Remember when women in country music were dismissed as the tomatoes in the salad? One look at the nominations for the 54th annual CMA Awards, announced Sept. 1 by the Country Music Association, tells you they are now a vital part of the meal.
Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood are both nominated for entertainer of the year. It’s the first time two female acts have competed in that category since 2000, when Faith Hill and the trio now called The Chicks were both nominated. It’s the first time two female solo artists have competed since 1979, when Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell were both nominated.
In addition, female solo artists account for three of the five nominees in two marquee categories — single of the year and new artist of the year. Lambert’s “Bluebird,” Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” and Maren Morris’ “The Bones” are among the nominees for single of the year. It’s the first time that female artists have accounted for three of the five nominees since 1994, when Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless and Reba McEntire featuring Linda Davis were nominated.
Barrett, Carly Pearce and Ingrid Andress are among the nominees for new artist of the year. It’s the first time three female solo artists have been nominated in that category since 1999, when Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans and Chely Wright were nominated.
Lambert is this year’s top CMA nominee with seven nods. This brings her career total of nods to 55 — which puts her in fourth place on the all-time nominations list behind George Strait (83), Alan Jackson (81) and Brad Paisley (58). Lambert pulls ahead of McEntire (who this year lands her 51st nod) as the most nominated female artist in CMA history.
Lambert and Combs are the only artists nominated in these three marquee categories: album, single and song of the year. Lambert is nominated for her album Wildcard and its hit “Bluebird.” Combs is nominated for his blockbuster album What You See Is What You Get and two of its hits. “Beer Never Broke My Heart” is up for single of the year. “Even Though I’m Leaving” is up for song of the year. (Combs has a second song of the year nomination for “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” which he co-wrote and which became a hit for Pearce and Lee Brice.)
This is the fourth time that Lambert has been nominated for album, single and song of the year in the same year. She previously swept all three nominations in 2010, 2014 and 2017. Only one other artist in CMA history has been nominated in all three of those categories four times. That’s Jackson, who scored in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 2002.
This is Lambert’s eighth single of the year nod, which puts her in a tie with Paisley for second place in that category. Strait leads with nine single of the year nods.
For the first time since 1977, all five of the nominees for single of the year reached the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two of them — “10,000 Hours” by Dan + Shay with Bieber and Barrett’s “I Hope” — cracked the top 10. This is the first time that two of the single of the year candidates were top 10 hits on the Hot 100 since 1999, when Lonestar’s “Amazed” and Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me” were both nominated.
“10,000 Hours” is the fourth collab between a country star and a pop star to land a single of the year nod. It follows Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias’ “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” (1984), Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” (2011) and Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant to Be” (2018).
This is Lambert’s fourth entertainer of the year nod; Underwood’s third. This year’s other entertainer of the year nominees are Urban, who lands his 13th nod in the category — second only to Strait’s 19 nods; Eric Church, who lands his fourth; and Combs, who lands his first.
The other nominees for new artist of the year are Jimmie Allen, who is the first African American artist to be nominated in this category since Darius Rucker, who won 11 years ago, and Morgan Wallen, who, like Pearce is nominated for the second year running.
Fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, who last year became the first female musician to be nominated for (and then to win) musician of the year, is back in the running to defend her title.
“Bluebird” and “The Bones” are this year’s only works to nominated for both single and song of the year. “Bluebird” is also nominated for music video of the year.
Brooks & Dunn receive their 21st nomination for vocal duo of the year, which extends their leads as the duo with he most nods in that category.
Several other perennial nominees added to their streaks. Urban received his 16th nomination for male vocalist of the year. Underwood and Little Big Town received their 15th nods for female vocalist and vocal group of the year, respectively. Lambert and Rascal Flatts received their 14th nods for female vocalist and vocal group of the year, respectively.
Lady A received their 13th consecutive nod for vocal group of the year, their first since they changed their name from Lady Antebellum and unexpectedly found themselves in the midst of a protracted public dispute with a singer who had been going by the name Lady A for many years. As a result of the rough patch they’ve been through, this nomination may mean more to them than any of the others.
There is no CMA award for producer of the year. If there were, Joyce would be a formidable contender this year. He produced Lambert’s Wildcard and co-produced a second album of the year candidate, McBryde’s Never Will.
The late busbee, who was well liked in both pop and country circles, lands his ninth CMA nomination, musical event of the year. He produced Pearce and Brice’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” busbee won his first CMA Award posthumously last year—album of the year for Morris’ GIRL. busbee died at age 43 in September 2019.
Three of the five CMA album of the year nominees were also nominated for album of the year at the rival ACM Awards—Combs’ What You See Is What You Get, Lambert’s Wildcard and Jon Pardi’s Heartache Medication. But there was less overlap in other categories between the two shows. “10,000 Hours” is the only title nominated for video of the year at both shows.