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At Country Awards Shows, You Can Always Try Again

Luke Combs
Erika Goldring/WireImage

Luke Combs accepts award onstage during the 52nd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 14, 2018 in Nashville.

The CMAs and ACMs give new artists two chances to win their new artist awards. At the Grammys, once you lose, that's it.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. We've all heard that adage since childhood, but in country music, they really mean it. Just ask Luke Combs. The North Carolina native is this year's new male artist of the year recipient at the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards. He was nominated in that same category last year, but lost to Brett Young.

This is getting to be old hat for Combs, who won new artist of the year at the rival Country Music Assn. awards in November, after losing the year before to Jon Pardi. Combs, whose debut album, This One's for You, has been No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart for 29 weeks, will have no second chance at the Grammys. He lost the best new artist prize in February to English pop star Dua Lipa and won't be allowed to compete in that category again.

The two leading country awards shows allow artists two shots to try to bring home the award in this category. That's a more generous policy than at the Grammys, where once you've been nominated for Best New Artist, that's it. (The Grammys allow artists to be entered in the category three times, but they can be nominated only once.)

Eight other artists have won new male artist of the year at the ACMs on their second nominations. (The name of the category has varied slightly from year to year.) Young won in 2017 after losing the year before to Pardi. Luke Bryan won in 2009, two years after losing to Jack Ingram. Jake Owen won in 2008 after losing the year before to Ingram. Phil Vassar won in 2001 after losing the year before to Keith Urban. Early in ACM history, Tony Booth, Buddy Alan, Jerry Inman and Billy Mize all won on their second noms.

Women too have benefited from ACM's two shots rule. Lauren Alaina won new female vocalist of the year in 2017 after losing the year before to Maren Morris. Taylor Swift won in 2007 after losing the year before to Miranda Lambert (who in turn won on her second try after losing in 2005 to Carrie Underwood). Carolyn Dawn Johnson won in 2001 after losing the year before to Jamie O'Neal. Crystal Gayle won in 1975 after losing the year before to Linda Ronstadt (who in turn won on her second try after losing in 1973 to Olivia Newton-John). Donna Fargo won in 1969 after losing the year before to Cheryl Poole.

This policy has also boosted duos and groups. LANCO is this year's new duo or group of the year recipient at the ACMs. The Nashville-based quintet was nominated in that same category last year, but lost to Midland. Two earlier groups or duos have experienced a similar fate. Brothers Osborne won in 2016 after losing the year before to Old Dominion. Little Big Town won in 2006 after losing the year before to Sugarland.

The CMA also has this two-shots policy (though it has just one new artist award for males, females and duos/groups combined). Combs is the ninth artist to win the CMA award for new artist of the year (or its predecessor, the horizon award) in a second try. Brett Eldredge won in 2014 after losing the year before to Kacey Musgraves. Zac Brown Band won in 2010 after losing the year before to Darius Rucker. Dierks Bentley won in 2005, after losing the year before to Gretchen Wilson. Jo Dee Messina won in 1999 after losing the year before to Dixie Chicks. LeAnn Rimes won in 1997 after losing the year before to Bryan White. John Michael Montgomery won in 1994 after losing the year before to Mark Chesnutt. Travis Tritt won in 1991 after losing the year before to Garth Brooks. John Anderson won in 1983 after losing the year before to Ricky Skaggs.

It's generous to give artists two shots at the award. As noted, at the Grammys, you get just one shot. So an artist like English soul singer Jorja Smith, who was nominated for best new artist this year, even though her commercial impact to date hasn't been great, can never be nominated in that category again, even if she has a major breakthrough.


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