Artist of the Year – 2012 Taste of Country Awards
Nominees for Artist of the Year lead country music in concert ticket and record sales, radio airplay and general exposure. All 10 of the artists up for this 2012 Taste of Country award were rewarded for many years worth of hard work. Some, like Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift, are regular nominees, but more than one singer finds themselves among country's elite for the very first time this year.
You can vote for your favorite artist once every hour until the polls close at 11:59PM ET on Jan. 15, 2013. If you think an artist not listed is more deserving, tell us who and why in the comments section below.
Blake Shelton: A 2012 CMA Entertainer of the Year award win looms large on Blake Shelton's resume. He might not have the sales numbers of some of the other nominees, but Shelton's gig as mentor on 'The Voice' makes him one of the favorites to win the 2012 ToC Artist of the Year award.
Carrie Underwood: Carrie Underwood delivered her darkest album yet in 2012, but a healthy dose of theater turned it into one of the year's bright spots. Every single she releases seems to go to No. 1 while receiving heavy certification. Both 'Good Girl' and 'Blown Away' did both. Underwood's tour with Hunter Hayes is one of the can't-miss shows of 2012 and 2013.
Eric Church: With 'Springsteen' and other songs from an album of the same name, Eric Church surged into the short list of true country music superstars. He's definitely got momentum, as more and more fans are figuring out that an electric live show comes with some of the best-written songs in the genre.
Jason Aldean: Jason Aldean is the newest country artist to be able to fill amphitheaters and arenas nationwide. Top 5 singles just kept falling from his 'My Kinda Party' album truck, and the new 'Night Train' project became one of the most sought-after downloads of 2012 in the first few weeks after its release in October.
Kenny Chesney: Chesney is the epitome of a country music superstar. He fills football arenas -- something no other act on this list can claim. His latest album, 'Welcome to the Fishbowl,' is conversely reserved and introspective. As he wraps up a second decade in country music, this singer is proving he's just beginning.
Little Big Town: Little Big Town's new 'Tornado' album is among the best -- if not the best -- of 2012. The group finds an edge on each song; they almost dare you not to listen. Touring numbers are not quite comparable to those of Swift and Chesney, but artistically, the group is one of the best in Nashville. A win for Song of the Year at the 2012 CMAs certainly helps bolster their outlook.
Luke Bryan: This man is radio gold right now. The 'Tailgates and Tanlines' album just kept producing hits in 2012, including the Song of the Year nominee 'Drunk on You.' Like Church, Luke Bryan is still very much a rising star, but his 2012 is a year every singer who comes to Nashville dreams about.
Miranda Lambert: Miranda Lambert's mantel might need a support leg if she keeps bringing home hardware at the rate she's been collecting it recently. Add to her personal successes in 2012 the quiet accolades her all-girl trio, Pistol Annies, have racked up, and this country firecracker has a strong case for the ToC Artist of the Year in 2012.
Taylor Swift: Swift won this coveted Taste of Country award in 2011, and with a new album, could repeat in 2012. 'Red' is atop the year's critical successes, and Swift blows every other artist away in terms of album sales numbers. Including the success of 'Ours,' Swift also landed three big radio hits in 2012.