The 45th Annual CMA Awards, country music’s equivalent to the Grammys, will air Nov. 9 on ABC. The performance-packed show already has a number of potential water cooler moments, including Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Vince Gill’s salute to Glen Campbell;  Lionel Richie singing a number of his hits with top country artists (all of whom appear on his forthcoming country album); the past and present meeting in Blake Shelton and Kenny Loggins’ duet on “Footloose, ” and appearances by Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, American Idols’ Scotty McCreery, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. No Gwyneth Paltrow repeat performance though.

In between the singing, they’ll give away a few awards. Here are my predictions for the winners. It’s a tough year with no clear front runner in many categories (I left out vocal group since Sugarland is a lock). Tune back here the night of the show as I’ll be blogging the proceedings live.

Single of the Year (award goes to artist and producer)
“A Little Bit Stronger,” Sara Evans
“Colder Weather,” Zac Brown Band
“Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
“Honey Bee,” Blake Shelton
“If I Die Young,” The Band Perry

“If I Die Young” has a lock on song of the year, but I don’t know if it has the same hold on single in this very competitive category.  Plus, I don’t understand why “Dirt Road Anthem” isn’t on this list as it would be my winner. All the songs were huge hits and my favorite is “Colder Weather,” but probably only because it would have made a great James Taylor tune (loved his duet with ZBB on it, by the way). Shelton’s performance on the sweet, uncomplicated  “Honey Bee” is classic country.
Winner:  “Honey Bee,” Blake Shelton

Album of the Year

“All About Tonight,” Blake Shelton
“My Kinda Party,” Jason Aldean
“Speak Now,” Taylor Swift
“This Is Country Music,” Brad Paisley
“You Get What You Give,” Zac Brown Band

This is between “My Kinda Party,” which has stayed in the top 5 of the Billboard country albums chart for a full year and really marked Aldean’s breakthrough, and “Speak Now,” which started out incredibly strong (1 million its first week) and has still sold tremendously well. I don’t know if an artist on an indie label has ever won this award so Aldean may be the first to do so, however, we think Swift will prevail.
Winner: “Speak Now”

Song of the Year (award goes to songwriters)

“Colder Weather” (Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey and Coy Bowles)
“Dirt Road Anthem” (Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford)
“If I Die Young” (Kimberly Perry)
“Mean” (Taylor Swift)
“You And Tequila” (Matraca Berg and Deana Carter)

Nice batch of tunes and it’s nice to see some not so usual names here among the songwriters. “You and Tequila” is my personal favorite here, but there is no denying the impact that “If I Die Young” has had in terms of its poignancy and potency: “The sharp knife of a short life...”
Winner: “If I Die Young”

Female Vocalist of the Year
Sara Evans
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Why is Carrie Underwood here? Did she release an album in 2011 that I don’t know about? Yes, she duets with Brad Paisley on “Remind Me,” but this has been an off year for her. Lambert was really between albums as well (although “Baggage Claim” has been doing well). Still, Lambert has great momentum.
Winner: Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist of the Year
Jason Aldean
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Keith Urban

Shelton won last year and will win again this year.  He has been on an upward trajectory that shows no signs of abating between his chart success and coaching duties on “The Voice,” a role which has exposed him to a new audience. Plus, do we really want Lambert to win and not Shelton? They both carry guns, you know.
Winner: Shelton

Vocal Group of the Year
The Band Perry
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

This is the exact same line-up as last year, but this year the Band Perry has really earned its spot. Rascal Flatts, bless their hearts, could set themselves on fire and probably not win here despite their tremendous success, and everyone in Nashville loves LBT, but they’re not winning. There’s a slight chance that TBP could steal Lady A’s thunder, but it’s not likely.
Winner: Lady Antebellum

New Artist of the Year

The Band Perry
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Thompson Square
Chris Young

Unlike the Grammys, an act can be nominated more than once in this category: both Bryan and Young were here last year. Everyone has had a great year, but there’s no contest.
Winner: The Band Perry

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift
Keith Urban

 Last year’s winner, Paisley, consistently wows audiences and critics alike, but, perhaps unfairly, he (as well as Urban) doesn’t have the white heat on him now like Swift and Aldean do. Swift’s “Speak Now” tour took her into stadiums and continued to build her already huge fanbase, whereas this year was Aldean’s first outing as an arena headliner: both are critical milestones, but there’s no denying what Swift means to country music as a worldwide brand ambassador. She deserves it.
Winner: Taylor Swift