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Who will win at the 2018 CMA Awards? We predict all the winners of the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards

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Predicting the ultimate winners of the CMA Awards is a difficult task, because the awards show is notorious for surprises. When the nominations were announced on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, Chris Stapleton came out on top with five nominations. Super-producer and musician Dan Huff received four nods, and a list of Country all-stars received three nominations each. They include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Dan + Shay, Florida Georgia Line, Chris Janson, Miranda Lambert, Midland, Thomas Rhett and Keith Urban.

The 52nd Annual CMA Awards will be broadcast November 14, 2018 (7 p.m. CST) from Bridgestone Arena in the country capital of the world - Nashville, Tennessee. Country stars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will co-host the big event.

Before we begin, one thing has to be made clear: The CMA Awards are unpredictable every year. But patterns of success for the CMA Awards are evident, and we will carefully judge all the candidates based on past winners, streaming success, social media, fan engagement, music sales, etc. Technically, any of the nominees could win, but there are a few near-certainties that we will detail below. We will also name some possible surprise winners, too. So sit down, grab a drink and come along with us as we carefully examine this year's crop of nominees and try to predict the winner and runner-up for each category of the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards.

Entertainer of the Year:

It's been a big year for Keith Urban, and he has managed to reinvigorate his career both with fans, critics and fellow artists. Jason Aldean, who was snubbed for two years, received three nominations this time around and had one of his best 12 months ever in country music. While Chris Stapleton has the most CMA nominations, the Entertainer of the Year category may not be his time to shine. Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney have also had much success in the past 12 months, but the two stars may cancel out each others' votes in key segments of the voting population. Therefore, we predict that a year of drowning in whiskey will push Jason Aldean over the edge to win a very close victory over Christ Stapleton for the Entertainer of the Year at the 2018 CMA awards.

2018 CMA Entertainer of the Year nominees:
Jason Aldean (predicted winner)
Chris Stapleton (predicted runner-up)
Luke Bryan
Kenny Chesney
Keith Urban

Single of the Year: 

Choosing the Single of the Year is no easy task, but there are two big front-runners with "Drowns the Whiskey" from Jason Aldean and "Broken Halos" by Chris Stapleton. Even though we predict a Jason Aldean win for Entertainer of the Year, Stapleton has the edge in the singles category with "Broken Halos." It is possible "Tequila" from Dan + Shay could pull out a surprise win as they are favorites of CMA voters, but Stapleton has the best shot to win Single of the Year.

2018 CMA Single of the Year nominees: 
"Broken Halos" – Chris Stapleton (predicted winner) 
"Drowns the Whiskey" – Jason Aldean (Feat. Miranda Lambert) (predicted runner-up)
"Tequila" – Dan + Shay
"Drinkin' Problem" – Midland
"Meant to Be" – Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line 

Album of the Year: 

The 2018 race for Album of the Year may be the CMAs closest race of the entire awards show. Keith Urban's stellar "Graffiti U," Dierks Bentley's "The Mountain" and Thomas Rhett's "Life Changes" all might be potential winners in another year. However, two country stars are the standout favorites this year. Kacey Musgraves "Golden Hour" is a masterful album that has had positive country chatter throughout its release and "From  A Room: Volume 2" seems to go from success to success for the great Chris Stapleton. However, the lack of other prominent female nominees in this or other categories (like Entertainer of the Year) means that Musgraves has the edge and will likely beat Chris Stapleton's "From A Room: Volume 2." Make no mistake, Kacey Musgraves deserves this win and could have won anyway. But the likelihood of her win is strengthened by the promise of a strong push for a deserving female to win a major award in a CMA field of nominees that is light on females in the main categories.

2018 CMA Album of the Year nominees:
Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves (predicted winner)
From A Room: Volume 2 – Chris Stapleton (predicted runner-up)
Life Changes – Thomas Rhett
The Mountain – Dierks Bentley
Graffiti U – Keith Urban

Song of the Year:

The Song of the Year category is another hard to predict award. But a few contenders can probably be excluded: Chris Janson's "Drunk Girl" and "Body Like A Back Road" feel like also-rans in a category with three other huge songs. That leaves "Drowns the Whiskey," "Tequila" and "Broken Halos" as the other potential winners. In this category, "Drowns the Whiskey" will probably win a very close victory over "Tequila" and "Broken Halos." But in reality, any one of the three could win, and it is a near certainty that one of them will.

2018 CMA Song of the Year nominees:
"Drowns the Whiskey" Songwriter: Brandon Kinney, Jeff Middleton, Josh Thompson (predicted winner)
"Tequila" Songwriter: Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers (predicted runner-up)

"Broken Halos" Songwriters: Mike Henderson, Chris Stapleton
"Body Like A Back Road" Songwriters: Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne
"Drunk Girl" Songwriter: Scooter Carusoe, Tom Douglas, Chris Janson

Female Vocalist of the Year:

Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood have all had a great 12 months, but Underwood was snubbed in some categories this year and Morris' year was great - just not as great as other female artists. In addition, the uber-talented Miranda Lambert's biggest critical triumph of the year was as a featured performer in a collaboration with Jason Aldean. So the other two artists seem to have the edge. Kacey Musgraves has been unstoppable over the past year as her Album of the Year nomination shows, and Kelsea Ballerini is viewed by many Nashville insiders as the female country star of the future. But Kacey Musgraves' success in the album category should catapult her to the top over the surging Kelsea Ballerini this year.

2018 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year nominees:
Kacey Musgraves (predicted winner)
Kelsea Ballerini (predicted runner-up)

Carrie Underwood
Maren Morris
Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist of the Year:

CMA voters love Keith Urban and Male Vocalist of the Year is the category where he could surprise some people by taking the crown. That said, Chris Stapleton has been both a workhorse and a showhorse this year. But this race is unique because of the four other nominees who are at more mature levels of their respective careers. Therefore, Luke Combs has more than a shot here to win Male Vocalist of the Year and, in our view, the man to beat. We predict the runner-up in the category to be Chris Stapleton with Keith Urban close behind. While any one of these three could win, Luke Combs will likely pull out a surprise victory here. Indeed, Combs chances are much better than other prognosticators may believe based on his competition in the category who all have a similar voting base. The exception is Chris Stapleton who could easily pull out a win based on his overall performance this year, but we predict voters will reward Luke Combs with the coveted Male Vocalist trophy this year.

2018 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year nominees:
Luke Combs (predicted winner)
Chris Stapleton (predicted runner-up)
Keith Urban 
Thomas Rhett
Dierks Bentley

Vocal Group of the Year:

Conventional wisdom among some is that Little Big Town or Lady Antebellum will win this award like they almost always do. But there are some reasons this year might be difference. The neotraditionalist group Midland made a big splash over the past year with the retro-cool "Drinkin' Problem" and have already been racking up success after success. With LANCO and Old Dominion not as competitive in the category, this leaves Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and Midland to duke it out for CMA glory. We predict that Midland will win a surprise victory in the category due to their success this year, the status of being a new, up-and-coming band and the fact that the voting base for the band is probably the widest of any group in the category (as they are unusual due to their cross generational appeal). However, it is never wise to bet against Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town, but you can wager all the money in your bank account that one of these three will win.

2018 CMA Vocal Group of the Year nominees:
Midland (predicted winner)
Lady Antebellum (predicted runner-up) tie
Little Big Town (predicted runner-up) tie
Old Dominion

Vocal Duo of the Year:

Let's be honest for a minute... Do Brothers Osborne, Sugarland or Maddie & Tae have any chance to win Vocal Duo of the Year? Theoretically, yes....but in reality, no way. Vocal Duo of the Year will be a heavyweight grudge match against two groups of shining stars: Dan + Shay and Florida Georgia Line. "Tequila" has been HUGE for Dan + Shay, and it is hard to overstate what this song has meant for the duo's career. At the same time, Florida Georgia Line is as familiar on country radio as Michael Jackson was on pop radio during his 1980s glory days. While it is a tough call, we predict that Dan + Shay will be named Vocal Duo of the Year and beat the previous heavyweight champ in the category - Florida Georgia Line. However, FGL could still pull out a win. But, sadly, none of the other nominees really have any chance this year.

2018 CMA Vocal Duo of the Year nominees:
Dan + Shay (predicted winner)
Florida Georgia Line (predicted runner-up)
Brothers Osborne
Maddie & Tae

Musical Event of the Year: 

There is probably not a tougher category to predict than Musical Event of the Year. Favorite events are highly subjective and sometimes come down to the feeling of the voters when they first here the performance or even and artist's chart success that year compared to other nominees. Two songs can probably be excluded from consideration: "Dear Hate" was a fabulous triumph for Maren Morris and Vince Gill while Dierks Bentley and the Brothers Osborne deserve huge kudos for "Burning Man." But the other three nominees seem to have more of the "secret sauce" that often wins awards. "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" is one of the greatest achievements of the year for David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney, but "Drowns the Whiskey" and "Meant to Be" seem to have a little extra momentum. And the current chart success of "Drowns the Whiskey" will probably lead Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert to the awards podium. But watch out for a possible surprise win by Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha.

2018 CMA Musical Event of the Year nominees: 
"Drowns the Whiskey" – Jason Aldean (Feat. Miranda Lambert) (predicted winner)
"Meant to Be" – Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line (predicted runner-up)
"Everything's Gonna Be Alright" – David Lee Murphy (with Kenny Chesney)
"Dear Hate" – Maren Morris (Feat. Vince Gill)
"Burning Man" – Dierks Bentley Feat. Brothers Osborne

Musician of the Year:

Let's thank our lucky stars for the steel guitar prowess of Paul Franklin, the guitar work of Derek Wells and the famed Dobro master Jerry Douglas. But the two front-runners in the category (by a mile) are Mac McAnally and Dann Huff. Huff scored the second highest number of nominations this year (four) after Chris Stapleton and has been a prominent and popular figure in Nashville's country and Christian music scenes for decades. This gives Dann Huff the edge this year as voters will reward his huge year in country music. 

2018 CMA Musician of the Year nominees: 
Dann Huff, Guitar (predicted winner)

Mac McAnally, Guitar (predicted runner-up)
Paul Franklin, Steel Guitar
Derek Wells, Guitar
Jerry Douglas, Dobro

Video of the Year:

Award nominations were not plentiful for Carrie Underwood this year following her huge comeback following an accident, but we predict CMA voters will still reward Underwood with the Video of the Year award for her hugely popular video "Cry Pretty" which has won critical praise from almost everyone. "Marry Me" from Thomas Rhett may also pack a punch, but we predict it will be the runner-up this year. Chris Janson's "Drunk Girl" is a masterful video and fully worthy of praise as is "Tequila" from Dan + Shay and "Babe" from Sugarland featuring Taylor Swift. However, Carrie Underwood showed perseverance following a major accident and the video shows she is back in good form. This is the category that is Carrie Underwood's to lose, and she will win by a wide margin.

2018 CMA Music Video of the Year nominees:
"Cry Pretty" – Carrie Underwood Director: Randee St. Nicholas (predicted winner)
"Marry Me" – Thomas Rhett Director: TK McKamy (predicted runner-up)
"Babe" – Sugarland (Featuring Taylor Swift) Director: Anthony Mandler
"Tequila" – Dan + Shay Director: Patrick Tracy
"Drunk Girl" – Chris Janson Director: Jeff Venable

New Artist of the Year: 

The most unpredictable category is the notoriously hard to predict New Artist of the Year Award. Chris Janson, Brett Young and Midland are all deserving nominees. But this year, it looks like the fight is between Luke Combs and Lauren Alaina. Combs has been coming on strong this year, and New Artist of the Year would be a crowning accomplishment. However, there has been no bigger fighter this year than Lauren Alaina who disappeared for a while after her initial American Idol success and worked her way back onto country radio - no easy feat for a female country music artist. The other nominees are not totally excluded here: Chris Janson came on strong initially with "Buy Me A Boat" and now with "Drunk Girl" and could pull out a win. In addition, a case could also be made for Midland and Brett Young. But momentum matters, and Lauren Alaina will have a deservedly strong push from voters wanting to reward the hard fought success of the female country star and Luke Combs will also have a large voting block also wanting to crown him the winner. We suspect Luke Combs has the edge here, but don't be surprised if Lauren Alaina wins on November 14. 

2018 CMA New Artist of the Year nominees: 
Luke Combs (predicted winner - tie)

Lauren Alaina (predicted winner tie) 
Chris Janson
Brett Young

CMA Awards - Country Radio Awards:

Radio categories at the CMAs are almost as difficult to predict as the New Artist of the Year award, but we predict that Charlie Monk has the edge in the National radio category - which will be another success for "The Mayor of Music Row." However Buzz Brainard from SiriusXM or Lon Helton could eek out a surprise win.
In the Major Market category, we predict that St Louis' "Bud and Broadway" show will win the award with DFW's "Hawkeye in the Morning" coming in a close second. Indianapolis' own "Jim, Deb & Kevin" seem to have the right stuff for a win in the Large Market radio category, but Raleigh/Durham's "Q Morning Crew" have momentum, too. In the Medium Market radio category, we predict that a show from Canada will take the prize. Calgary's "The Odd Squad" continue to impress both artists and Nashville music execs. Likewise, Pensacola's Cat Pak Morning Show has also garnered rave reviews from country music insiders for its cool morning vibe.

2018 CMA National nominees:
 "The Mayor of Music Row" (Charlie Monk) – Sirius XM Satellite Radio (predicted winner)
"The Music Row Happy Hour" (Buzz Brainard) – Sirius XM Satellite Radio (predicted runner-up)

"Country Countdown USA" (Lon Helton) – Westwood One
"Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40″ (Bob Kingsley) – Westwood One
"American Country Countdown" (Kix Brooks) – Westwood One

2018 CMA Major Market nominees:
"Bud and Broadway" (Bud Ford, Jerry Broadway, Kelly Rebal, "Captain Mac Douglas" Gregory Paul Ford, "T.Wall" Tom Wall, and "Sweet Becca" Walls) – WIL, St. Louis, Mo. (predicted winner)
"Hawkeye in the Morning" ("Hawkeye" Mark Louis Rybczyk, Jasmine Sadry, and "Connected K" Katelyn Maida) – KSCS, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas (predicted runner-up)

"Tim, Ben and Brooke" (Tim Hattrick, Ben Campbell, and Brooke Hoover) – KNIX, Phoenix, Ariz.
"KYGO Morning Show" (Tracy Dixon, Guy David, and Patrick Knight) – KYGO, Denver-Boulder, Colo.
"Double-L" (Lois Lewis) – KNIX, Phoenix, Ariz. 
2018 CMA Large Market nominees: 
"Jim, Deb & Kevin" (Jim Denny, Deborah Honeycutt, and Kevin Freeman) – WFMS, Indianapolis, Ind. (predicted winner) 
"Q Morning Crew" (Mike Wheless and Janie Carothers) – WQDR, Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (predicted runner-up) 
"The Randy, Jamie, and Jojo Show" (Randy Carroll, Jamie Martin, and Jojo Meza) – KAJA, San Antonio, Texas
"Ridder, Scott and Shannen" ("Ridder" Shaun Ridderbush, Scott Dolphin, and Shannen Oesterreich) – WMIL, Milwaukee-Racine, WI
"Obie & Ashley In The Morning" (Obie Diaz and Ashley Stegbauer) – WWKA, Orlando, Fla.

2018 CMA Medium Market nominees: 
"The Odd Squad" (Roger Rhodes, Robyn Adair, and Dan Carson) – CKRY, Calgary, Alta. (predicted winner)

"The 97.5 WPCV Breakfast Club" (Roger Todd, "Julie K." Kansy, and "D.J. Thee Trucker" Dale Sellers) – WPCV, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla. (predicted runner-up)
"Ken, Kelley, and Daniel" (Ken Hicks, Kelley Bradshaw, and Daniel Wyatt) – WUSY, Chattanooga, Tenn.
"Scott and Sarah in the Morning" (Scott Wynn and Sarah Kay) – WQMX, Akron, Ohio
Brent Michaels – KUZZ, Bakersfield, Calif.

2018 CMA Small Market nominees:
"The Cat Pak Morning Show" (Brent Lane and Candy Cullerton) – WYCT, Pensacola, Fla. (predicted winner)
"Steve and Jessica Mornings" (Steve Waters and Jessica Cash) – WFLS, Fredericksburg, Va. (predicted runner-up)

"Barrett, Fox & Berry" (Bill Barrett, Tim Fox, and Tracy Berry) – KKNU, Eugene-Springfield, Ore.
"The Eddie Foxx Show" (Eddie Foxx and Sharon Green) – WKSF, Asheville, N.C.
"The Good Morning Guys" (Todd Harding, Susan Moore, and Brian Gary) – KUAD, Ft. Collins-Greeley, Colo.

2018 CMA Major Market nominees:
WKKT – Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C. (predicted winner)
KKBQ– Houston-Galveston, Texas (predicted runner-up)

KUPL – Portland, Ore.
KNIX – Phoenix, Ariz.
WSOC – Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.

2018 CMA Large Market nominees:
WQIK –  Jacksonville, Fla. (predicted winner)
KUBL – Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo, Utah (predicted runner-up)

KCYY – San Antonio, Texas
WWKA – Orlando, Fla.
WUBE – Cincinnati, Ohio

2018 CMA Medium Market nominees:
WYRK – Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. (predicted winner)
WUSY – Chattanooga, Tenn. (predicted runner-up)
WHKO – Dayton, Ohio

KUZZ – Bakersfield, Calif.
WBBS – Syracuse, N.Y.

2018 CMA Small Market nominees:
KKNU – Eugene-Springfield, Ore. (predicted winner)
WCOW – La Crosse, Wis. (predicted runner-up)
KCLR – Columbia, Mo.
KTTS – Springfield, Mo.
WKSF – Asheville, N.C.