To quote Kool & the Gang, regarding the 2020 Country Music Association Awards: “It’s ladies’ night and the feeling’s right.” If Country radio still isn’t sold on the power of women’s voices, the CMAs have no such issue. Single and Event are packing a trifecta of females, while Song and Vocal Event are both female four-ways. Even the notoriously testosterone-packing Entertainer of the Year sees not one but two women getting the nod for the CMAs’ highest honor.

But we’re not talking one or two women—we’re talking a pack! Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert both land in Entertainer, with Underwood also getting a Female Vocalist nod. Lambert lands every possible category she could be nominated in: Song, Song and Video for “Bluebird,” Album for Wildcard, Female and Event, in addition to EOTY.

Before breaking it down, here’s the list of every female nominated: Lambert (seven), Maren Morris (five), Carly Pearce (four), Ashley McBryde (three), Gabby Barrett, Ingrid Andress (two), Lady A’s Hillary Scott (one for Group, one for Event), Elle King, Caylee Hammack, Tenille Townes, Reba, Trey Fanjoy and reigning Musician of the Year Jenee Fleenor (Blake Shelton)’s fiddle player.

Morris and McBryde both ride copious talent to big nominations, despite issues at other awards shows. They show the next wave of female talent is coming on hard.

Morris, who’s had massive pop exposure as part of “The Middle” with Zedd and Grey, scores a crossover-feeling Event for her Hozier version of “The Bones.” Morris’ raw soul ballad also landed her a Song and Single of the Year nod, as well as driving another Female Vocalist slot.

McBryde’s outlier stance—long on working-class bona fides, rock edge and women beyond “Real Housewife” tropes—landed her a coveted Album of the Year for Never Will, as well as Female and part of Lambert’s tour-centric, lust-leveling “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which also put King, Hammack and Townes on the nominees list.

Carly Pearce may be the morning’s big surprise. The Dollywood alum, who broke through with the busbee-co-penned “Every Little Thing” and then disappeared, roars back with four nods. “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” a duet with veteran Lee Brice, gave the Best New Artist nominee Vocal Event, Video and Song of the Year with co-writers Luke Combs, Randy Montana and Jonathan Singleton.

Ironically, Single sees Lambert, Morris and New Artist nominee Barrett with “I Hope” teetering the totter for women. Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber’s “10,000 Hours” bring a pop edge, as Combs drops the jovial frat guy’s “Beer Never Broke My Heart.”

Thank heavens for Combs, who co-wrote Pearce’s nominated song while also picking up a Song nomination for “Even Though I’m Leaving.” But it's Lambert, Morris, Pearce and Andress’ “More Hearts Than Mine” that defines the category. In a songwriters’ town, the women are driving the creative this year.

But at the same time, Combs’ ubiquity is so profound that he’s cruised into his first Entertainer alongside the other majors: Album for What You See Is What You Get, Single, Male and that pair of Songs of the Year. Not since Chris Stapleton joined Justin Timberlake for a sweltering performance and then swept the CMAs has the possibility for this kind of domination felt possible.

That’s what makes CMAs 2020 so intriguing. With only one previous Entertainer of the Year in the top category, Keith Urban faces never Entertainer noms Eric Church, Combs, Lambert and Underwood. Album sees previously nominated/never crowned Jon Pardi recognized for Heartache Medication, Old Dominion, McBryde and Combs facing dominatrix Lambert, who has owned this category.

The wave of new continues in Female and Male. Three distaff winners—Lambert, Underwood and reigning Kacey Musgraves—are joined by Morris and McBryde, while veterans Urban, Church and Stapleton vie against Combs and Thomas Rhett, who’s won Top Male twice at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

The old guard is more entrenched in Duo and Group. Only Maddie & Tae have yet to win Duo in a category that includes Brooks & Dunn, Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay and Florida Georgia Line. It’s also a fourplex in Group, with only Midland not yet having won a title that’s gone to Lady A, Little Big Town, Old Dominion and Rascal Flatts.

Some may be shocked to realize “Whiskey Glasses”/”7 Summers” singer Morgan Wallen is only nominated for New Artist, while Grammy faves The Highwomen, Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile aren’t nominated at all. It’s proof that Nashville country is its own country, but that keeps the awards from all being the same, doesn’t it?

Also of note, Jimmie Allen is the only Black artist nominated. While Darius Rucker, Kane Brown and Mickey Guyton have all had big years in very different ways, leave it to the Pardi-style traditionalist from Milton, Del., to represent in a year where the “country so white” has been a topic of conversation.

This watershed has been building. Neither a reflection of radio, nor streaming—and given March slammed the concert business with a hard stop, nor touring, it comes down to music, persona and meaning. As the annual showcase of country’s more “classic” organization, the CMA Awards are moving in a very forward direction. Bravo.