The music industry press packed the Grand Ballroom of Nashville’s historic Hermitage Hotel Thursday morning (March 16) for the announcement of final nominees for the Country Weekly Presents the TNN Music Awards. Hot new country duo Montgomery Gentry, along with country songstress Sara Evans, made the announcements and were delighted to find out they were nominees. Montgomery Gentry is nominated in the Discovery Award category, while Sara Evans and Vince Gill garnered a nomination for Collaborative Event of the Year for their duet on “There’s No Place That Far.”
Faith Hill received the most nominations, collecting eight that include: Entertainer of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Album of the Year (Breathe), Song of the Year (“Breathe”), Single of the Year (“Breathe”), CMT Music Video of the Year (“Breathe”), Impact Award and Collaborative Event of the Year for her duet with husband Tim McGraw on “Let’s Make Love.”
The awards will be broadcast live on TNN from Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center, June 15, at 8 p.m. ET, with Jeff Foxworthy hosting for the third consecutive year. The Country Weekly Presents the TNN Music Awards is the largest televised country music awards show that lets the fans decide who the winners will be.
Country’s hottest stars were at the top of this year’s nominees list. George Strait received six nominations that include Entertainer of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Album of the Year (Always Never the Same), Song of the Year (“Write This Down”), Single of the Year (“Write This Down”) and the Impact Award. Tim McGraw gathered five nominations: Entertainer of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Album of the Year (A Place In The Sun), the Impact Award and Collaborative Event of the Year for the song, “Let’s Make Love,” recorded with his wife, Faith Hill.
Brad Paisley’s hot streak continues. He has already received four Academy of Country Music Award nominations this year and was honored with four Country Weekly Presents the TNN Music Awards nominations, along with Alan Jackson and Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black. Paisley’s phenomenal hit “He Didn’t Have to Be” brought him nods for Song of the Year, Single of the Year and CMT Music Video of the Year. Paisley also received a Discovery Award nomination.
Like Paisley, Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black struck gold with another powerful song. The Blacks’ smash single, “When I Say I Do,” penned by Clint, delivered nominations for Single of the Year, Song of the Year, CMT Music Video of the Year and Collaborative Event of the Year. Alan Jackson’s nominations are for Entertainer of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Album of the Year (Under the Influence) and the Impact Award. Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, The Dixie Chicks and Lonestar each received three nominations.
This year’s show is expected to break records for fan voting, awards show attendance and TNN television viewership, as TNN and the huge readership of Country Weekly magazine join forces to put on the star-studded affair. For the first time, the awards will be an official part of the schedule for Fan Fair, the Country Music Association’s annual celebration for fans, artists and the country music industry. CMA Executive Director Ed Benson has announced TNN and CMT as the “Official Media Sponsors of Fan Fair.”
TNN has produced and telecast an annual fan-voted country music awards show since April 1988, when it introduced the Viewer’s Choice Awards in celebration of the network’s fifth anniversary. In 1990, the Viewer’s Choice Awards merged with the Music City News Awards to become the TNN Music City News Country Awards. TNN and Music City News produced an annual fan-voted awards show until June of 1999 when their contract expired. Music City News announced earlier this year it was ceasing operation.
TNN’s new awards show partner, Country Weekly, began preliminary voting with ballots published in issues of Country Weekly that hit newsstands Dec. 10. Fans selected a nominee in 12 different categories, with the requirement that any artist nominated have significant career activity within the eligibility period of Nov. 1, 1998, through Dec. 31, 1999. The semi-final round of voting began Jan. 21 and ended March 1. This gave fans the top 20 nominees in each category which were tallied from the preliminary round. The semi-final round of voting gave fans a chance to vote online and through ballots posted in Country Weekly. The top five favorites in each category were selected, and on March 27 the final fan voting begins through ballots posted in Country Weekly, Internet voting on country.com and special 900 numbers for each category.
With TNN’s 81 million plus viewers, added to Country Weekly’s more than 1.5 million readers for each issue and the official partnership with the CMA’s Fan Fair, the awards show leaps into a new era. When the TNN Music Awards lights up Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center, there is always an electrified energy. The thousands of fans gathered there during Fan Fair week feel this is their awards show, because they participate in selecting the winners.
With the new pairing of TNN and Country Weekly, some changes in voting categories have been announced, as well as the return of some familiar favorites, including Entertainer of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Group/Duo of the Year, Collaborative Event of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Single of the Year and the newly named CMT Music Video of the Year Award.
New this year is the Fast Track Award which recognizes the country music artist (individual, group or duo) who has, for the first time, demonstrated the most significant creative growth and development in overall chart and sales activity, live performance and critical media attention during the eligibility period. Nominees must have released two or more albums on a major record label during their professional career. Previous winners in the Entertainer, Male, Female, Group/Duo of the Year categories or past Fast Track Award winners are not eligible. Also, artist(s) nominated in the final ballot for the Entertainer of the Year, Male, Female or Group/Duo Award are not eligible for the Fast Track Award.
Included among the newly-changed categories are the Discovery Award and the Impact Award. The Discovery Award recognizes the new country music artist who demonstrates the greatest promise in achieving star status and career longevity. Nominees in this category must have released no more than two albums on a major record label in their professional career. The Impact Award recognizes the country music artist whose image, style and music has had the greatest impact in positively contributing to country music’s presence in motion pictures, television, commercials, print and/or movie soundtracks.
Two other awards will be presented at the June 15 awards show: The Country Weekly Career Achievement Award and The Minnie Pearl Award. During the preliminary round of voting, fans selected the nominees for this award. The recipient of this award is then chosen by the writers and editors of Country Weekly magazine based on the fan nominations from the preliminary voting. The award is presented to a living country music artist whose professional recording career has spanned 15 or more years and whose songs and performances have made a lasting contribution to the tradition and heritage of country music.
The Minnie Pearl Award is selected by a blue ribbon panel comprised of individuals connected with the Minnie Pearl Foundation, as well as TNN officials. This award is based on humanitarian and community contributions. It is named after its first recipient, beloved country comedienne Minnie Pearl (Sarah Ophelia Cannon). Minnie Pearl received the honor in 1988. Past recipients include last year’s honoree Roy Clark, Reba McEntire (1998), Willie Nelson (1995), Dolly Parton (1994), Vince Gill (1993), Emmylou Harris (1992) and Barbara Mandrell (1991).
With the new partnership of Country Weekly and TNN producing the awards show together for the first time and the inclusion of the show as an official part of the CMA’s Fan Fair schedule, country fans are going to have plenty to celebrate this year, and country music is likely to welcome some brand new fans.