Album of the Year
The five albums competing for the night's second-biggest prize are Crash My Party by Luke Bryan, Platinum by Miranda Lambert, Riser by Dierks Bentley, The Outsiders by Eric Church and Fuse by Keith Urban.
Who Will Win: Though Church's The Outsiders has earned the biggest raves from music critics, it stretches the meaning of "country" perhaps a bit too much for many mainstream crowds. That leaves room for Lambert's Platinum to sweep the prize. Sassy, powerful, and peroxide pretty, Platinum took off with "Automatic" and kept flying high thanks to "Somethin' Bad." Lambert's records present a coherent point-of-view, and the bad-girl-turned-married-woman narrative made Platinum a highly enjoyable listen all the way through.
Who Should Win: Dierks Bentley's Riser isn't some sparse, indie record, but compared to some of his competitors' mega-produced discs, Riser stands out as a stripped-back collection ("Drunk on a Plane" notwithstanding) that showcases more traditional country instrumentation than most mainstream artists would ever think to feature. It's chock-full of hearty, introspective songs that merit recognition.