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CMA Awards 2014: Who Will (and Should) Win on Country’s Big Night

We predict the victors in the largely unpredictable categories, plus make our case for who really deserves the high country honors

CMA Awards 2014 predictions

Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

It's dubbed "country music's biggest night," and the honor is, to many, more important than a Grammy. The 48th annual CMA Awards are this Wednesday, November 5th, featuring the genre's most elite stars. For the first time in a long time, the unpredictable categories outweigh the predictable. So our CMA forecast was tough to craft, but here are our picks for who will walk away with the coveted awards… along with who should win.

Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Vocal Group of the Year

Eli Young Band, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, the Band Perry and Zac Brown Band will go head-to-head for top group honors.

Who Will Win: Little Big Town have taken this category for the past two years and are arguably the critical favorite here, but if anyone can give the quartet in this category a run for their money, it's the trio. Lady Antebellum have made a big career comeback, and voters have likely taken notice. "Compass" and "Bartender" both reached Number One at country radio, and the group's appealing harmonies and genuine likability keep them thriving.

Who Should Win: Zac Brown Band continues to release music that is rich, resonant and a refreshing change of pace from everything else in mainstream country. Their EP, The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1, produced by Foo Fighters leading man Dave Grohl, contains lush musicianship and soaring vocals.

Tim McGraw, Faith Hill

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

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Musical Event of the Year

Five worthy collaborations fill this category: Vince Gill and Paul Franklin's "Bakersfield," Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's "Meanwhile Back at Mama's," Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood's "Somethin' Bad," Keith Urban and Lambert's "We Were Us," and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's "You Can't Make Old Friends."

Who Will Win:  At a time when women are few and far between on country radio, the teaming of the genre's two biggest female stars, Lambert and Underwood, felt like the epitome of an event. Insiders will likely want to quell the criticism of country's lack of women by awarding the prize to "Somethin' Bad." If that doesn't happen, look for husband-wife duo McGraw and Hill to score nostalgia votes for "Meanwhile Back at Mama's."

Who Should Win: The most overlooked track of 2013 was perhaps Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's charming, weepy ode to friendship, "You Can't Make Old Friends." The "Islands in the Stream" duet partners still know how to charm, and their tender croons made the unassuming song a true gem.

Update: We were wrong! Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert took the prize for "We Were Us," as the category was announced on Good Morning America today.

Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood

Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood on the set of the "Somethin' Bad" video

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Music Video of the Year

The clips battling for glory here include Dierks Bentley's "Drunk on a Plane," Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow," Lady Antebellum's "Bartender," Miranda Lambert's "Automatic" and Lambert's other entry, "Somethin' Bad," her girl power duet with Carrie Underwood.

Who Will Win: The sizzling visuals in Lambert and Underwood's revved up "Somethin' Bad" video, which showcases the ladies in a bank heist (and on motorcycles) felt as sleek and explosive as a high octane Hollywood movie. None of the other nominees could compete with that level of gloss. The clip went immediately viral, and it's racked up 19 million views to date.

Who Should Win: If voters are judging purely on the basis of humor, Bentley's "Drunk on a Plane" should fly higher than the rest. But, the Trey Fanjoy-directed "Somethin' Bad" video elevated its song more than any of the other nominees.

*Update: Comedy prevails! Bentley's "Drunk on a Plane" was named the winner on Good Morning America Wednesday morning.

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