award show’s ‘Forever Country’ theme of paying homage to traditional artists. Although it wasn’t a No. 1 hit for Maren, the song showed us what we can expect from the singer and was the perfect lead off for her follow-up ‘80s Mercedes.’”

“Burning House” — Camaron Ochs, Tyler Johnson and Jeff Bhasker
“Die a Happy Man” — Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett and Joe Spargur
“Humble and Kind” — Lori McKenna
“My Church” — Busbee and Maren Morris
“Record Year” — Eric Church and Jeff Hyde

Hunter: “‘Humble and Kind’ is the favorite to win, but I’m really pulling for ‘Burning House.’ That song literally stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard Cam sing it at a record label showcase in February 2015. I was headed to the bathroom and held off going so I could hear her finish the song. Bladder be damned, that’s a killer song! So happy this unconventional ode to heartbreak became a hit!”

Tricia: “I’m going with ‘Humble and Kind.’ What that song did on the charts or numbers of downloads doesn’t matter. This song transcends all of that — and caused a worldwide movement of kindness that changed each and every one of us.”

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood


Tricia: “Move over Miranda, as you took a break, Carrie claimed the country queen prize.”

Hunter: “I think this prize should go to Carrie for a wonderful year, but Kelsea has notched three consecutive No. 1 hits. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miss Ballerini is the one who ends Miranda Lambert’s six-year winning streak in this category.”

Tammy: “So much more goes into consideration for this category than just an ability to sing, but Carrie Underwood has had an amazing year all-around. The fact that she sings her butt off is a bonus. Carrie for the win.”

Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Tim McGraw
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Tricia: “I’m guessing Chris Stapleton will win, but full disclosure, I have no clue on this one. Total crap shoot.”

Hunter: “I think the love affair between the country music industry and Chris Stapleton is still going strong. It’s his to lose after pulling off a surprise victory here last year.”

Tammy: “It’s a virtual smorgasbord of country hunks — something for everyone. But, funkiness aside, Tim McGraw is proof that it ain’t over til it’s over. Two decades into his career and he’s just getting better.”

Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

Hunter: “Don’t count out new guys Old Dominion, who have racked up a few No. 1 hits while on the road with Kenny Chesney this year. That’s a lot of exposure. They also give a shot in the arm to this usually predictable category.”


Tricia: “I don’t see any of the competition interrupting Little Big Town’s winning streak here.”


Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Joey + Rory
Maddie & Tae

Tricia: “God almighty, how I would love Joey+Rory to take this as a symbolic win.”

Melinda: “Florida Georgia Line. The duo conquered the charts with their debut album. They continued to stay in the game with their sophomore album. But, their third record, ‘Dig Your Roots,’ gave fans a whole new taste of music with ‘H.O.L.Y.’ The sound proves just how well they’re evolving and reinventing their sound to keep it fresh.”

Hunter: “I feel like Florida Georgia Line has really grown a lot with their new album, ‘Dig Your Roots.’ They’re also the only superstars in the running. I think they’ll take it again, and they actually did the work to deserve it, too.”


Kelsea Ballerini
Brothers Osborne
Maren Morris
Old Dominion
Cole Swindell

Tricia: “Kelsea deserves this one in every way possible — no question. She even has a female vocalist of the year nomination.”

Hunter: “I’d like to see Kelsea win this category since she’s racked up three No. 1 hits on top of hosting a music show on ABC with Arsenio Hall this summer. She’s got the singing and writing talent and star quality to represent the country format very well in the years to come.”

Tammy: “Part of winning these awards is having a big presence in the industry through performing, touring AND media — magazines, TV and social media. It’s hard for new artists to understand this and find their way into the mainstream, but Kelsea Ballerina figured it out… and boom.”

“Different For Girls” — Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King
“Home Alone Tonight” — Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild
“The Fighter” — Keith Urban (featuring Carrie Underwood)
“Think of You” — Chris Young (duet with Cassadee Pope)
“You Are My Sunshine” — Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton

Tammy: “They may not be the biggest stars in this category, but Chris Young and Cassadee Pope’s ‘Think Of You’ was a gigantic hit. It was also well-written, well-produced and well-performed. It’s just dang good, y’all!”

Melinda: “Chris and Cassadee are a match made in heaven onstage. Not only that, ‘Think of You’ was Cassadee’s first No. 1.”

“Burning House” — Cam; directed by Trey Fanjoy
“Fire Away” — Chris Stapleton; directed by Tim Mattia
“Humble and Kind” — Tim McGraw; directed by Wes Edwards
“Record Year” — Eric Church; directed by John Peets and Reid Long
“Somewhere On A Beach” — Dierks Bentley; directed by Wes Edwards.

Melinda: “The music video for ‘Burning House’ is haunting and heartbreaking. It just adds to the vulnerability of the song.”

Hunter: “The video that will stick with me most from this crop is Chris Stapleton’s ‘Fire Away.’ It’s a jaw-dropping mini-movie about the devastating effects of mental illness soundtracked by Chris’ commanding vocals. Just chilling.”

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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