With the 47th annual CMA Awards taking place Wednesday (Nov. 6), all eyes are on this year's nominees, especially in the elite entertainer of the year category. This year's contenders are Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, George Strait and Taylor Swift.
According to one industry expert, each has made a strong case for the win.
"It's interesting because three of the nominees for entertainer made it a point to play the arena [in Nashville] in the months ahead of [the CMA Awards]," Billboard Country Update editor Tom Roland told CMT Hot 20 Countdown. "So I think that all of those people have kind of made a case for themselves."
Strait appears on the premiere ballot for what may be the final time. His farewell tour is scheduled to end in May 2014, and Roland thinks Strait's nod is about more than just the past 12 months of touring.
"I think that was clearly a case of the industry saying, 'Hey, we love you. We appreciate what you did,'" said Roland. "A lot of the people who vote on the CMA Awards still have this great appreciation for traditional country music, and that's very important to them even though that's not necessarily what's driving the ship for them right now in country music."
While Strait's inclusion on the entertainer list has sparked conversation, there are also some noticeable absences this year. To some, it's becoming clear that a new generation of artists has taken the lead.
"We're just beginning to see it with a new turnover," says veteran journalist Robert K. Oermann, a longtime contributor to the Nashville-based trade publication Music Row. "Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley and these guys have been around for a while now -- more than a decade. If you last 10 years in this business, it's a miracle. ... But the fact that they're excluded maybe means that we are seeing a little bit of a turning of the guard."
"I think that's part of the deal every year," Roland noted. "In fact, if it doesn't change, there's something wrong. There was a point in the '90s when, two years in a row, the entertainer of the year finalists were exactly the same five people. The conclusion people had at the time was, 'We're not building new artists. We're not creating new excitement.'"
Don't miss CMT.com's coverage of the 47th annual CMA Awards set for Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.