Taylor Swift and reigning champ Carrie Underwood face off against six male artists for the top prize at the 45th annual Academy of Country Music awards on April 18. Three of the men in the race are former winners of entertainer of the year -- Kenny Chesney (2004-2007), Toby Keith (2002, 2003) and George Strait (1989). Another two are multiple male vocalist of the year champs -- Brad Paisley (2006-2008) and Keith Urban (2004, 2005) -- while the final entry -- the Zac Brown Band -- are relative rookies. The ACM entertainer of the year will be determined by online voting as will the four newcomer awards.
Perennial ACM host Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton announced the nominations Tuesday morning on CBS' "The Early Show." McEntire -- the 1994 entertainer of the year -- contends this year for female vocalist, an award she has won seven times already. Shelton is vying for vocal event of the year for "Hillbilly Bone."
While Lady Antebellum did not earn an entertainer of the year bid, the group lead with seven other nominations including vocal group, album, single and song. Both Underwood and Miranda Lambert have six nominations while Swift has five.
Expect Swift -- who swept the CMAs last fall with four wins including the coveted entertainer of the year title -- to do just as well at the ACMs. In addition to her entertainer of the year bid, Swift contends for female vocalist and is up for three awards for "You Belong With Me" -- video of the year, song of the year performer and song of the year co-writer.
At last fall's CMAs, Swift ended the three-year reign of Kenny Chesney as the top entertainer. His loss there had been foretold by his defeat for the same award -- after four wins in a row -- at last spring's ACMs to Carrie Underwood. Underwood -- who co-hosted the CMA Awards -- had won female vocalist there for the previous three years but was bested by Swift.
Underwood has won that same award at the ACMs for the last three years and contends again this year. Her CMA co-host, Brad Paisley, won his third consecutive CMA male vocalist prize last fall and is defending his three-year winning streak at the ACMs.
Even the most die-hard country music fans have a tough time explaining the difference between the Country Music Assn. (CMA), which handed out awards last fall, and the Academy of Country Music (ACM), which passes out honors every spring. The only differences besides the dates are network affiliation and geography -- the CMA Awards air on ABC from Nashville; the ACM Awards are doled out on CBS from Las Vegas. Both awards are bestowed by industry organizations with many of the same voters and -- no surprise -- many of the same winners.
In the 45-year history of the ACM Awards, just 23 men and 24 women have won the vocalist prizes. And only 21 different acts have been named entertainer of the year. The CMAs are no different, with many of the champs there having won first at the ACM Awards or vice versa. Over 43 years, the CMA Awards has seen 23 men and 24 women take top vocal honors while 29 different acts have ranked as entertainer of the year.
For the full list of nominees, visit the ACM website.
Photo: Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton. Credit: CBS