50th Annual CMA Awards Nominations: Surprises and Snubs

Photo by Donn Jones, CMA

 

 CHUCK DAUPHIN • AUGUST 31, 2016 - 3:29 PM

he nominations for the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards were announced in Nashville this morning, and as usual – there were more than a few surprises.

But, first the expected. The CMA – as always – continues to reflect to new and exciting talent in our industry with Maren Morris and Cam notching their first-ever nods today. (Morris actually received five nominations – matching K.T. Oslin (1987), Deana Carter (1997), and Gretchen Wilson (2004) for their first year of eligibility. (For the record, Kacey Musgraves tallied six in 2013 – still a record.)

Critical favorites Eric Church and Chris Stapleton also tallied five nominations each. Church received his nods for the success of his “surprise” album, Mr. Misunderstood– which was actually delivered to journalists in the backstage area of the CMA Awards last year. Stapleton finds himself nominated in the Entertainer of the Year category, which would be a step up from his magical night last year. Perhaps the two of Stapleton’s nominations that I am the most excited about is his powerful video for “Fire Away,” and his textbook collaboration with his equally talented wife Morgane on “You Are My Sunshine.” Seeing the singer among the nominees is no surprise, but very well-deserved, and an inspiration to artists who walk a different path.

But, there were some nominations – or lack thereof, that left us scratching our head just a little. Let’s take a look at each category, and analyze who’s in – and who’s out.

Entertainer of the Year:
Garth Brooks
Luke Bryan
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban

I don’t think you could omit any of these artists – possibly with the exception of Stapleton. But, the man’s vocals are entertainment enough. Still, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean continue to pack stadiums day in and day out, and it was more than a little surprising to see their names not on this list. Does the CMA have something against Aldean or Broken Bow? A fair question to ask, but kudos to the CMA for (FINALLY) recognizing Underwood in this category for a first time. Unless the voters get caught up in Stapleton-mania, she could very well take this one home.

Single Record of the Year
(Award goes to Artist, Producer(s), and Mix Engineer(s))
“Die a Happy Man”
Thomas Rhett
Produced by Dann Huff and Jesse Frasure
Mix Engineered by Justin Niebank
The Valory Music Co.

“Humble and Kind”
Tim McGraw
Produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw
Mix Engineered by Byron Gallimore
Big Machine Records

“My Church”
Maren Morris
Produced by busbee and Maren Morris
Mix Engineered by Dave Clauss and busbee
Columbia Nashville/Sony Music Nashville

“Nobody To Blame”
Chris Stapleton
Produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton
Mix Engineered by Vance Powell
Mercury Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

“Record Year”
Eric Church
Produced by Jay Joyce
Mix Engineered by Jay Joyce and Jason Hall
EMI Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

Can’t really say I would have been shocked if any of these songs weren’t nominated – or if they were. McGraw might very well be one to watch here, as he pulled off a very big morning. Still, you could make that argument for all involved. Wide open. Had Chris Janson been in the running for “Buy Me A Boat,” there would have been no complaints on my end though.

Album of the Year
(Award goes to Artist and Producer(s))
Black
Dierks Bentley
Produced by Ross Copperman and Arturo Buenahora, Jr.
Capitol Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

Hero
Maren Morris
Produced by busbee, Maren Morris, and Brad Hill
Columbia Nashville/Sony Music Nashville

Mr. Misunderstood
Eric Church
Produced by Jay Joyce and Arturo Buenahora, Jr.
EMI Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

Ripcord
Keith Urban
Produced by Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, Dann Huff, Greg Wells, Nile Rodgers, busbee, K-Kov, Nathan Chapman, Jonny Price, and Keith Urban
Hit Red Records/Capitol Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

Storyteller
Carrie Underwood
Produced by Jay Joyce, Mark Bright, and Zach Crowell
19 Recordings/Arista Nashville/Sony Music Nashville

Not surprised by any of these, but a Jason Isbell nomination could have worked here, given last year’s Stapleton triumph. Personally, I hope Underwood carries this home, as it continues to tickle my ears as the best from these five. But, a nomination for Blake Shelton’s recent disc would have been nice to see, as well.

Song of the Year
(Award goes to Songwriter(s))
“Burning House”
Camaron “Cam” Ochs, Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhasker

“Die a Happy Man”
Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur

“Humble and Kind”
Lori McKenna

“My Church”
busbee and Maren Morris

“Record Year”
Eric Church and Jeff Hyde

Again, nothing is jumping out from these five that is making me protest due to outrage, so I will digress.

Female Vocalist of the Year
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Not sure If this is still a two-woman race or not. I could see Maren Morris pulling a Stapleton, but one kind of gets the feeling that this category is getting a little more difficult in which to fill – finally. Musgraves represents the critical vote, with the others to split. I don’t see Miranda winning a seventh straight, but “Vice” did come out in the nick of time.

Male Vocalist of the Year
Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Tim McGraw
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

I’m a little puzzled by this one. But, also space is very limited. Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge have both had the best years of their career, and I would have loved to seen them nominated, and what does Chris Young have to do to get a nod in this category? Just a question!

Vocal Group of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

All deserve to be here. Again, I can’t really tell you someone who is missing….so, I will go on.

Vocal Duo of the Year
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Joey + Rory
Maddie & Tae

Likely, with all the press surrounding Dig Your Roots, this looks to be open and shut for FGL. Still, I wish Maddie & Tae got a little more attention from the industry, and it would be nice to see Joey+Rory score a win. They do have the sales numbers to back it up…

Musical Event of the Year
(Award goes to each Artist)
“Different For Girls”
Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King
Capitol Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

“Home Alone Tonight”
Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild
Capitol Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

“The Fighter”
Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood
Hit Red Records/Capitol Records Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville

“Think of You”
Chris Young (duet with Cassadee Pope)
RCA Nashville/Sony Music Nashville

“You Are My Sunshine”
Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton
Low Country Sound/Elektra Records

On paper, this should be Chris Young’s first-ever win from the CMA, but this could actually go to a song that was never a radio single (and wouldn’t have mattered if it was), in the sterling remake of “You Are My Sunshine” from the couple Stapleton. Chris love aside, this is too good to be ignored!

Musician of the Year
Jerry Douglas (Dobro/Lap Steel Guitar)
Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
Dann Huff (Guitar)
Brent Mason (Guitar)
Derek Wells (Guitar)

Looks like Mac McAnally won’t win this year. There must have been a change in the rules on this one, as he’s not even nominated. Still, mixing this one up is a good thing!

Music Video of the Year
(Award goes to Artist and Director(s))
“Burning House”
Cam
Directed by Trey Fanjoy

“Fire Away”
Chris Stapleton
Directed by Tim Mattia

“Humble and Kind”
Tim McGraw
Directed by Wes Edwards

“Record Year”
Eric Church
Directed by John Peets and Reid Long

“Somewhere On A Beach”
Dierks Bentley
Directed by Wes Edwards

I know everyone loves Stapleton. After all, he is now the artist that wanna-be-hipsters proclaim as their favorite to look “cool” and “real” these days, but this video was pretty damn amazing. The only thing is, his competition is Cam, who truly deserves to take this one to the house.

New Artist of the Year
Kelsea Ballerini
Brothers Osborne
Maren Morris
Old Dominion
Cole Swindell

All deserving. But where is Chris Janson? The man can match talent for talent with anyone in this category – or even Entertainer, in my book. I guess you can only nominate five! And, though he didn’t release an album this year, Sam Hunt was all over the radio with hit after hit. What’s up with that?

Well, those are my thoughts. I guess we will all find out on Wednesday, November 2 when Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host the festivities on the ABC Television Network – unless Sturgill Simpson surprisingly shows up and burns the winners’ envelopes out of protest! (And, if you think that’s never been done before…….keep reading. We’ve got a new series taking a look at the five decades of the CMA Awards that will very much surprise you. The legends didn’t always play nice!)