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Country’s top honor appears Taylor made

Taylor Swift is the youngest ever nominated for the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year award. Taylor Swift is the youngest ever nominated for the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year award. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
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By Chris Talbott
Associated Press / November 11, 2009

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NASHVILLE - Kenny Chesney has made the very hard work of dominating country music look easy. And Taylor Swift is paying close attention.

The 19-year-old sensation has the record sales. She beat out every living artist - no matter the genre - this year with more than 3 million copies of her “Fearless’’ CD sold and counting (only Michael Jackson has sold more). The album remains No. 3 after 51 weeks on the charts. And she’s moving concert tickets as fast as they can print them.

That might be enough to sway the more than 5,000 members of the Country Music Association, who decide who gets entertainer of the year, the CMA’s highest honor, at the CMA Awards tonight (they will air live at 8 on ABC, Channel 5).

She’s the youngest ever nominated for the award and the first solo female act since Faith Hill in 2000, and she’s faced a lot of questions about whether either is a limiting factor.

“I think you have to do the work and put in the effort and do the touring that it takes to win entertainer of the year,’’ she said in an interview. “And I don’t really think it has anything to do with gender. I think if you want to compete with the boys, play on a level that they’re playing at.’’

And the guys in this category are playing at the highest. Using a combination of unparalleled album and ticket sales, Chesney has dominated the CMA Awards’ most prestigious category with three straight wins and four of the last five. A fifth win would move him past Garth Brooks for most in the 43 years of the awards.

Brad Paisley leads all nominees with seven and is entering his second year as cohost with Carrie Underwood. Keith Urban’s supercharged live show has made him one of country’s most bankable stars, and his album “Defying Gravity’’ hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. And then there’s George Strait, a two-time winner in the category and CMA’s career leader in nominations.

But 2009 might be Swift’s year - and she could soon be in the company of icons such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire, three of the six other female acts to win entertainer of the year.

“It’s so wonderful when people come up to me and say that I have a shot at winning. It actually is really, really a wonderful thing when people do that,’’ Swift said. “But my parents raised me to have the mindset that the world doesn’t owe me anything and you can’t feel entitled to winning, you can’t feel entitled to success.’’

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