Now that the 47th Annual CMA award nominations have been announced, here are a few thoughts on who made the cut, who was sorely left out — and the things that just don’t make much sense:
SURPRISE! Kacey Musgraves The Nashville newcomer scored six nominations (five for her own music, one for co-writing Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart”), which tied pack-leader Taylor Swift. Musgraves may not have the sales power of Swift, but she clearly has the industry support. Not many Best New Artist nominees also find themselves competing for awards like Best Female Artist or Album of the Year, a category that her disc Same Trailer Different Park absolutely deserves to win.
SNUB: Carrie Underwood An acclaimed album, four number one singles, and a 110-date arena tour (not to mention her new Sunday Night Football duties) were not enough to finally earn the perennial CMA Awards host her first Entertainer of the Year nomination. Annoyingly, this snub has been going on for a while. Methinks there must be record label politics holding her back. How else do you explain Jason Aldean, whose recent singles have floundered, sneaking into the category ahead of her?
SNUB: Hunter Hayes The critical darling – and winner of last year’s Best New Artist trophy – got exactly zero nominations despite the continued chart dominance of his platinum debut album and his smash single “I Want Crazy.” Conspiracy theory: Perhaps he got shut out because he opened Carrie Underwood’s tour?
HEAD-SCRATCHER: Little Big Town In what world does it make sense that “Pontoon,” which won Single of the Year in 2012, can now be up for Song of the Year in 2013?
SURPRISE! George Strait The country veteran nabbed a legacy nomination for Entertainer of the Year thanks to his retirement tour and the #60for60 campaign. Plus, as USA Today’s Brian Mansfield points out, Strait is still the 20th most played star on country radio; not many 61-year-olds can claim that.
SNUB: Lady Antebellum Sometimes there’s a delayed cognitive response in awards-show culture. Case in point: Lady A. The harmonizing trio hit it big with “Need You Now,” and although the next album they released, Own the Night, was pretty awful, they still took home truckloads of awards. Now, it seems the ill effects of that disc are finally kicking in. Lady Antebellum’s latest album, Golden, is warm, romantic and certainly more deserving of an Album of the Year nomination than Blake Shelton’s Based on a True Story, but it didn’t score one – nor did its lead single “Downtown” get any love as a Single/Song of the Year.
SNUB: Brad Paisley Is he being punished for releasing “Accidental Racist?” The Nashville favorite – and six-year host of the CMA Awards – received no nominations this year after releasing his exploratory, honest, sometimes funny, sometimes wistful album Wheelhouse. Sure, the collection has its missteps, but for my money, it’s one of the most heartfelt discs of the past year, and it admirably pushes Nashville outside its “Southern Comfort Zone.” (Also more deserving than Shelton’s album I’d say.)
HEAD-SCRATCHER: Kelly Clarkson I know, I know – but you love her! So do I. So does everyone. But she hasn’t established herself in the country world just yet, and I think it’s sad that artists like Ashley Monroe and Kellie Pickler had to get sidelined so Clarkson could nab the fifth Best Female Vocalist slot.
SURPRISE! Kip Moore I couldn’t figure out why the trucker hat-wearing Georgia boy didn’t get a Best New Artist nomination last year. He’s scored with singles like “Somethin Bout A Truck,” “Beer Money,” and “Hey Pretty Girl,” (his album, Up All Night, is both stronger and deeper than those titles would suggest) and he puts on a killer live show. Now if his label would just release either of his Springsteeny anthems, “Where You Are Tonight” or “Crazy One More Time,” as singles, I’ll be a happy man.
SNUB: The Band Perry That the trio’s eerie single “Better Dig Two” didn’t get more attention is surprising. Without a doubt, the commitment-gone-crazy tune was one of the coolest singles of the past year. I think it being ignored says more about The Band Perry’s befuddling 70s-rock rebranding (I truly don’t understand why they’d release “Done” as a second single) than it does the group’s musical merits. Still, Pioneer could have been a good swap for Shelton’s Based on a True Story.
SNUB: Gary Allan The “Every Storm Runs Out of Rain” singer engineered a terrific comeback this year, but he’s absent from the Male Vocalist competition. I think his album Set You Free should have been included in the Album of the Year competition instead of – oh, you know the rest.
HEAD-SCRATCHER: Darius Rucker The former Hootie frontman’s mega-hit “Wagon Wheel,” a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s creaky classic, is up for Song of the Year. Now, I’m all for the bluegrass band’s lead singer, Ketch Secor (who finished writing the track, which Bob Dylan began), getting accolades, but I do find it weird that a cover song is up for a songwriting award – especially when the decade-old original wasn’t exactly obscure.
BIGGEST SNUB: Kenny Chesney The beachy crooner seems like a lock for an Entertainer of the Year nomination considering he’s been selling out stadiums every night.
BIGGEST HEAD-SCRATCHER: Lee Brice. Never mind that No. 3 single from 2009. Or that No. 1 single from 2011. Or the fact that Lee Brice was nominated for Best New Artist last year… he’s totally still eligible, right?
What did you think were the biggest snubs and surprises from the nominations?
***Just so you know, I couldn’t decide whether Taylor Swift’s six nominations were incredibly surprising, given her foray into full-on pop, or incredibly unsurprising, given Nashville’s obvious desire to have the biggest music star on earth still classified as country. That’s why she’s nowhere in this post.