The nominations for the ACM Awards exemplify the Academy of Country Music’s continued commitment to diversity and recognition of artists who might otherwise fall between the cracks.

Chris Young, perennially the “nice guy" who just misses the major nominations, leads with seven—including Album of the Year for Famous Friends, plus Single, Vocal Event and Video for the title song, a duet with Kane Brown. Three of his nominations are for co-production.

Receiving five nominations each are Walker Hayes, who blew up with “Fancy Like,” and Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton, both up for Entertainer of the Year. Also noteworthy (stunning, to some) is the return of Morgan Wallen, who picks up Male, Album and Song of the Year nods for Dangerous: The Double Album and “7 Summers Ago.”

Females account for 37% of the nominees and women are nominated in every non-gendered category, including Entertainer, with Carrie Underwood and Lambert joining Stapleton, Eric Church and Luke Combs. A strong category in any year, Entertainer is even more significant in 2022, with touring not yet in full swing. Additionally, Underwood’s duet with Jason Aldean, “If I Didn’t Love You” was acknowledged for Vocal Event, Single and Event, Lambert’s The Marfa Tapes with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall was recognized for Album and Lambert's pairing with Elle King on “Drunk (And I Don’t Want to Go Home)” was nominated for Video of the Year. These eclectic projects gave both women widespread visibility amid the pandemic.

Co-hosts and 2021 New Male/Female winners Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett pick up Male and Female Vocalist nods. Could they be on their way to Entertainer of the Year noms, potentially securing the ACM's coveted Triple Crown?

In the New Male Artist category, Hayes will face off with writer/producer HARDY, songwriter Ryan Hurd, Texas sensation Parker McCollum and heatseeker Elvie Shane, while songwriter Caitlyn Smith, viral spark plug Priscilla Block, mainstreamer Tenille Arts, alt-leaning Lily Rose and firestarter Lainey Wilson will vie for New Female Artist.

Wilson also picks up a Song of the Year nomination for “Things a Man Oughta Know.” Making a mark in Song, Single of the Year and Vocal Event is Jordan Davis with “Buy Dirt,” featuring Luke Bryan.

Intriguingly, Taylor Swift returns to the ACM ballot as “I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version),” featuring Stapleton, notches a Best Video nod for its Blake Lively-directed clip.

Brooks & Dunn are in the Top Duo lineup alongside Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, LOCASH and Maddie & Tae. Vocal Group includes perennials Lady A, Little Big Town, Midland, Old Dominion and The Cadillac Three.

Other standout nominees include reigning AOTY champ Stapleton, whose recent #1 “You Should Probably Leave” picks up a Single of the Year nod, and CMA-winning Female Vocalist Carly Pearce, who nabbed noms for Female, Album (29: Written in Stone), Video and Vocal Event (“Never Wanted to Be That Girl” with Ashley McBryde). Pearce joins Male Vocalist nominee Thomas Rhett in Album; he's nominated in the category for Country Again: Side A.

Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney are up for Video and Vocal Event—categories they won in at last fall’s CMA Awards—for “half of my hometown.”

Beyond the increased presence of women—and that women make up 50% of the producers and directors in Video of the Year—the Academy's PR materials also note three members of the LGBTQ+ community among the nominees: Brothers Osborne’s TJ, Lily Rose and four-time-nominated überproducer/songwriter Shane McAnally.

Times change, music moves forward—and awards shows explore new horizons; in a first for any major awards presentation, in any genre, the ACMs will be exclusively livestreamed to the world, via Amazon Prime Video, creating a truly global conversation about winners, nominees, the outfits, Dolly Parton’s one-liners and the performances.