The competition for Male Vocalist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year and Best Vocal Group is tough.

By Staff 

Country music is all about the song, but you can’t have a song without a singer (or singers). And the genre has more than its share of great vocalists. But who had the best year last year? That matter is very much up for debate, even among the experts.

Our friends at Houston’s Morning Bull (catch them weekday mornings on 100.3 The Bull) — George, Mo and Cowboy Dave — don’t even agree on who deserves to win in most of the vocal categories, as you can hear in their latest podcast (listen to it below).

In the Female Vocalist of the Year category, the competition is fierce: Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert are all nominated. Maren Morris seems to be the big story of the year, and she’s already won Best New Female Artist. But, as Cowboy Dave notes, “There’s one thing Maren Morris isn’t… and that’s Carrie Underwood.” Indeed, Underwood won the award in 2006, 2007 and 2008 (although it’s worth mentioning that Miranda Lambert has won it every year since then). The one artist who our experts agree probably won’t win is Kacey Musgraves, who kept a pretty low profile in 2016, and who Cowboy Dave says is “The Alison Krauss of right now.”

Related: ACM Watch: Will ‘May We All’ Endear Traditional Country Fans to Florida Georgia Line?

There’s a lot of competition in the Vocal Group of the Year category, where the Eli Young Band, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Old Dominion and Rascal Flatts Little Big Town’s Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man” was a worthy follow-up to “Girl Crush,” but there’s a lot of love for Old Dominion. And while Mo hopes the Eli Young Band can win in the category for the first time, Cowboy Dave says, “Don’t they have to put out a country album first?” Ouch.

As for the guys, it seems like there’s almost a consensus that Keith Urban deserves that one — he won it in both 2004 and 2005. Of course, there’s tough competition this year: Thomas Rhett also had a great year, and the show’s co-host Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean (who won in 2012, 2013 and 2014) and last year’s winner, Chris Stapleton, are all in the category as well.

Next week, our team discusses the biggest ACM Award of all: Entertainer of the Year. Listen to this week’s episode below.

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