As we close in on the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 7, country fans are wondering who will take home the night’s top honor: ACM Entertainer of The Year. As always, it’s a tough decision for the voters.
Jason Aldean is the reigning winner in this category, having won the award for the past three years. But with a nominee list that includes Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton and Kenny Chesney, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the big trophy.
I’ve been covering country music for quite a few years; I interviewed Blake Shelton when he had a mullet. I geeked out with Shania about our mutual Dolly Parton fandom before Ms. Twain was a superstar; Taylor Swift sang me her first single in person, in my office. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know and love each of this year’s nominees; they all are deserving of the honor. But for me, Keith Urban stands out as the artist who should win this year. Urban already won the 2018 Entertainer of the Year honor for the Country Music Association (CMA), and that had been a long time coming. It was the first time the CMAs presented him with that award since 2005. It’s an even longer time coming with the ACMs: somehow, he has never won the ACM Entertainer Of The Year award, ever.
Music is obviously the main criteria for an award like this one: last year, Urban released the genre-bending Graffiti U, a somewhat underrated album. The record saw him making unconventional moves like giving features to pop songwriters Julia Michaels and Shy Carter; when he does this, it draws even more fans to the world of country music. Not every country artist can do that. On his song “Parallel Line,” he cleverly sampled alt-pop band Coldplay’s “Everglow,” something that band’s fans surely noticed. Another feature went to an up-and-coming artist, and one of the few country acts who can go toe-to-toe with Keith on guitar: Lindsay Ell. The song was a great reminder that some of the best six-stringers in music come from country.
Unlike other genres, being a good person actually counts for a lot in country music, and Keith Urban is a great dude. One year, after he nabbed a ton of nominations for an award show, he had congratulatory messages pouring in from friends, fellow artists and even members of the media. Urban apparently sat in his car for the entire afternoon, personally responding to everyone’s emails, IMs and texts. I know this, because I received an email from him.
To be Entertainer of the Year, of course, you have to entertain. Urban just toured Australia, Europe and is heading back to the U.S. for more dates on his “Graffiti U World Tour.” He plays shows in the U.S. through September when he wraps the tour with the Pilgrimage Festival. Everything he does, from his face-melting guitar solos to his interactions with the crowd, is a joy to experience. His solos never seem over-indulgent; they’re as fun to listen to for the average fan as Guitar World subscribers. When he chats with the crowd, it never seems rehearsed or corny. The man embodies the word “entertainment.” Hopefully, this year, the ACM voters will agree.
The ACM Awards will be handed on Sunday, April 7thand will air live on CBS.