The final nominees for the 56th annual Country Music Association Awards were announced Wednesday morning (Sept. 7), and there were several surprise nominations — as well as some expected names that were absent from the mix.
Here are some of the biggest snubs and surprises from Wednesday’s nominations:
Surprise: Rising female artists, including Lainey Wilson, Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce, lead this year’s nominees. Last year, newcomer Wilson earned her first two No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hits, with “Things a Man Oughta Know” as well as the Cole Swindell collaboration “Never Say Never.” Now, she earns a historic debut as a nominee heading into November’s CMA Awards, with nods in six categories as a first-time nominee. That’s a feat only three other artists — Glen Campbell (1968), Brad Paisley (2000) and Kacey Musgraves (2013) — have earned. Wilson’s nominations are album of the year, female vocalist of the year, music video of the year, musical event of the year, new artist of the year, and song of the year.
Alongside Wilson, rising artists Pearce and McBryde are each nominated for five CMA trophies. Reigning CMA female vocalist of the year Pearce is up for the honor again this year, as is McBryde. Meanwhile, the McBryde/Pearce collaboration “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” earns both nods in the music video of the year, musical event of the year, single of the year and song of the year categories. Both McBryde and Pearce have previously garnered seven career CMA Awards nominations, with these five bringing each to a total of 12 nominations.
Snub: Though Maren Morris scored an album of the year nomination for her Humble Quest project, this former CMA female vocalist of the year winner didn’t even earn a nod in that category this year.
Surprise: Morgan Wallen earns his first nomination in the most coveted CMA Awards category, entertainer of the year. He’s also nominated for male vocalist of the year. Last year, following a racial slur, the CMA deemed Wallen ineligible in categories where he would be the sole nominee (such as male vocalist of the year), though he did earn a nomination in the album of the year category for Dangerous: The Double Album. This year, he graduates to the entertainer of the year category, following a year that saw him earn multiple Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 hits, perform sold-out arena shows and add stadium concerts to his touring slate. Dangerous: The Double Album has also notched 85 nonconsecutive weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, tying Peter, Paul and Mary’s self-titled project for the most weeks in the top 10 among singular artists.
Snub: With her breakthrough single “Wilder Days” and the cool melding of rock, pop and country in her debut album Reckless, Morgan Wade saw her name in the upper echelons of numerous music critics’ year-end “best of” lists. However, Wade did not score any CMA Awards nominations this year.
Surprise: Taylor Swift returns as a CMA Awards nominee in the music video of the year category, alongside Chris Stapleton, for the clip for their song “I Bet You Think About Me.” Swift’s most recent nomination in the category came in 2018, for her collaboration with Sugarland on “Babe.” Swift previously won in this category in 2009 (for “Love Story,” directed by Trey Fanjoy) and in 2013 (for her work in “Highway Don’t Care” alongside Keith Urban and Tim McGraw, directed by Shane Drake).
Snub: Though Eric Church received a male vocalist of the year nomination for this year, his name was not found among the entertainer of the year nominees. Church earned his first CMA entertainer of the year nomination in 2015 and took home the trophy in 2020.
Surprise: Actress Blake Lively earns a CMA Awards nomination in the music video of the year category, for her work as director on the music video for “I Bet You Think About Me,” from Swift, featuring Chris Stapleton.
Snub: Last year, Kane Brown earned his first three CMA Awards nominations, while 2021 also marked the first time two Black artists — Mickey Guyton and Jimmie Allen — were nominated for new artist of the year. This year, Breland earns his first CMA Award nomination, in the musical event of the year category for his work on Dierks Bentley’s “Beers on Me” alongside Bentley and HARDY. However, Breland is the sole Black artist to earn a CMA Award nomination this year.
Snub: Scotty McCreery earned a three-week No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hit this year with “Damn Strait,” marking McCreery’s fifth consecutive No. 1 Country Airplay hit, following previous chart-leaders including “This Is It” and “You Time.” During his career, McCreery has also seen three albums reach the pinnacle of Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart, but he has yet to earn even one CMA Awards nomination.
The CMA Awards will air Wednesday, Nov. 9, on ABC and will be hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning.