History may be made in several categories at the 46th annual Country Music Assn. Awards on Thursday. Kenny Chesney is vying for a record-setting fifth award as Entertainer of the Year. Chesney is currently tied for the lead with Garth Brooks, who took Entertainer of the Year four times between 1991 and 1998.
But to win, Chesney will have to get past the reigning champ, Taylor Swift. Swift, who also won in this category in 2009, is vying to become the first woman to take Entertainer of the Year three times. She would surpass Barbara Mandrell, who won twice in 1980-1981.
Eric Church's "Springsteen," which topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks in June, is nominated for Single of the Year, Song of the Year and Music Video of the Year. It's the year's only work to receive nominations in all three categories. It's vying to become only the third hit in CMA history to sweep all three awards. The first two were Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee" in 1993-1994 and Brooks & Dunn's "Believe" in 2006.
Martina McBride is vying to become the first five-time winner for Female Vocalist of the Year. She previously won in 1999 and from every year from 2002-2004. This would enable her to break out of a tie with Reba McEntire, who won the award four years in a row from 1984-1987.
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton are vying to win as Female Vocalist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year, respectively, for the third straight year. The two were married on May 14, 2011. Only one other married couple has won these awards in the same year—Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, the winners in 2000.
Lambert is also vying to become the first female artist to win twice for Album of the Year. She's nominated this year for Four The Record. She won two years ago for Revolution.
Shelton's big hit "God Gave Me You" is up for both Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Shelton no doubt hopes it wins the first award and loses the second. That's because the song (which was written by Dave Barnes) is competing with Lambert's hit "Over You," which Shelton and Lambert co-wrote. (Song of the Year is a songwriter's award.)
Here's a category-by-category look at the nominations. (This lets you know what to watch for, but these aren't predictions.)
Entertainer of the Year: Chesney and Swift are facing Brad Paisley, who won two years ago, and two artists who are looking for their first awards in the category: Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton.
Single of the Year and Song of the Year: Blake Shelton's "God Gave Me You," Dierks' Bentley's "Home" and Eric Church's "Springsteen" are nominated in both categories. The Single of the Year field is rounded out by Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" and Little Big Town's "Pontoon." The Song of the Year field is rounded out by "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" (a hit for Eli Young Band) and "Over You" (a hit for Miranda Lambert).
Album of the Year: All five of the finalists reached #1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. In addition to Lambert's Four The Record, the finalists are Lady Antebellum's Own The Night, Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines, Eric Church's Chief and Dierks Bentley's Home.
Female Vocalist of the Year: McBride is competing with Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. This would be the fourth award for Underwood, which would put her in a three-way tie for the most wins in the category with Reba McEntire and McBride. This would be the third consecutive win for Lambert. She would be only the fourth woman to win three years in a row, following Tammy Wynette, McEntire, McBride and Underwood. This would be the second win in the category for Swift; the first for Clarkson.
Male Vocalist of the Year: Eric Church and Dierks Bentley are this year's only artists who were nominated for Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Church is also nominated in this category, but Bentley, surprisingly, isn't. The other nominees are Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. Urban is vying for his fourth award in the category, which would put him just behind Vince Gill and George Strait, each of whom has won five times. This would be the third consecutive award in the category for Shelton; the first for Aldean, Bryan and Church.
Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum is vying for its fourth consecutive award in the category. Eli Young Band, Little Big Town, The Band Perry and Zac Brown Band are vying for their first award. Incidentally, this is the first year since their streak began in 2002 that Rascal Flatts hasn't even been nominated in this category. They won six times, which puts them second only to the Statler Brothers, with nine wins in the category.
Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland is vying for its sixth consecutive award in the category. Only Brooks & Dunn have won as many or more times in this category (14). Big & Rich, Love and Theft, The Civil Wars and Thompson Square are vying for their first award in the category.
New Artist of the Year: All five of the nominees have hit #1 on Hot Country Songs. Brantley Gilbert has had two #1 hits: "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do." The other nominees (and their #1 hits) are Lee Brice ("A Woman Like You"), Hunter Hayes ("Wanted"), Love And Theft ("Angel Eyes") and Thompson Square ("Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not"). Thompson Square was also nominated in this category last year, which is allowable under the CMA's generous rules. Gilbert was also nominated last year, but as a songwriter. The Jason Aldean smash "Dirt Road Anthem," which he co-wrote with Colt Ford, was up for Song of the Year.
Music Video of the Year: Church's video for "Springsteen" is competing with Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," Miranda Lambert's "Over You," Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" and Little Big Town's "Pontoon." Chesney won in this category last year with "You And Tequila" (a collabo with Grace Potter). Lambert won two years ago with "The House That Built Me." Keith won in 2005 with "As Good As I Once Was." This would be the first win in the category for Little Big Town.
Musical Event of the Year: "Dixie Highway," by Alan Jackson featuring Zac Brown, is among the nominees. Jackson has won three times in this category for collabos with George Jones, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett. If he wins again, he'll tie Brad Paisley for the most wins in this category. The other finalists are "Feels Like A Rock Star" by Kenny Chesney (duet with Tim McGraw)," "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die" by Willie Nelson with Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson, "Safe & Sound" by Taylor Swift (featuring The Civil Wars) and "Stuck On You" by Lionel Richie (with Darius Rucker).
Musician of the Year: Guitarist Mac McAnally is vying for his fifth consecutive award in the category. He is squaring off against guitarists Dann Huff and Brent Mason, who have each won twice, and two musicians who have yet to win in the category: mandolin player Sam Bush and steel guitarist Paul Franklin.