Many have written about why this is. I believe the question to be asked is what are the CMA voters looking for in an EOY and what artist can deliver what the voters want.
I think CMA voters want an act that will sell lots of records, get lots of radio play, tour well, is respected, and seen by the voters of the CMA as an artist they wish to put forward as the face of country music.
Sugarland is the duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. While Bush is a man, Sugarland qualifies as a female act because Nettles is the lead singer, and her female voice is how fans identify Sugarland.
Sugarland’s two albums have sold a combined 4 million copies with six top 10 hits with two going to #1. A 7th top 10 hit is on the way in “Stay” a song considered to be their best performance yet. In 2007 Sugarland ended Brooks & Dunn’s strangle hold on the CMA Vocal Duo award and they are expect to win the award again in 2008.
Nettles is considered a brilliant vocalist, and Sugarland is considered an excellent live act that plays well in concert and on television. They have made savvy use of the Web especially MySpace and YouTube. In 2007 Sugarland headlined on tour for the first time.
Carrie Underwood is the other female act mentioned as the next female act to win CMA EOY. Underwood has sold more albums, has more #1’s than Sugarland. Underwood is more famous, and won more awards. Still history shown Underwood is likely to face a backlash. CMA voters may feel she has been awarded enough. Since she has little present competition for Female Vocalist of the Year, voters may feel content with giving FVOY and giving EOY to others.
Underwood is going out on tour with former EOY winner Keith Urban. Each night fans and critics will get to compare the two in concert. I think Underwood is brilliant, but I fear she will have a tough time overcoming Urban’s incredible live performances. Few have Urban’s all-around musical ability and stage presence.
Suglarland’s Nettles, a charismatic live performer, commands a stage. Along with Bush, she provides energy on stage found only in great entertainers like Garth Brooks and Keith Urban. Add this to the fact that Sugarland faces no backlash, and Sugarland looks to have a clear path to EOY in 2009 or 2010. I might be wrong, but it is a feeling I have.