ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Skates: Taylor Swift—Her global impact is unprecedented. In 2012 her mind-boggling success continued with a blockbuster world tour and record breaking sales.
Freeman: Kenny Chesney—He spent much of the last year reminding us why he’s won four of these things already: a monster stadium tour with his buddy Tim McGraw and a couple more smash hits for good measure.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Skates: Miranda Lambert—Four The Record is a masterpiece and her popularity both inside and outside of country music grew this year.
Freeman: Carrie Underwood—After a relatively quiet 2011, Carrie came roaring back in 2012 with a hot new album (Blown Away), tour, and a batch of big singles.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Skates: Luke Bryan—A string of monster hits resulted in a breakthrough year for Bryan.
Freeman: Jason Aldean—The Georgia native vaulted into the superstar stratosphere with a record-setting tour, spectacular sales, and a string of chart-topping hits.
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Skates: Brantley Gilbert—A winning combination of radio hits, sales and touring added up for a fantastic debut year.
Freeman: Hunter Hayes—A thrillingly talented musical prodigy finds his footing and an enthusiastic fanbase.
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Skates: Lady Antebellum—A smash world tour and songwriting chops helped Nashville’s favorite trio maintain momentum.
Freeman: Zac Brown Band—This hard-working ensemble has been consistently churning out memorable hits on its steady trajectory to stardom.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Skates: Chief, Eric Church, Produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records Nashville—It’s a production marvel enhanced by masterful songwriting. Church’s edgy sound and lyrical perfectionism can’t be topped.
Freeman: Chief, Eric Church, Produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records Nashville—Near universal acclaim, hits-a-plenty, sonic alchemy–this one seems pretty obvious.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Skates: “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Will Hoge and Eric Paslay—They perfectly captured the pursuit of musicians, and simultaneously touched heartstrings of everyone on Music Row. Plus, Hoge’s hard-earned success and Paslay’s stellar breakout year gave voters all the more reason to pick this song.
Freeman: “Home,” Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers, and Dierks Bentley—Expertly walks the tightrope of being patriotic, inspiring, and anthemic without resorting to hawkish chest beating.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Skates: “Springsteen,” Eric Church, Produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records Nashville—A big hit from a fantastic album. The well-written, radio friendly track even drew praise from The Boss himself.
Freeman: “Pontoon,” Little Big Town, Produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville—Summer’s inescapable smash about escape, “Pontoon” motorboated to the top of the charts with help from an exotic mandolin riff and one slinky, party-ready groove.
DUO OF THE YEAR
Skates: Sugarland—The band soldiered onward, with Nettles scoring a judging slot on primetime show Duets.
Freeman: The Civil Wars—The critical darlings broke out big time and managed to unite fans of all stripes in the process.
The show airs at 7 pm/CT tonight on ABC, live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
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