2019 Academy of Country Music Awards Nominations: The Snubs & Surprises

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Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay perform onstage during the 2018 CMA Music festival at the Nissan Stadium on June 7, 2018 in Nashville.

Every year, the nominations for the Academy of Country Music Awards are announced and the second-guessing and armchair criticism begins. Wednesday morning’s (Feb. 20) announcement for the 54th ACM Awards ceremony -- which will air live April 7 on CBS from Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena -- was no different.

Below are some notable snubs and surprises.

SNUB: No woman is nominated for entertainer of the year for the second year in a row and ACM Awards host Reba McEntire had some strong words about it. “It doesn’t make me very happy because we’ve got some very talented women who are out there working their butts off,” McEntire said (watch below) after announcing the nominees live on CBS This Morning. “I’m missing my girlfriends on this.” While Carrie Underwood wasn’t on the road in 2018, Miranda Lambert, who has been nominated in the category five times and has more ACM hardware than any other artist, launched her successful Livin’ Like Hippies Tour last year. Taylor Swift was the last woman to take home the entertainer of the year trophy in 2011. The issue is obvious: As women are practically locked out at mainstream radio, few can build audiences large enough to compete in the category.

SURPRISE: There’s a new king in town as Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers leads all ACM Awards nominations with 10 nods. Dan + Shay received six nominations including single, song and video of the year for the duo’s massive hit “Tequila.” The pair are also nominated for album of the year for their self-titled release and music event of the year for “Keeping Score,” featuring Kelly Clarkson. Smyers received an individual nomination as a songwriter for “Tequila,” as well as producer nominations for album, single and music event of the year. No small feat: Smyers is the most nominated country artist, surpassing Chris Stapleton’s six nods.

SNUB: Pistol Annies had one of the most anticipated returns in country music last year with the release of the trio’s excellent third album, Interstate Gospel. With three intimate sold-out concerts in celebration of the project’s No. 1 debut on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and a series of pop-up performances at Miranda Lambert’s concerts, the group satisfied longtime fans’ desire for new music with its first release since 2013. While country radio largely ignored the project, Pistol Annies’ Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley more than delivered in 2018 and proved themselves deserving of ACM recognition with both group and album of the year nominations. 

SURPRISE: Artists can be named “new” more than once. This year’s new duo or group of the year category reads like last year’s slate, with High Valley, LANCO and Runaway June all nominated again. Similarly, Danielle Bradbery and Carly Pearce are up again for new female artist and Luke Combs gets another nod in new male artist of the year. (Though we question if someone with four No. 1s over a two-album cycle is really “new.”) According to ACM rules, acts in the “new” categories can be nominated two times in three years.

SNUB: Chris Young’s distinct baritone has garnered him nine No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and headliner status. In 2018, his Losing Sleep World Tour had the country crooner playing more than 55 arena and amphitheater shows to mainly sold-out audiences. In a peak year for Young, who was nominated in this category last year, he deserved not only a male artist of the year nod (rebranded from male vocalist of the year), but entertainer of the year consideration.

SURPRISE: Jake Owen earned his first ACM nomination in a decade, with “Down to the Honky Tonk” receiving a nod for single of the year. The last time Owen was recognized by the ACMs was when he took home the trophy for top new male vocalist in 2009. That year he was also nominated for top new artist and vocal event of the year.

SNUB: Jason Aldean may be nominated as entertainer of the year, an award he has won the last three consecutive years, and music event of the year, but there’s one glaring miss: male artist of the year. The “Drowns the Whiskey” singer has been almost a perennial in the category, receiving seven nods in the last eight years and winning three times.

SURPRISE: Veteran singer/songwriter David Lee Murphy could very well take home his first ACM Award this year 23 years after his first nomination for new male vocalist in 1996. Murphy is nominated for music event of the year for his collaboration with Kenny Chesney on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” a duet which already snagged the award for musical event of the year at November’s CMA Awards.