Tuesday Discussion: CMA New Artist, 2008

Where to begin with this category? The CMA has been working double-time to strip itself of all things distinctive. After moving the Musician award to pre-telecast and bumping the Hall of Fame inductions completely, they have now renamed the Horizon Award the “New Artist Award”, a generic title already used by the more prestigious Grammys and on three ACM trophies every year.

Further complicating matters is a new artist scene that is full of many acts with a hit or two to their credit, but few breakaway stars. Assuming the same rules apply, artists can’t be nominated more than twice. This means that Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert are out of the running.

Quite honestly, it’s slim pickin’s for me in this category, but I’ll try to make the case for five worthy nominees.

Jason Aldean
One of the few rising stars with two solid and successful albums under his belt. He was nominated in 2007 but overlooked in 2006, meaning he’s eligible for one more shot. He deserves it.

Keith Anderson
He’s connecting with the lead single from his second set, and the talent there is undeniable. I’d like to see him garner his first CMA nod in this category.

Rodney Atkins
Even though his most recent single has struggled, the four #1 hits that preceded it and the platinum-plus sales of the set they’re culled from has earned him another shot at this award.

Lady Antebellum
Also known as: Little Big Town 2.0. Catchy first single, good harmonies, no obvious autotuning going on. They’re pretty good.

Craig Morgan
A solid hitmaker who hasn’t been matching his airplay record with sales. The exposure of the nomination would be beneficial in helping more fans match the name with the face. Quite frankly, a guy who can sing both “Tough” and “International Harvester” convincingly is a keeper.

Those are my five.  Who are yours?


  1. In my personal and professional (ha) opinion…

    I have been less than impressed with Craig Morgan’s output. A few of his songs are worthy, but I believe he tries a little too hard to convey emotion. He’s all too comfortable to push some easy buttons, so to speak.

    With eligibility always a question (I would’ve stuck with Horizon Award as the title), this category is a difficult guessing game. Lackluster (at least compared to previous years) potential nominees. My personal top five would be different, but I’ll stick with my odds-on picks to win nominations.

    *Jason Aldean
    *Lady Antebellum
    *Kellie Pickler
    *Ashton Shepard
    *James Otto

  2. I’ll go with:

    James Otto
    Ashton Shepherd
    Kellie Pickler (though she’s not for me)
    Jake Owen (because of his voice, not particularly his songs)

    I wish I could even think of a fifth person. I really haven’t liked much from Aldean or Morgan so far. I must be forgetting somebody though.

  3. My five are

    Lady Antebellum –
    The album is one of my favorites of the year and “Love Don’t Live Here” is one of my favorite singles. I think they have a big shot at winning this award.

    James Otto –
    He scored a #1 record and his album has sold well. That should be enough to get nominated here.

    Rodney Atkins – I echo what you said Kevin. Rodney deserves the chance to be nominated here. I don’t want him to win the award but he probably will.

    Kellie Pickler – Her exposure is still pretty high and she’s co-hosting the CMA show. She has sold well and is generally liked. Plus she’s on RCA/SonyBMG which will vote for her.

    Keith Anderson – Keith’s got a good new record, another Top 10 hit and a previous Gold record. Keith has previously been nominated for “Song Of The Year” for “Lost In This Moment.” This song is on his record too.

  4. Oh yeah,

    Rodney Atkins, of course. I’m not his biggest fan, but I don’t know how he couldn’t be nominated.

    I generally am not impressed with Lady A, though I suppose they deserve a nom as well. I liked stuff from Keith Anderson’s first album, but I don’t think I like his voice very much. Apparently, I had a brain freeze though, because I do think that Anderson and Atkins should be on the nomination list.

  5. My personal choices here, using the CMA’s loose definition of what constitutes a “new artist,” would be: Justin Townes Earle, Jamey Johnson, Punch Brothers, The Steeldrivers, and Ashton Shepherd.

    Of those, exactly one (Shepherd) has any chance of making the actual shortlist. Given some of the acts who are eligible for this award, I could live with a line-up that includes: Rodney Atkins, Lady Antebellum, Ashton Shepherd, and… um… Jewel, maybe? Heidi Newfield?

    I’ve never been able to tell Aldean or Anderson apart, and I have absolutely no idea who this James Otto person is. I’m only lukewarm on Lady Antebellum– they simply aren’t as good as Little Big Town at doing the exact same thing– but that still puts them ahead of, say, Julianne Hough.

    The pickins, they are slim.

    I’m thinking that the nominees will be: Aldean, Atkins, Lady Antebellum, Otto (based on consensus, since I just watched his video on youtube and still have no idea who he is), and Kellie Pickler.

  6. Leaders:
    Lady Ant (sounds cooler than Lady A)
    Ashton Sheepherder

    Jason Aldean

    the rest don’t do a thing for me. the current crop of young gruff long haired males are, in my never really all that humble opinion, crap.

    Shame Ashley Monroe can’t be considered.

  7. With any luck, the competition for this award will be much tougher next year. There’s a whole slew of promising up-and-coming artists (Ashton Shepherd, Darius Rucker, and Emily West among them) who haven’t quite broken out commercially yet but who will hopefully garner some exposure over the next year (or three, with the way things are moving now).

    My list:

    Rodney Atkins
    Jason Michael Carroll
    Lady Antebellum
    Craig Morgan
    James Otto

    I’m not married to this line-up, though. Carroll’s a great singer but hasn’t made a really solid impression yet, Lady A and Otto only have one great single apiece, and Morgan just released one of the worst records of his career (“Love Remembers”). I’d be fine with Luke Bryan, Jake Owen, or Jason Aldean taking a spot somewhere; my only reservation about those guys is their song choices. Keith Anderson is decent, too, but I’m still waiting for him to release something else as interesting as “XXL.”

    Really, though, I just don’t want to see Kellie Pickler or Bucky Covington. I don’t think they’re quite there talent-wise, and Pickler in particular really represented country music poorly this past year with her infamous appearance on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?. Just my opinion.

    Sorry for yet more long comments!

  8. mine was:
    -Kellie Pickler
    -Rodney Adkins
    -Lady Antelbellum
    -Ashton Sheppard
    -Julianne Hough

    with Kellie as the winner (I didnt really spend much time on this category..)
    but now I’d trade out Jason Aldean for Sheppard or Hough and would like to see Aldean win…

  9. I would’ve loved to include Jamey Johnson, but I am unsure if CMA voters will honor his brilliant music in favor of more commercial viable artists.

    Rodney Atkins is technically eligible, but his album is 2 1/2 years old, and he received a Male Vocalist nod at the ACMs. I believe the CMAs will not consider him to be “new”.

    I see no clear-cut winner, but Johnson would be my runaway choice and Shepard my choice as my pick to win.

  10. Heck of a line up, Kevin. It’s like the duo of the year category, but without a Judds, Sugarland or B&D to liven things up. What a hell of a bad year for breaking new artists.

    Well, in the interests of offering an alternative slate, here are my nominees: Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker, Jewel and my pick for winner – Robert Plant.

  11. This category is usually very easy to predict but this year I’m having a very hard year in predicting the nominees and winners. But here’s my best shot! Haha

    First off, last year Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, and Kellie Pickler each got their first nominations in this category and I’m expecting all of them to get their second nominations in this category.

    That leaves two open spots. I think Lady A are a lock to capture one of those final two slots. They’ve had a great year and they really deserve a nomination this year and I’m sure they’ll get it.

    That leaves the final slot left and there are quite a few names that have a shot at getting it including Luke Bryan, Chuck Wicks, Julianne Hough, and James Otto. They’ve all had success on either the albums chart or the singles chart. I think its a close race between Wicks, Hough, and Bryan. I’d love to see any of these three ger a nomination. In fact, I think Pickler shouldn’t get a nod and leave a spot open for some of these acts but its not gonna happen. My final pick for this last spot, Chuck Wicks.

    My Final list:
    Jason Aldean
    Rodney Atkins
    Lady Antebellum
    Kellie Pickler
    Chuck Wicks

  12. Craig Morgan will not be a nominee as he didn’t make the CMA second ballot. The final 5 nominees will come from the following list:

    Jason Aldean
    Keith Anderson
    Rodney Atkins
    Luke Bryan
    Carolina Rain
    Jason Michael Carroll
    Carter’s Chord
    Eric Church
    Bucky Covington
    Jennifer Hanson
    Julianne Hough
    Lady Antebellum
    James Otto
    Jake Owen
    Kellie Pickler
    The Road Hammers
    Ashton Shepherd
    Whiskey Falls
    Chuck Wicks
    Chris Young

  13. Doug, how did you see what’s on the second ballot? What’s the rest of the categories look like?

    My Picks:
    Jason Aldean
    Rodney Atkins
    Eric Church
    Lady A
    Kellie Pickler

  14. The lineup as I see it:

    Jason Aldean
    Rodney Atkins
    Lady A
    James Otto
    Kellie Pickler

    I think Rodney may have this one locked down due to the 4 #1’s, (none of which I particularly cared for). I’m a bit surprised Jewel didn’t make the final cut, and am ecstatic Jessica Simpson isn’t in the lineup.

  15. Greg, I’m a CMA member. They’ve changed some of the rules this year, for example, in previous years, if we choose to vote in any category, we have to vote for 5 nominees. Now, we can vote for none, one or two, or any number up to five. I have no idea how this may or may not alter the dynamics of the final nominees, but it might be interesting.

  16. It’s an interesting change. I had a friend who didn’t care for any Vocal Group nominees aside from AKUS and the Chicks, and they shared with me their frustration of having to fill up the category with three more nominees.

    Maybe we’ll have a final ballot that reflects more passionate support, though the “only 20 noms per category” rule might have nipped that in the bud already.

  17. It’s ironic that the New Artist usually goes to someone who lacks any real artistic appeal. Byran White won one year- bubblegum music doesn’t last long. That said here is my list:
    Elizabeth Cook- a great voice and great songwriter.
    Chris Young- I think he has an excellent voice.” Drinkin’ Me Lonely” is a very underrated song.
    Jamey Johnson- no better record than ” That Lonesome Song”
    Ashton Sheppard- very real sound.

    Ok now for the others:
    Craig Morgan comes across as forced. He doesn’t have a great voice, and I find his songs poorly written and they pander.

    Jason Aldean- He,like John Rich,is all attitude. His songs are loud or simple or boring. But his voice has no depth. And he always looks dirty.

    Rodney Atkins he doesn’t come across as
    fake. But his songs try too hard to appeal to his audience.

    Keith Anderson is just a bad hat act. Although he does, like Atkins, write his own songs which is a positive thing.

    Lady Antebellum- I liked their first song. But the next one was not at all well written. I wish they, like Little Big Town, could produce a unique sound. They both sound like bad Fleetwood Mac.

  18. I like to look at the new artist categories and try to pick out the artist or group that might have the most potential to be a successful headliner in the future. That is what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned. Selling records and charting singles is one thing but are they going to be able to fill a reasonable sized venue consistently as a headlining act? I don’t see the potential in this years crop of nominees. I see talent but none that have a dynamic quality about them compared to the likes of a Brad Paisley or a Keith Urban. With that said here are my nominees:

    Jason Aldean
    Rodney Atkins
    Kellie Pickler
    Lady Antebellum
    Chuck Wicks

  19. My 5:

    Jason Aldean
    Eric Church
    Rodney Atkins
    Jason Michael Carroll
    Lady Antebellum

    I’ve always loved Jason Aldean, and although I prefer his first album, I’m still liking some of what he does.

    I wish Eric Church could get played more on the radio so I could find out how much I like him. But from the very limited listens I’ve had of his work, I’ve liked most of it.

    Rodney Atkins of course had his four #1s, but I liked all five of his singles from the album.

    I’ve also liked all three of Jason Michael Carrol’s singles.

    I’m not crazy about Lady A., but I do like them enough, and they have had a great year.

    I want to like Chris Young, because I like Drinkin’ Me Lonely, and I like his voice, and I liked him on Nashville Star, but I wasn’t crazy about his second single, and Voices doesn’t do anything for me either.

    It’s unfortunate that Craig Morgan didn’t make the second ballot, because I would’ve put him on my list. I liked all three singles from his last album, especially the first two.

  20. Kellie Pickler– Amazing debut album, 3 Top 20 Hits, Top 30 Single and great personality!

    James Otto– Just Got Started Lovin’ You= #1.

    Luke Bryan– Great songwriter & Debut album. Top 5 Single, #1 single (as a songwriter for “Good Directions”), Top 20 Single, Top 35 single!

    Chris Young– Amazing Debut Album & voice!

    5th Nominee could be either Chuck Wicks, Julianne Hough, or Rodney Atkins! All are amazing singers!

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