Grammy Awards voters don’t think like ACM and CMA voters. Sales figures and the number of No. 1 singles don’t help an artist or song’s chances at winning a Grammy. In fact, in country music, they often hurt your chances.

Carrie Underwood is one notable exception to this rule. In recent years, artists like the Civil Wars have been Grammy darlings, while hitmakers — big names like Kenny Chesney — go home empty-handed. It’s all about talent and musical integrity when it comes to the Grammys, but being really cool helps.

What does that mean, exactly? That Maren Morris should clear some space on her fireplace, or at the very least jot down a few thoughts just in case her name is called at the 2017 Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 12.

Best New Artist

Sam Hunt represented country music in this all-genre category last year, but it’ll be Morris in 2017. She is country’s hottest young star right now, an act few disagree on. Her songs also appeal to a more distinguished, more thoughtful, pop-loving crowd. Remember: These are not just country fans voting — it’s anyone eligible.

Best Country Album

Eric Church has had each of his last two albums nominated, and the CMA-winning Mr. Misunderstood is sure to make it three when the Grammy nominations are announced on Tuesday morning (Dec. 6). Morris' Hero album is also likely to pick up a nomination, as is Keith Urban’s Ripcord.

John Peets, EMI Nashville
John Peets, EMI Nashville

Two sleepers to look for? Dierks Bentley’s Black and Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. In recent years women have done very well in earning nominations and winning the major country awards. This one would be well-deserved for a singer who's still bubbling under the radar.

Best Country Song (Awarded to Songwriters)

Lori McKenna was part of the team that won in 2016 when "Girl Crush" was named the winner in this category. She may want to pick out another dress, because “Humble and Kind,” the CMA-winning song by Tim McGraw, is a lock-in to be nominated. “My Church” by Morris is also likely to get a nomination, as is Chris Stapleton’s “Nobody to Blame.” The 2016 Grammy winner’s single was released in November 2015, so it falls within the eligibility requirements.

Looking for a well-deserved longshot? How about RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle”!

Best Country Solo Performance

Carrie Underwood is country music’s Grammy girl, and she sure to earn a nomination in this category. “Heartbeat” seems like a better bet than “Church Bells.” It’s a smoother, more left-of-center cut for Underwood and it includes Hunt as a backup singer.

Best Country Duo / Group Performance

Only a connection to a different awards show would keep the “Forever Country” mega-jam from earning a Grammy nomination. The all-star Shane McAnally produced collaboration would also need someone stumping for it, which UMG Nashville may in fact do. It wasn’t a great year for country groups or duos, but pop collaborations were popular. The best bet for a Grammy nomination in that grouping is Dierks Bentley’s meaningful duet with Elle King. “Different for Girls” checks all the right boxes.

What else?

Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will” could earn a Grammy nomination in a Contemporary Christian category. It was a powerful song and beautiful performance. Her courage shouldn’t go unrewarded.

See the Best Dressed from the 2016 Grammy Awards

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