By Shannon Collins

Thursday is the day. The Country Music Awards (CMAs) will air live on ABC at 7 p.m. It’s one of the biggest nights in country music, to say the least, and this year will be particularly interesting because of one specific category.

The Best New Artist of the Year is always an important category in award shows. Past winners at the CMAs have been The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. It’s a good career boost for the artist that wins. So, in honor of this year’s newcomers, take a look at the artists nominated for one of the most important awards of the night.

1.     Lee Brice Brice has released two albums with peak chart positions of 2 and 9. His most successful single is “A Woman Like You.”  He describes his sound as the love child of Hank Williams Jr. and John Mayer.

2.     Brantley Gilbert If that’s not a country name, I don’t know what is. Gilbert is signed to the same label as Taylor Swift: Big Machine Records.  He’s had two No. 1 songs with “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.” He says his sound has always swayed toward the country rock feel.

3.     Hunter Hayes Hayes is favored to win due to his huge fan base of teenage girls. And if there’s one thing you can bet about teenage girls, it’s their support for good-looking singers. He’s also up for two other awards, so he appears to have a very promising career ahead of him, assuming he keeps this up. His song “Wanted” is nominated for Single of the Year.

4.     Love and Theft Love and Theft is the youngest in this genre, album-wise. Although it’s technically their second album, Love and Theft is the first album for the band as a duo. It was released July 24 and features their No. 1 single “Angel Eyes.”

5.     Thompson Square Thompson Square also has a really good chance of winning this category because of its hugely popular debut album and Grammy-nominated No. 1 song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” The group has a second album coming out soon and possess a very large fan base.

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