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AFTER THE CMAS, THE GRAMMY PLOT THICKENS

After Chris Stapleton's impressive, three-award sweep at the CMAs, the obvious question becomes: Could he also win big at the Grammys in February?

Yes, but bear in mind the CMA telecast will have no effect on first-round Grammy voting. Ballots were due to the Grammys' accounting firm, Deloitte, on Nov. 4, the same day the CMA show aired. (Of course, the show may still influence the committee of Grammy insiders that will meet later this month to select the final nominees in the top four categories—assuming Stapleton finishes high enough among rank-and-file voters to reach the committee.)

Stapleton's debut solo album, Traveller, which won the CMA award for Album of the Year, is also entered in that category in the Grammy competition. It could land a nomination, though it will be vying with several other strong country or country-leaning albums, including Sam Hunt's Montevallo, Don Henley's Cass County and Kacey Musgraves' Pageant Material.

Stapleton also won the CMA award for New Artist of the Year. He wasn't entered in the Grammy competition for Best New Artist—and thus cannot be nominated in that category. (Stapleton was presumably excluded because he was the lead singer and guitarist of The SteelDrivers from 2008 to 2010. That bluegrass band received a few Grammy nominations.)

Stapleton's third CMA award was for Male Vocalist of the Year (ending Blake Shelton's five-year lock on that award). He's entered in the equivalent Grammy category, Best Country Solo Performance, for the Traveller title track.

Stapleton was entered in several other Grammy categories, including Best Country Album for Traveller and Record and Song of the Year and Best Country Song, all for the album's title track.

Little Big Town was a two-time winner at the CMAs. The sultry "Girl Crush" took Single of the Year. The quartet also won Vocal Group of the Year for the fourth year in a row. This was Little Big Town's second CMA award for Single of the Year. The group won for "Pontoon" three years ago. Little Big Town is only the second group or duo in CMA history to win Single of the Year twice. The first was Lady Antebellum.

"Girl Crush" also won the CMA award for Song of The Year. The ballad is the first title to win both Single and Song of the Year at the CMAs since The Band Perry's "If I Die Young" four years ago. "Girl Crush" remains likely to be nominated for both Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys.

But raises another question: Will the Grammys let the quartet perform the song on their telecast? (Little Big Town performed "Girl Crush" on the CMAs.) The Grammys won't quite admit it, but they seem to lose interest in acts that have performed their songs on rival award shows. The Grammys wouldn't punish an act for performing on their genre's top awards show, would they? (I hope not, because it would be small of them, and the Grammys should never be small.)

Despite losing to Stapleton for New Artist of the Year, Sam Hunt remains a likely Grammy finalist for Best New Artist. He would become only the fourth country male solo artist in Grammy history to receive a Best New Artist nom, following Billy Ray Cyrus, Brad Paisley and Hunter Hayes.

If Hunt wins in February, he'll become the first country male solo artist ever to win in that category. But he'll have to get past Meghan Trainor to do it. They have been co-favorites in the category for months. And with Stapleton ineligible in that category, they don't have him to worry about.

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