Oh sure, George Strait, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill are still around, but also elbowing their way into Nashville's clubby elite are rising performers ranging from the Dixie Chicks to resurging longtime mid-level star Steve Wariner to Tim McGraw, one of country's top tour draws.
Music video: Nominated are "A Broken Wing," Martina McBride, directed by Deaton Flanigen; "Bye Bye," Jo Dee Messina, Jon Small; "Carrying Your Love With Me," George Strait, Christopher Cain; "Did I Shave My Legs For This?," Deana Carter, Roger Pistole; and "This Kiss," Faith Hill, Steven Goldmann. The most involved production is "Did I Shave My Legs," in which both Carter and her background are hugely comical. The most affecting song is "A Broken Wing," while the hottest performer (aside from the perennially hot Strait) is possibly Hill, whose video is fantasy, whereas McBride's is reality and Carter's is surreal. Suspicion: Carter, barely, over McBride if video quality outweighs popularity.
Vocal event: Nominees are Anita Cochran with Wariner, "What If I Said"; Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn, "If You See Him/If You See Her"; Faith Hill with McGraw, "Just To Hear You Say You Love Me"; Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, "In Another's Eyes"; and Patty Loveless with George Jones for "You Don't Seem To Miss Me." McEntire and Brooks & Dunn unite two of Music Row's strongest careers with two of its strongest record companies. Hill and McGraw are beginning to challenge McEntire and Brooks & Dunn in star power and have the advantage of being still on the rise. Wariner is beloved but presently under contract to Capitol Records, whose boss, Pat Quigley, has become country music's most controversial executive because of iconoclastic radio marketing philosophies. 1997 Entertainer of the Year Garth Brooks, paired with '97 Female Vocalist Trisha Yearwood, has more fans than anybody, but in the industry he is widely credited with putting Quigley in the Capitol position. Loveless is well-liked on the Row, but her pairing with Jones, who gets little radio play anymore, may not bode well. Suspicion: McEntire and Brooks & Dunn.