Let's work this out together. I'll give the case for and against each of these artists winning, and then I'll tell you who I think will win. In the comments section, you can offer your prediction.
The case against Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Solo artists tend to win this award. Of the nine winners since the award was introduced in 2004, only one (Rascal Flatts in 2006) was a group or duo. Also, no hip-hop act has ever won in this category, despite nominations over the years for OutKast, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Eminem,and Drake. Finally, the duo's album has sold just 1,132,000 copies, putting it in fourth place among the finalists' albums.
The case against Bruno Mars: Mars received only three AMA nominations this year, fewer than any of the other nominees in this category.
The case against Rihanna: Only one R&B artist has ever won this award. That's Chris Brown, who won in November 2008 (less than three months before the headline-making incident in which he assaulted Rihanna, his then-girlfriend). Rihanna's Unapologetic album has sold fewer copies (1,113,000) than the latest albums by any of her rivals. It is currently lower on the chart (#157) than any of the others. Also, nobody has ever lost this award and then come back to win it in a subsequent year.
The case against Taylor Swift: Nobody has ever won this award three times. Also, Swift has won so many awards already that there may be a fatigue factor in seeing her win again. (That may explain why she has been a runner-up in CMA voting for Entertainer of the Year the last two years.)
The case against Justin Timberlake: At 32, Timberlake is the oldest of this year's finalists. Only two of the first nine winners were over 25 when they won. Kenny Chesney was 36 when he won in 2004. The members of Rascal Flatts ranged in age from 31 to 36 when the trio won in 2006. Also, the total track sales of Timberlake's album (6,345,000) are the lowest of the five albums. (One of the aforementioned collabos with Jay Z appears on the rapper's album.)
So who's going to take it? I'd be most surprised if Rihanna won. The second biggest surprise for me would be if Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won. I'd put Mars right in the middle. I think it will come down to Swift and Timberlake.
Before I pick between these two, there's one more factor to consider: Who's going to perform on the show? Timberlake, Rihanna, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are set to perform. Swift and Mars are not. That doesn't mean Swift and Mars are out of the running for this award, or even that there's any real connection between performing and winning. But it is one factor among many in showing which way the winds are blowing. It seems to suggest that Timberlake is feeling good about his chances here. In a super-close race, this could be a deciding factor. I'll go with Timberlake.
You've probably heard that Rihanna will receive the first-ever Icon Award on the telecast. That doesn't mean she's sure to win (or lose) Artist of the Year. Two years ago, Katy Perry won a special achievement award for pulling five #1 singles from her album, Teenage Dream. She was also nominated for Artist of the Year, but lost to Swift.
That's an instructive example of how awards measure popularity and career heat at that moment. At this moment, I think it's Timberlake's turn.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Taylor Swift
- Justin Timberlake
- Ryan Lewis
- Bruno Mars
- Rascal Flatts