2018 Country Grammy Nominations: Snubs and Surprises

Just One Opinion on Music’s Biggest Night

Any music award nomination represents a lifetime of work. That makes the five slots in each Grammy category some of the most coveted honors in entertainment.

For the fans who are perusing the list of 2018 country nominees and wondering why Americana darling, Margo Price, or CMT Artist of the Year, Keith Urban, or the CMA’s reigning entertainer of the year, Garth Brooks, didn’t make the cut, let’s revisit a few key Recording Academy regulations.

Tin Man (Unplugged) by Miranda Lambert on VEVO.

Every year Recording Academy voting members have to listen to a lot of music (more than 20,000 entries are submitted annually), and they are the only folks who get to determine the final nominees. They are music professionals with creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released tracks (or their equivalent). These may include vocalists, conductors, songwriters, composers, engineers, producers, instrumentalists, arrangers, art directors, album notes writers, narrators, and music video artists and technicians. And they represent all genres.

To be eligible for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, music must be released between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017.

Although Urban had a huge year with “Blue Ain’t Your Color” from Ripcord, the only song that was Grammy eligible from that collection was the Carrie Underwood duet, “The Fighter.” Price’s All American Made is a stunning record, and she daringly writes and sings about subjects that are hard to talk about outside of music. But unfortunately, her latest album was released outside the window of eligibility. Brooks’ Gunslinger was eligible, as was his current hit “Ask Me How I Know,” which is No. 2 this week on Billboard‘s country airplay chart. But Gunslinger was released as part of his 10-disc boxed set Garth Brooks: The Ultimate Collection last fall.

Nominations for final works by the late Gregg Allman and Glen Campbell come at no surprise and are well-deserved. And it’s exciting to see Reba McEntire‘s Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope nominated for best roots gospel album. And it’s no surprise that Alison Krauss is nominated in country and American roots performance categories. She’s a top Grammy winner of all time with 27 career wins, making her the female artist with the most Grammy wins. And her angelic voice has the power to take anyone’s breath away.

Below you’ll find a general list of 2018 Grammy snubs and surprises. The 60th annual telecast airs live from New York City on CBS on Jan. 28.

Snub: There is no country or Americana music in the top all-genre categories.

Many Music Row professionals are disappointed to see country and Americana music missing from the 2018 top all-genre categories for album, record, song of the year and best new artist. But then again, it takes a small army of songwriters, lyricists, track makers and producers to make some of America’s most popular albums. For example, 64 music makers contributed to album of the year nominee DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar. That doesn’t discredit from the album’s artistic merit, but it could help with block voting. And artistic merit always outweighs any other criteria. But it would have been nice to see The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit nominated for album of the year. And damn. Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” was everywhere in 2017, and to loyal Hunt fans, it deserved at least a nod for record of the year. It broke the record for most weeks at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart, and it easily had the most recognizable opening notes in the genre this year. Plus, the live reaction to that song is immediate.

Surprise: Midland

Way to go, Midland! Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach head to the 60th annual telecast as first-time nominees for their breakout hit “Drinkin’ Problem.” And the song’s success represents a long-awaited return to neo-traditional country among the mainstream listeners. Many Music Row insiders hope this is a trend that sticks. “The Grammys are the pinnacle of musical achievement, and we are so honored to be associated with the caliber of these nominated artists,” the band said in a statement. “It’s beyond our wildest imagination to be recognized by our peers in this way.”

Snub: Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings

Lambert poured her heart out on her first double album. Among country fans, it is considered a major contribution to the genre, and it should have at least been nominated for best country album. “Tin Man” is a gorgeous performance and it deserves nominations for best country song and best country solo performance. But still, hands are in the air on this one.

Surprise: Lady Antebellum’s Heart Break

Lady Antebellum offered a lot of heart, soul and horns on their latest genre-bending release, and “You Look Good” is some major ear candy. But it’s also one of the band’s lowest-selling albums to date with just over 141,000 copies sold since its June release. But Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley are, however, five-time Grammy winners. After they won their first trophy in 2009, Scott said she kept hers by her bedside.

Snub: Americana artists with loyal followings.

The Grammy Awards are famous for recognizing obscure acts and turning them into the superstars of tomorrow. It would have been nice this year to see Hurray for the Riff Raff be recognized for The Navigator or Angaleena Presley for Wrangled. Dan Auerbach’s Waiting on a Song, Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway, Lillie Mae’s Forever and Then Some, Nikki Lane’s The Highway Queen, the eponymous Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and Valerie June’s The Order of Time were each solid works of art, and they each have huge followings around the world.

Surprise: Brent Cobb Shine On Rainy Day

Here’s a little-known fact: Luke Bryan was among the first artists to convince Cobb to move to Nashville for songwriting. Cobb originally moved to Los Angeles from his home state of Georgia for music. But after a short stint in the City of Angels, Cobb eventually moved to Nashville and Bryan recorded his original “Tailgate Blues” for the 2011 album Tailgates & Tanlines. Bryan had nothing to do with the making of Shine On Rainy Day, which is a masterpiece. But it’s nice to see one of the finest storytellers to come out this decade be recognized for his work.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.