Upon first glance, the announcement of the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards nominations on Friday morning (Jan. 30) might make one think “the rich get richer.”
There’s no doubt that Miranda Lambert continues to deliver the hot hand by having her name mentioned the most — just as she did during last fall’s Country Music Association Awards. (Though, to be fair, if there is an artist putting out more consistent work than Lambert, please bring him or her to our attention — because she continues to be at the top of her artistic game.) But there’s a little more than meets the eye, with a few newer sounds being recognized, though there were a few big-time omissions.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the categories:
615 Analysis: You know how people complain that the same people get nominated every year? Well, think again. Reigning winner George Strait — who could have been a nominee — is missing, alongside superstars Blake Shelton and Keith Urban. Florida Georgia Line moves into the winners’ circle here, though Garth Brooks hardly qualifies as new blood, having set the record for most wins in the category with six. Can Brooks — who influenced the rest of the nominees with his high-flying live show of the 1990s — do it again? Stay tuned!
The 615 Analysis: This might be the most competitive category of the whole show — combining current superstars like two-time reigning winner Aldean and Bryan with artists who have yet to tally in a major way at awards shows, such as Bentley and Church, as well as veteran performers like Shelton and Paisley. Who wins? Anyone’s guess!
The 615 Analysis: First of all, kudos to Brandy Clark — one of the most talented people in Nashville — for breaking through on this list. The only thing that would make it better is if there were more commercial acceptance for these acts at radio. Only two of the nominees had a top 10 single on the Billboard Country Airplay chart this year: Underwood and Lambert, who could extend her record with a sixth straight win. It’s not the artists’ fault. McBride enjoyed a No. 1 album during the year and is singing as well as ever, Musgraves continues to push buttons with her thought-provoking lyrics, and we’ve already demonstrated our affection for Clark. Radio: It’s time to have more girls singing country songs, not just in them.
The 615 Analysis: Along with the Male Vocalist category, this could come down to a single-digit vote difference. That might sound like a dramatic statement, but these albums each represented where country music has been during the past year in its own way. Early money says Lambert, but don’t overlook Church. He has become a critical favorite over the past few years.
The 615 Analysis: I’m going to go out on an early limb here: Nobody has done more with less over the past few years than Curb’s Lee Brice. OK, Brice fans, that’s not a knock. What I mean is that he has never been one of the most-nominated artists of any given year, but if he’s a finalist, you’ve got to take him seriously. This one could be his. If not, Lambert might need to clear off one more spot.
Vocal Event of the Year
Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight”
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”
Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood – “Somethin’ Bad”
The Cadillac Three, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line & Mike Eli – “The South”
Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll”
The 615 Analysis: This might be as close to a slam dunk as any of the categories besides Vocal Duo of the Year, where Florida Georgia Line might need to go ahead and start preparing an acceptance speech. But how do you vote against the two women who have been consistently on top of the charts over the past five years? Granted, “Somethin’ Bad” might not stand as either Miranda or Carrie’s best work — but who can ignore the star power?