Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, Midland, Carly Pearce and Morgan Wallen, this year’s CMA nominees for new artist of the year, all undoubtedly want to win. But I have a little piece of advice for them in case they don’t win come Nov. 13: Don’t sweat it.
The list of artists who didn’t win new artist of the year (or its predecessor, the horizon award) includes some of the biggest stars in country music history. Reba McEntire and George Strait both lost the horizon award to John Anderson (1983). Alan Jackson lost to Garth Brooks (1990). Brooks & Dunn lost to Suzy Bogguss (1992). Tim McGraw lost to John Michael Montgomery (1994). Kenny Chesney lost to Jo Dee Messina (1999). Blake Shelton lost to Joe Nichols (2003).
Every one of these “losers” went on to win the CMA’s top prize, entertainer of the year.
Two future entertainer of the year winners lost the rookie prize twice. Shania Twain lost the horizon award to both Alison Krauss (1995) and Bryan White (1996). Luke Bryan lost new artist of the year to both Zac Brown Band (2010) and The Band Perry (2011).
How do you explain this? It’s hard to know who’s going to have the biggest long-term impact based on just one year’s results. In 1983, for example, Anderson was nominated for album, single and song of the year for his album Wild and Blue and his hit “Swingin’.” Neither Strait nor McEntire was nominated in any of those marquee categories that year.
In 1994, Montgomery’s “I Swear” won the CMA Award for single of the year, beating McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl.”
Jackson, who was nominated for album, single and song of the year in 1990, had the misfortune of going up against Brooks for that year’s horizon award. In just about any other year, Jackson would probably have won.
Sometimes, you can tell from the start which artist is likely to have the greatest long-term impact.
Six future CMA entertainer of the year winners won the CMA horizon award or new artist of the year (as it was renamed in 2008). In addition to Brooks, they are: Ricky Skaggs, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley.