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CMA NOMINATIONS: BREAKING GROUND, GETTING IN STEP

With the first wave of nominations, the 53rd Country Music Association Awards is looking to push back against some of the obvious much-talked-about issues plaguing the format, if not the genre. Carrie Underwood—who co-hosts with the iconic firepower of Reba and Dolly Parton—returns to the Entertainer of the Year category, as well as being one of two women in Album of the Year.

Entertainer also boasts multiple winners Garth Brooks and Keith Urban, as well as the oft-awarded, critically heralded Chris Stapleton and Eric Church.

Maren Morris’ aptly named GIRL is the other femme-powered Album nominee, which has yielded the first #1 by a female in 18 months. Morris is the most-nominated performer, having secured noms in six categories with Brothers Osborne grabbing four and Eric Church, Stapleton, Dierks Bentley, Kacey MusgravesLuke CombsDan + ShayScott HendricksDann HuffGreg KurstinBlake Shelton and Underwood nabbing three each.

Rounding out Album is perennial category favorite Church with Desperate Man, crossover powerhouses Dan + Shay with their self-titled full length and Thomas Rhett’s multiple-producer Center Point Road.

Musical Event answers the year’s biggest “Will they or won’t they?” with an unequivocally affirmative “Yes” for Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. And while it’s not Trent Reznor’s first CMA nod, it is for YoungKio, as the CMAs break more ground.

Joining the longest-running #1 in the category is the old-guard/new-guard matchup of Brooks & Dunn and hot/hot/hot Luke Combs for B&D’s breakout “Brand New Man,”  Shelton and Brooks on “Dive Bar,” Morris featuring Brothers Osborne on “All My Favorite People” and Brantley Gilbert and Lindsey Ell’s “What Happens in a Small Town.”

And perhaps the most interesting of the four: New Artist. Two women—blue-collar songwriter Ashley McBryde and true country-leaning Carly Pearce—face off against Texas outlier Cody Johnson, mullet-sporting ’90s throwback Morgan Wallen and progressive/regressive country trio Midland, making it the most musically eclectic and singular group of nominees in years.

Given the focus on women being locked out of country airplay, the preponderance of similar-sounding artists, the slow death of bro-country and the increasing penetration of artists beyond the terrestrial-radio-driven industrial complex, this initial taste of the nominees suggests that Nashville’s not as out of step as America might think.

What happens with Song and Single, obviously, is the full litmus test. But it feels like the (perhaps) more conservative Country Music Association voting body has recognized the future for what it is—and is finding places at the table for artists America is responding to. In a world where the Associated Press writes stories about the very real possibility that “Old Town Road” could be shut out, this is progress, if not perfection.

The awards will be handed out 11/13 in Nashville and broadcast on ABC.

Read more of Holly's commentary in Music City

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR

Garth Brooks

Eric Church

Chris Stapleton

Carrie Underwood

Keith Urban

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

(Award goes to artist, producer(s), and mix engineer)

 “Burning Man” – Dierks Bentley f/Brothers Osborne

Producers: Ross Copperman, Jon Randall, Arturo Buenahora, Jr. Mix Engineer: F. Reid Shippen

 “GIRL” – Maren Morris

Producer: Greg Kurstin Mix Engineer: Greg Kurstin

“God’s Country” – Blake Shelton

Producer: Scott Hendricks Mix Engineer: Justin Niebank

“Millionaire” – Chris Stapleton

Producers: Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton Mix Engineer: Vance Powell

 “Speechless” – Dan + Shay

Producers: Dan Smyers, Scott Hendricks Mix Engineer: Jeff Juliano

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

(Award goes to artist and producers)

Center Point Road – Thomas Rhett

Producers: Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure, Thomas Rhett, Julian Bunetta, The Stereotypes, Cleve Wilson

Cry Pretty – Carrie Underwood

Producers: David Garcia, Jim Jonsin, Carrie Underwood

Dan + Shay – Dan + Shay

Producers: Dan Smyers, Scott Hendricks

Desperate Man – Eric Church

Producers: Jay Joyce, Arturo Buenahora, Jr.

GIRL – Maren Morris

Producers: busbee, Maren Morris, Greg Kurstin

SONG OF THE YEAR

(Award goes to songwriter)

 “Beautiful Crazy”

Luke Combs, Wyatt B. Durrette III, Robert Williford

 “GIRL”

Maren Morris, Sarah Aarons, Greg Kurstin

 “God’s Country”

Devin Dawson, Jordan Schmidt, Michael Hardy

“Rainbow”

Natalie Hemby, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves

 “Tequila”

Dan Smyers, Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds

FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Maren Morris

Kacey Musgraves

Carrie Underwood

MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR

Dierks Bentley

Luke Combs

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR

Lady Antebellum

Little Big Town

Midland

Old Dominion

Zac Brown Band

VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR

Brooks & Dunn

Brothers Osborne

Dan + Shay

Florida Georgia Line

Maddie & Tae

NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Cody Johnson

Ashley McBryde

Midland

Carly Pearce

Morgan Wallen

MUSICAL EVENT OF THE YEAR

(Award goes to artists and producer(s))

“All My Favorite People” – Maren Morris f/Brothers Osborne

Producers: Maren Morris, busbee

“Brand New Man” – Brooks & Dunn with Luke Combs

Producer: Dann Huff

“Dive Bar” – Garth Brooks & Blake Shelton

Producer: Garth Brooks

 “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Lil Nas X f/Billy Ray Cyrus

Producers: YoungKio, Michael Trent Reznor, Atticus Matthew Ross

 “What Happens in a Small Town” – Brantley Gilbert & Lindsay Ell

Producer: Dann Huff

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR

Jenee Fleenor, fiddle

Paul Franklin, steel guitar

Mac McAnally, guitar

Ilya Toshinsky, banjo/guitar

Derek Wells, guitar

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR

(Award goes to artist(s) and director)

 “Burning Man” – Dierks Bentley f/Brothers Osborne

Director: Wes Edwards

“GIRL” – Maren Morris

Director: Dave Meyers

“God’s Country” – Blake Shelton Director: Sophie Muller

 “Rainbow” – Kacey Musgraves

Director: Hannah Lux Davis

 “Some of It” – Eric Church

Director: Reid Long

 

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