If you’re a voting member of the Country Music Association, check your email inbox. On Tuesday (July 6), you should have received the nominations ballot and instructions for the 55th annual CMA Awards.
Voting in the first nominations round extends through July 15. A second round of voting will be held from Aug. 2-12 in which the top 20 vote-getters in the first round square off. (In the top category, entertainer of the year, only the top 15 vote-getters compete.)
Nominations in each of the CMA’s 12 categories will be announced later this summer. Final-round voting will be conducted between Oct. 1-27. The awards will be presented in November.
The CMA has announced that it will allow Morgan Wallen, who is under a cloud because of his videotaped use of the N-word in January, to compete in categories in which there are other collaborators on the project, such as album of the year, but not in individual categories, such as male vocalist of the year.
It will be interesting to see if CMA voters nominate Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album for album of the year. The blockbuster is in its 22nd week at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart. Long-running No. 1 albums are usually nominated in this category. Of the 27 previous albums that have topped the country chart for 20 or more weeks, 20 have been nominated in this category. The most recent album to hit that mark before Wallen’s album, Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get, won in this category last year.
CMA voters may or may not be not be ready to let Wallen back in their good graces. He won new artist of the year at last year’s show in November 2020 — less than three months before the video that caused his high-flying career to implode.
The eligibility period for this year’s CMA Awards is July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.
Here are seven other burning questions that this year’s nominations and awards will answer.
Will last year’s uptick in female representation in entertainer of the year continue? Last year’s entertainer of the year nominations included two female solo artists (Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood) for the first time since 1979, when Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell were both in the running. (If you combine female solo artists and all-female groups, last year’s nominations constituted the best showing for females in this category since 2000, when The Chicks and Faith Hill were both nominated.) Will female artists do as well this year?
Will Taylor Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) land an album of the year nod? The original version of Fearless won in this category in November 2009. Swift was also nominated for the CMA Award for album of the year with her next two albums, Speak Now (2011) and Red (2013), before she went pop. Will Swift’s re-recorded version of Fearless, which spent its first two weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums, be nominated for album of the year?
Will Kane Brown land an album of the year nod? Kane Brown’s Mixtape Vol. 1, which reached No. 2 on Top Country Albums, received an album of the year nod at the recent Academy of Country Music Awards. If the seven-song EP duplicates that fete here, the biracial Brown would be the first Black artist to land an album of the year nod at the CMA awards (as a lead or co-lead artist) since Charley Pride, who received four nods between 1969 and 1980.
Will the other albums nominated for album of the year at the ACM Awards also be nominated here? Four of the ACM nominees for album of the year are eligible here. In addition to Brown’s EP, they are Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over (which won the ACM Award), Luke Bryan’s Born Here Live Here Die Here and Brothers Osborne’s Skeletons. The Stapleton and Bryan albums both entered Top Country Albums at No. 1. Skeletons reached No. 4.
Will Underwood’s My Savior land an album of the year nod? My Savior wouldn’t be the first gospel or contemporary Christian album to be nominated in this category. Alan Jackson’s Precious Memories was nominated in 2006. Both albums hit No. 1 on Top Country Albums. Underwood has been nominated for album of the year five times, with Carnival Ride, Play On, Blown Away, Storyteller and Cry Pretty.
If My Savior is nominated, Underwood would set a new record as the female artist with the most CMA nods for album of the year (as a lead or co-lead artist). She currently shares that distinction with Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and Lambert. (Lambert and Lynn could also land their sixth album of the year nods, but their entries were more modest hits – Lambert’s The Marfa Tapes, a collab with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall, which reached No. 7 on Top Country Albums; and Lynn’s Still Woman Enough, which hit No. 9).
Will Eric Church’s Heart & Soul put him in the album of the year finals for the fifth time? Eric Church has been nominated for album of the year with his last four studio albums – Chief (which won), Mr. Misunderstood, The Outsiders (which won) and Desperate Man. Church’s three-record opus Heart & Soul – or any of its components — could put him back in the running. Heart reached No. 3 on Top Country Albums, & made it to No. 12, Soul hit No. 2.
Will The Chicks’ Gaslighter put the trio back in the album of the year finals? The group, then known as Dixie Chicks, won in this category for Fly (2000) and were nominated for Home (2003), but weren’t even nominated in his category for their next album, 2006’s Taking the Long Way. Gaslighter, which entered Top Country Albums at No. 1, was passed over for an album of the year nod at the Academy of Country Music Awards and for a best country album nod at the Grammys. This is its last chance for major recognition at a top-tier country awards show.