Whenever nominations for any award show come out, there are usually armies of disappointed fans who don’t see their favorite stars listed (We feel you.).
The competition is fierce, and it gets more ferocious every year. The CMA Awards are considered the Oscars of mainstream country music, and judging by the chronology over the last decade, the biggest songs within each eligible period determine the winners.
When CMT posted its initial report on the 2018 nominees, the news was met with mixed emotions, emojis and questions on Facebook about how the final round of nominees came to be.
The CMT.com staff picked a few of their favorite questions from CMT’s Facebook followers to see if we could help address their concerns.
Lack of women and diversity overall
It’s Jon Pardi, by the way. The voting process for the CMA Awards is similar to the electoral college’s role in a U.S. presidential election. The 7,400 voting members of the CMA are made up of music industry professionals who work for record labels, entertainment brands like CMT and the Grand Ole Opry and other music business firms.
While the voting members have the will to vote for their personal favorites in each category, sometimes organizations use their collective memberships to block vote.
CMA voters who are also employees of a record company like Universal Music Group, the label home of Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum and now Carrie Underwood, have the power to vote for the artists they represent in significant numbers. Many awards ceremonies that aren’t fan-voted like the CMT Music Awards use a balloting process similar to one for the CMA Awards use. That’s how some of the same names pop up year after year.
Then there are great years like 2013 when Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift were the lead nominees heading to the show. In 2015, Chris Stapleton, who was considered as a powerhouse singer-songwriter behind-the-scenes in the years prior, showed the world what a gift he is when he and Justin Timberlake performed “Tennessee Whiskey” live on the 49th annual telecast. Then there was 2016 when Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne won their first CMAs. In 2012, Little Big Town won their first CMA awards seven years after breaking out with “Boondocks.”
Maybe you’d like to see Margo Price, Amanda Shires, Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson nominated? Remember Simpson busked outside the 2017 show and collected tips in his Grammy.
Like most evolutions in music, change takes time. Look out for the gifts.
Voting for the final ballot in the CMA Awards runs Oct. 1-23, and all balloting is tabulated by Deloitte & Touche LLP. LT
Let The Next Generation In
Let’s examine this argument by using new artist of the year as an example. It’s a good crop of talent in this year’s category, there’s no denying that. But it does seem like a shift of some familiar faces into the bigger categories like male and female vocalist would help make space for other deserving candidates, too. Lauren Alaina, for one, has already graduated to the big leagues, in my book. Give that girl a female vocalist nod. With breakout years like Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde’s (and no real qualifiers holding them back) it’s hard to imagine a table of rising stars without them. Then again, we’ve been forced to do just that with Charlie Worsham for years, haven’t we? SS
Well, they do incredible work that truly deserves recognition. As do so many artists out there working their asses off, we get it. The most important thing to remember is that as a listener and fan, the power lies with YOU. Be the change you want to see in the musical world. If you think an artist is worthy, buy their albums, see them live, spread the word, call and request their music to your local radio stations. Your voice and support is a huge compenent of their journey. Make it count! SS
Feeling Single…Ethan Miller/Getty Images
It’s hard to deny a smash. That’s the one thing this year’s single of the year nominees all have in common. But there were a lot of them, really, that could’ve qualified during this eligibility period (July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018). What we’re mostly trying to say right now is we really miss seeing Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me” in this category. Song of the year, too, really, and speaking of… SS
It All Begins with a Song (of the Year)Rick Diamond/Getty Images
With even less radio and chart strings attached to its qualifications than its sister category single of the year, song of the year innately seems like the just and right time to really hone in on recognizing the craft of undeniably brilliant songwriting. After all, it’s even awarded specifically to the songwriters. It would have been glorious to have also seen some of the year’s finest gems given consideration here, too. I’m talking about “Break Up in the End,” “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” — heck, we didn’t even get to Kacey Musgraves or Ashley Monroe…maybe next year? SS
WYA, Blake Shelton?
Exactly, Kim. Where is Blake Shelton? Maybe he didn’t tour enough in the CMA Awards’ time frame to be considered for the entertainer of the year category, but come on. Do we really live in a world now where he isn’t even considered to be a male vocalist nominee? Shelton won the entertainer of the year CMA in 2012, and he’s humble enough to admit that once you’ve won, it’s nice to step aside and let another artist have that big moment. He was nominated a couple more times after that, but then he dropped off the list. That may correlate to the years when he became better known for his role on The Voice than for his ability to fill an arena with country fans. But still. We’re not over it.
And then as for male vocalist, Shelton won that award five years in a row. Five. And this year he didn’t even make the list of nominees? Furthermore, a guy like Garth Brooks can take home the entertainer of the year trophy the past two years, but now he is not even considered in any category? With the exclusion of Shelton — and other household names like Brooks or Tim McGraw — it is starting to feel like this is the year that the CMA voters were operating an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new mindset. AB
Annika makes a good point. Not so much about LANCO — their debut blew our minds — but where, exactly, are Rascal Flatts? They’ve been in the vocal group category 13 times already, and have won that CMA Award six times. So is that it? Is there some kind of an unofficial limit to how many times you can be in a category? If the band had retired, or if Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus had stepped out to pursue side hustles (the way Lady Antebellum did), then this might make sense. But Rascal Flatts have not disbanded in any way, shape or form. Their current Back to Us tour is a shining example of being steadfast and true to the fans who come out to see you night after night in city after city. AB
The irony of this particular travesty is that Church himself probably isn’t even as confused as we are. He is the kind of artist who makes music, without considering its award-worthiness. Still, we are a little salty about it. After all, his Mr. Misunderstood won the CMA Award for album of the year in 2016 (not to mention, he also won the same award in 2012 for Chief) but now this year he has exactly zero nominations? And it’s not like Church took time off. His Holdin’ My Own tour in 2017 stopped in 62 cities, but he played two full sets each night, so it’s almost as if he played 124 shows. Industry insiders joked that Eric Church was the only one capable of opening for Eric Church, but there is no denying that is was a revolutionary way to please fans. Because his MO never felt like an ego thing. It felt more like he was considering the audience: his fans were likely thrilled to find out that they’d get to hear Church and then more Church. AB