Awards

Artists Who Lost CMA Awards' New Artist of the Year, But Later Won Entertainer of the Year

Eric Church
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA

Eric Church accepts an award onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards at Nashville’s Music City Center on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

One disappointment -- or triumph, for that matter -- does not determine the trajectory of a career.

Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce are bound to be a little disappointed today. They were nominated for new artist of the year at the CMA Awards on Wednesday (Nov. 11) and didn’t win. The prize went instead to Morgan Wallen.

Here’s a tip to these four runners-up: It’s not over. Not by a long shot. This year’s entertainer of the year winner, Eric Church, was in your shoes nine years ago, when he lost new artist of the year to The Band Perry. Church survived that momentary disappointment to have a stellar career, which has included two album of the year wins, and now entertainer of the year.

Amazingly, nine other artists who lost new artist of the year (or the horizon award, as the award was called from 1981 -- when it was introduced -- through 2007) went on to win entertainer of the year.

Here’s a complete list of these artists who won in the end:

Reba McEntire: The country legend lost the 1983 horizon award to John Anderson. She won entertainer of the year just three years later -- the fastest that anyone has gone from a loss in the new artist category to a win in the top category. McEntire has hosted or co-hosted the CMA Awards five times, including the Nov. 11 show.

George Strait: The Texan also lost the 1983 horizon award to Anderson. Strait won entertainer of the year in 1989-90 and again in 2013.

Alan Jackson: Jackson lost the 1990 horizon award to Garth Brooks, another red-hot newcomer. Jackson won entertainer of the year in 1995 and again in 2002-03.

Brooks & Dunn: Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are the only group or duo to lose the new artist prize and later win entertainer of the year. The duo lost the horizon award in 1992 to Suzy Bogguss. They won entertainer of the year in 1996 -- the only duo ever to win that award. They hosted the CMA telecast three years running from 2004 to 2006.

Shania Twain: The Canadian star lost the horizon award twice -- to Alison Krauss in 1995 and Bryan White in 1996. (CMA rules allow artists two chances to win the new artist prize.) Twain took entertainer of the year in 1999.

Tim McGraw: McGraw lost the horizon award in 1994 to John Michael Montgomery. He won entertainer of the year in 2001.

Kenny Chesney: Chesney lost the horizon award in 1999 to Jo Dee Messina. He has won entertainer of the year four times (more often than any other artist who was denied the new artist prize). He won that top prize in 2004 and again from 2006 to 2008.

Blake Shelton: The future star of The Voice lost the horizon award in 2003 to Joe Nichols. He won entertainer of the year in 2012.

Luke Bryan: The future star of American Idol lost new artist of the year twice -- to Zac Brown Band in 2010 and to The Band Perry in 2011. He won entertainer of the year twice, in 2014 and 2015.

Eric Church: Church lost new artist of the year in 2011 to The Band Perry (making the sibling trio one of two acts to defeat two future entertainer of the year winners. The first was Anderson.) Church won entertainer of the year this year.

What can we take from this? An artist’s career is long, with many ups and downs. One disappointment -- or triumph, for that matter -- does not determine the trajectory of a career.

Also, it’s hard to assess an artist’s full potential based on just one or two years of activity. (That’s also why the list of Grammy winners for best new artist includes some artists who didn’t have the longevity of other artists who lost the award.)

If you’re wondering how often the CMA anoints a new artist winner who later goes on to win entertainer of the year, that has happened six times. Ricky Skaggs, Brooks, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley all won the new artist prize and later won entertainer of the year.

Sometimes, it’s obvious from the start who has star power -- and is likely to have staying power.

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