The Academy of Country Music announced the nominees for their 51st Annual Awards show Monday morning in New York City. Taking an objective look at those artists in the running for the honors (which will be telecast April 3 on CBS from Las Vegas), there were more than a few surprises — and a few high-profile snubs.
• The fact that Chris Stapleton raked in five ACM Awards nominations — including male vocalist and new male vocalist and album of the year for Traveller — wasn’t particularly surprising for the singer-songwriter, who undoubtedly had a breakout year. But being honored for vocal event of the year for Gary Allan‘s “Hangover Tonight,” a record where Stapleton was not credited on the single and only provided harmony vocals, proves the power of Stapleton in getting nominated for what he has done around Nashville for well over a decade.?
• Kelsea Ballerini and Jana Kramer being among the nominees for female vocalist of the year category show that the genre is opening its doors to new talent in that category who have the chart credentials — after usually including one or two heritage artists as merely filler.
• The inspirational story of Joey + Rory has kept country fans very emotionally involved. The couple — who are enduring Joey Feek’s valiant fight against cervical cancer — are definitely industry favorites. Their nomination for vocal duo of the year was definitely one of the more emotional ones of the morning’s announcements — but keep in mind that the Feeks have been in the winners’ circle before — winning the prize for new vocal duo of the year in 2009.?
• It’s obvious that country music has been doing a great job at cultivating its next wave of veteran performers. Despite a year that included No. 1 albums from acts such as Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Reba McEntire, there are only four nominees this year who enjoyed any chart success pre-2000. Three of those artists — Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Gary Allan are included in the vocal event of the year crop. The fourth, Garth Brooks, is up for the biggest award of the night — entertainer of the year.?
• A big tip of the hat to Brett Eldredge. Nominated for new male vocalist of the year in 2014, the soulful stylist earned his first nod in the overall male vocalist category this year. Year by year, since his 2010 debut single “Raymond,” he continues to climb the stairway to country superstardom.
• Lady Antebellum just enjoyed one of the most successful years of their career from a touring standpoint with their Wheels Up tour. Throw in the fact that they have continued to enjoy consistent success with their singles, and it’s a little perplexing that the trio wasn’t in the running for vocal group of the year. Granted, many in the industry might have stopped paying attention when they announced in September they were going to take a break, but still….this one makes no sense.
• He’s one of the most successful recording artists in the format. His role on NBC’s The Voice has brought him visibility unlike any other performer – and when he tours, Blake Shelton manages to sell out venue after venue. But, his absence here speaks volumes. One can make the argument that he is between records — but even so, he still topped the singles chart twice last year. Has the industry taken sides post-divorce with Miranda Lambert?
• Carrie Underwood was not technically snubbed this year. The powerhouse female vocalist earned her 11th consecutive nomination for female vocalist of the year. But, what does she have to do to earn more recognition for continuing her high quality of work? Her new album, Storyteller, earned her some of the best reviews of her career, and “Something In The Water” still stands as one of her most dominant performances. It’s time the industry paid her a little more attention.
• Though things might be getting a little easier for female vocalists in the format, we admit to being more than a little surprised about the lack of a female nominee for album of the year. Though she didn’t have the sales numbers to get the notice of others, Ashley Monroe consistently placed in the top three or four positions of the top country albums critics’ polls last year with The Blade – as did Kacey Musgraves, who delivered an incredible sophomore album with Pageant Material. So, their absence in this category seems that much more difficult to understand.