Snub: Keith Urban was last shut out for any CMA nominations in 2003, nearly 20 years ago. He’s taken home 13 CMA Awards over the last 20 years, so his trophy shelf is hardly bare, but given the year that he has had, including a No. 1 album with The Speed of Now Part 1, playing the role of country ambassador seemingly everywhere he’s asked (including now hosting the rival ACM Awards--perhaps not a selling point) and his three nominations last year, his omission seems odd.
Surprise: With both Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood nominated for the entertainer of the year honor again this year, it marks the first time two solo female artists have been nominated for entertainer of the year for two consecutive years since 1978-1979. In 1978, Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle vied for the honor, with Parton winning. One year later, Gayle and Barbara Mandrell were both nominated in the category, though the win went to Willie Nelson.
Snub: Underwood is no doubt delighted to be nominated in the entertainer of the year award category, but it’s hard to understand overlooking her for female vocalist of the year given that she had not one, but two, No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart during the eligibility period with Christmas set My Gift and gospel album My Savior. To be sure, they weren’t radio driven projects, but it’s hard to deny her prowess.
Surprise: It’s about time Kane Brown receives his first CMA nomination— his first three actually— all for his work with Chris Young on their duet, “Famous Friends.” For whatever reason, the CMA voters have ignored him until now and they haven’t treated Young much better: these are his first nominations since 2016 and he’s never won.
Snub: Luke Bryan scored five No. 1s on Billboard's Country Airplay chart from his current project, Born Here Live Here Die Here (and its deluxe version), yet the CMA voters have not seen fit to nominate him for any award during the lifespan of that project. In fact, the reigning ACM entertainer of the year’s CMA last nomination was in 2018.
Surprise: Morgan Wallen grabs a nomination for album of the year, which is only a partial surprise, given that Dangerous: The Double Album is the most successful country album of the year by a country mile. Because of his racial slur earlier this year, the CMA declared him ineligible for categories such as male vocalist where he would be the sole nominee, but allowed him to compete in categories that honored him alongside his collaborators. While he was not nominated for song or single of the year, last year’s new artist of the year grabs the nomination that undoubtedly means the most to him and shows that his peers are ready to move on.
Snub: Last year, Lee Brice and Carly Pearce won a CMA Award for musical event of the year for their hit "I Hope You're Happy Now." In October 2020, Brice followed up on that hit with "One of Them Girls," which spent three weeks atop Billboard's Country Airplay chart--a feat few artists not named Luke Combs reached over the past year. However, Brice earned no nominations for this year's CMA Awards.
Surprise: This year marks the first time that two Black artists are nominated for new artist of the year, with Mickey Guyton and Jimmie Allen both in the running. Allen was also nominated in this category last year, though Wallen emerged as the winner. This is Guyton's first nomination.