The final nominees for the 57th Academy of Country Music were announced Thursday morning (Feb. 10), and as usual, there were names that seemed almost foregone conclusions, as well as a number of pleasing surprises and some shocking snubs.
The eligibility period for nominations ran from Jan. 1, 2021-Nov. 15, 2021. The ceremony will stream on Amazon from Las Vegas on March. 7.
Here, we take a look as some of this year’s notable surprises and snubs.
Snub: Mickey Guyton finally released her first full album last year, the gorgeous and relevant Remember Her Name. Plus she has been a tremendous ambassador for country music when it comes to honestly and thoughtfully addressing the lack of diversity in the format. Yet she was completely shut out for the ACMs, which is usually more adventurous than the CMA Awards. While the ACMs and Grammys rarely mirror each other, she received three Grammy nominations this year, making the snub all the more glaring. Keith Urban, her co-host from last year’s ACM Awards, is also shut out.
Surprise: Chris Young has never won an ACM Award before and his last nomination was in 2017 for male vocalist of the year, so it’s a pleasant surprise for Young to walk away with seven nominations, including his first album of the year nod since 2015’s I’m Coming Over for 2021’s Forever Friends. The title track, a duet with Kane Brown, also cleaned up, earning nominations for single, video and music event of the year.
Snub: Luke Bryan is the reigning ACM entertainer of the year, but not only was he not nominated again in that category, the only nominations he received were for his feature on Jordan Davis’s “Buy Dirt” — as opposed to solo tune “Waves,” which reached No. 1 on Country Airplay in 2021.
Surprise: Morgan Wallen released the biggest country album of 2021 with Dangerous: The Double Album, so in some ways, his four nominations are not a surprise. However, it’s a major rebound after the ACMs declared that he was not eligible for any awards last year following a video of Wallen using a racial slur surfaced. The recognition this year officially signals that his rehabilitation is complete — at least in the eyes of the industry members who make up the ACM votership.
Surprise: Walker Hayes released his first radio single 11 years ago and four years ago registered his first Billboard Country Airplay top 10 with “You Broke Up With Me. In 2021, he earned one of the biggest smash hits of 2021 with the irresistible groove of “Fancy Like,” which entrenched itself at the top of the Hot Country Songs chart for 24 weeks, became his first No. 1 Country Airplay hit and rose to No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. Now, Hayes has earned the first ACM Awards nominations of his career, with five nods including new male artist of the year. “Fancy Like” is also up for single of the year (with artist and producer nods for Hayes), as well as song of the year, with a songwriter nod for Hayes.
Snub: Eric Church is nominated for the night’s biggest award, entertainer of the year, but given that he ambitiously released three highly acclaimed albums last year — the Heart & Soul triple set — the fact that he is up for only one award (after three noms last year) feels like a major comedown.
Surprise: Lainey Wilson earned her first No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hit in 2021 with “Things a Man Oughta Know,” a slice of heart-on-your-sleeve wisdom about how her man should have made their relationship a priority. The hit earns Wilson her first ACM Awards nominations, including one for new female artist of the year. “Things a Man Oughta Know” is nominated for song of the year, with Lainey nominated as both the artist and a writer on the song, alongside co-writers Jason Nix and Jonathan Singleton.
Snub: Dierks Bentley is a perennial nominee, but this year he is shut out, making it the first time since 2013 that he didn’t receive a nomination. It also makes only the second time since 2013 that he has not been nominated for male vocalist of the year. He’s releasing a new album next year, which will likely return him to the finalists’ circle.
Surprise: Lily Rose has yet to register at radio, but the industry is watching her — with her “Villain” serving as one of the most provocative, memorable song debuts of 2021. Hopefully the unexpected nomination for new female artist of the year will turn more people on to her gritty, resonant sound. She’s one of three openly gay nominees this year, joining T.J. Osborne and Shane McAnally.
Snub: Blake Shelton was going for his 30th nomination this year — and while the singles from 2021’s album Body Language didn’t have the resonance of 2019 ACM single of the year, “God’s Country,” it still seemed odd to not see him land any nods at all.
The 57th Academy of Country Music Awards is produced by MRC Live & Alternative, which is owned by MRC. MRC is co-owner of Billboard through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.