ACM Announces Album of the Year Nominees

george-strait1This year’s nominees for ACM Album of the Year have been announced.

The nominees are:

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All
  • George Strait, Troubadour
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride

George Strait’s nomination in this category gives him the opportunity to win all three industry awards for Album of the Year, having already won the Grammy and the CMA trophies for Troubadour. The last album to win all three was Fly by the Dixie Chicks, back in 2000-2001.


  1. Oh I’m first, well alrighty then. I think these nominations well let’s say okay,for the most part.

    King George – that’s a no brainer CMA, and Grammy already for it, also it is a decent album. I think no matter what album it was, by him it would be nominated on name recognition alone,also the whole artist of the decade helps too, but it does fit and was expected.

  2. That’s a rather, um diverse, short list, isn’t it? Two blonde country-pop superstars. Two low-key traditionalists. And…Montgomery Gentry. Did anyone out there like/love the Montgomery Gentry album?

    Regardless, it’s kind of strange that Carnival Ride and Fearless are nominated at the same time. I feel like Carnival Ride came out a loooong time ago, while Fearless is really new. What are the nominating dates again?

  3. Oops my laptop cut out on me.

    Jamey Johnson – I know a lot of people were spouting off about how he wouldn’t make the 300 000 sale benchmark, and that his album was deserving of a nom, well I think the academy listened and that was the reasoning for the delay of the announcment. I don’t argue that it is a great album, and had one real solid single off of it to date, but it is still one single. I don’t think 300 000 or even a gold album is much to ask of a AOTY nominee. The people should have some say of how much they like an artist and their work, then the academy can take it from there to get their noms and winner.

    Montgomery Gentry – Well this may have been the surprise out of the bunch, but after much thought it is a good album. The majority of the song are of substance, and they do produce regular chart toppers. Not much to say about this one, but I agree with it after consideration.

    Taylor Swift – Expected I think only because of the amount of sales and there would be backlash if it wasn’t. Other wise I don’t believe it belongs, I find it an instant replay of the first album, all the same stories just change some words and the tune and she gets a new song, I was bored after the first album, sure she wrote all the songs but again not hard when you write about the same thing over and over and over again. Also her name in this category will bring in a youger much younger viewing audience, for some big ratings. She and her music should be a topic of its own.

    Carrie Underwood – Well I am biased on this one, but I don’t really think that matters. She showed growth on this album, which seemed to be what everyone was looking for (and continually looking for). Her first attempt at writing and she managed to get four co-writes on there, not bad, also three of them made it to radio and went #1, overall it garnered four #1’s and will probably get five with her current single. You hear alot of people say she screams of sing too high, but if you actually listen to the whole album as I did for all the noms, you will realize that she uses her vocal very well, and distrbutes range on many of the tracks. I agree with this one and expected it.

    Missing – Sugarland should have probably been in there instead of either TS, MG or JJ. They have a really solid album with Love on the Inside, and it is a steady hit maker, I do think this was really over looked.

  4. Interesting contrast between this and the Grammy nominees..

    I’m disappointed, but not surprised that the ACM prefers Carrie’s, Taylor’s and Montgomery Gentry’s albums over Patty’s, Trisha’s and Randy’s.

    I prefer the Grammy nominees..but of this list, Jamey Johnson would be my clear choice, and I really hope a Johnson win really shakes things up in the world of conventional country-lite.

  5. “I don’t think 300 000 or even a gold album is much to ask of a AOTY nominee. The people should have some say of how much they like an artist and their work, then the academy can take it from there to get their noms and winner.”

    I agree to a certain extent. But, one of my favorite albums from last year was Kathy Mattea’s “Coal.” It didn’t sell close to 300,000, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still one of the best albums produced by a country artist last year. That deserves some recognition. I can also say the same for many other albums that didn’t come close to 300,000, which in this day and age is an extremely high benchmark. Did Montgomery Gentry even reach that mark with their album? Anyone know? I doubt it.

  6. I do think it’s a stronger pool of albums than we saw in the CMA field. And I appreciate that the ACM at least seems to be moving toward taking critical acclaim into more consideration – Miranda got in last year despite having a relatively lower-selling set (at the time) and won, and it looks like Jamey Johnson has a decent shot of repeating the feat.

    You can’t necessarily expect independent albums like Coal or Sleepless Nights to be nominated for these major awards, especially because very little effort went into marketing them to a mainstream country audience. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to see it, but I don’t go in with that expectation because the ACMs and CMAs have always theoretically tried to present a balance of commercial and artistic success.

    Anyway, Strait got in by default here and is the presumptive front-runner. Carrie and Taylor are here for sales, although I think Taylor’s album is worthy of its nomination from an artistic standpoint (aside from the fact that it’s definitely not country music). Montgomery Gentry’s nom is confusing. I have to guess that Mercury put all its efforts toward securing Johnson’s nod and left Sugarland hanging.

    Of the five, I’d definitely vote Johnson. I could tolerate a Strait or Carrie win, but would find it lame. Taylor’s album is my second-favorite of the five, but I don’t know how I’d feel about giving the award to an album that is so blatantly unrelated to the genre it ostensibly represents. I think she should submit it for Pop Album consideration at the next Grammys.

  7. I’ll admit that i haven’t heard most of these albums, but I think Sugarland deserved it more than half of them. I found it kind of sad that all Taylor Swift sings about is boys and she still gets an album of the year nomination. Carrie’s album album has actually grown on me, though I still don’t think it deserves to win. And I haven’t heard the MG album. Personnally I hope Jamey Johnson wins, though I wouldn’t mind seeing George Strait win either.

  8. Excellent analysis Dan, I think I agree with every point you made!

    And Dan, Kevin,… anyone? Who do you THINK will win and why…I have no clue, and am terrible at predictions.

  9. “although I think Taylor’s album is worthy of its nomination from an artistic standpoint”;

    “Taylor’s album is my second-favorite of the five, but I don’t know how I’d feel about giving the award to an album that is so blatantly unrelated to the genre it ostensibly represents.”

    @Dan, just curious how Taylor’s album is considered artistic, I do really need a lot of ellaboration on that one. Your second comment is one of the main reasons as to why I don’t think she should have even been nominated, I think she is slapping country music in the face by remixing her music for pop radio format. I think with her second album she is using the country music industry a platform to get all the accolades to help her crossover, and if the crossover doesn’t work for her she will fall back on the old reliable, where people seem to be blinded to what she is trying to accomplish. Sugarland should have been there instead.

  10. ” I don’t think 300 000 or even a gold album is much to ask of a AOTY nominee.”

    Those kind of numbers aren’t coming along like they used to. Leaving the mark at 300,000 would have given the ACM about 10 albums to choose from.

    FWIW, ‘Carnival Ride’ came out 10/23/07 and ‘Fearless’ came out 11/11/08. I’ll never understand these rules.

  11. I don’t know whether Taylor is interested in crossing over to pop music full-time or whether she just doesn’t notice or care that her music isn’t really country. So I can’t make a call on that. Obviously she and her label realize her crossover appeal, but she seems to really like the country music community, so it’s hard to say what they’re planning.

    I will say that I find her pop remixes unnecessary, since the songs sound much better (and are still plenty poppy) in their more acoustic settings (“Love Story,” for example, really needs that banjo part at the beginning to set the mood). But I don’t quite understand why Carrie Underwood’s fans constantly berate Swift for making them (and it does just seem to be Carrie fans who do it). If you ask me, both Carrie and Taylor have become successful by way of pop-leaning songs that largely ignore country music’s traditions. The instruments used on the tracks don’t really change the songs themselves. Carrie might not be making a crossover effort like Taylor, but she is singing poppy material, and they’re both getting it played on country radio.

    I do think Fearless is a very good pop album, though. Obviously her songs are very single-minded – they’re pretty much all about boys – but she structures them very impressively. The details feel relevant and actually work toward the main idea of the song, the main idea is almost always one you can sink your teeth into, it’s all incredibly melodic, and like a great pop songwriter, those melodies manage to communicate a lot of emotion. Obviously her voice leaves something to be desired, but in some ways I like that, because she rarely gets in the way of her songs like some other singers do. I don’t know. It’s not a mind-blowing album or anything, but I do think it’s got a lot of very well-crafted (and well-produced) pop songs, whereas even the best stuff on Carrie’s album mostly succeeds because of her singing rather than the writing.

  12. I just don’t understand what people want from these girls. Carrie has never denied being mainstream country and has stayed true to that, I’m not sure where Taylor stands on this I have never heard her comment on it. Carrie talent in undeniable and Taylor’s ability to right is unquestionable.

    I do like Taylor and the first time I heard Love Story I was happy she went back to the kind of vocals that she is good at. When I heard her remix I was disappointed i felt she sold out.
    The thing about Carrie crossing over she refused flat out to conform she told other format that she would not remix Be He Cheats as they wanted her to, she said take it the way it is, and look what happened, one of the biggest crossovers and is still going strong. I do think Taylor’s songs would have been just fine left as they were and still would have been successful in other formats, because of her young fan base.

    It’s seems as though what ever these younger newer to country girls do it is scrutinized, as it was for the women before them Shania, Martina, Faith etc….. They are all mainstream country which seems to be the most popular kind of country right now for radio. There not traditional enough, Taylor’s not a great singer, Carrie screams, Carrie needs better material, Taylor write’s about all the same things (I’m guilty of that one), these are just some of the claims all over the internet.

    I think country music has many faces and considering what mainsteam is these girls are right on. Maybe it is not the artist’s that people have a problem with but the style of music that they chose to produce. To each his own.

  13. Yeah, with me it’s the material… most of Carrie’s stuff just doesn’t sound Country to my Tradition lovin’ ears….She gives lip service to Tradition, and will even show she can do it with the best of them (as in Stand By Your Man), but I think Dan’s right, in that she has yet to allow Country’s Traditional strains to REALLY influence her work. But Carrie’s Talent as a vocalist is undeniable.

    And Taylor’s talent as a songwriter is undeniable, but she also has the VOCALS of a songwriter, which is like saying that someone has a face for radio, not exactly a complement. But she is young, and certainly shows some signs of growth as a vocalist. But Yeah, Taylor too, her material as fresh as it may be, is almost unrecognizable as Country music

    And something else Dan touched on, Taylor’s harshest critics tend to be Carrie’s biggest fans, (but there are others) and it is ironic, because they cite the basis for their criticism some of the same factors some of us criticize Carrie for, ie, that her demographic is among the very young, and that she sounds more Pop than Country. All well and good that Carrie stands up for Country like at the Grammy’s once when she said she was PROUD to be Country….(I gotta admit, I was proud of her for saying so) and the resistance she is showing to having her songs remixed for pop radio…But saying so in itself doesn’t make it so…I think a lot of these “mainstream” country singers..(“mainstream” in this sense is somewhat confusing to me, as I used to think of mainstream as Traditional sounding Country), sincerely consider themselves Country, but this is troubling to me, as it is an indication that they are successfully re-defining what is Country in the minds of the general public and even the institutions of Country, and thereby leaving what many of us consider to be the purest forms of Country (and the artists who seek to preserve these forms) to the netherlands of alt-Country, Americana or Roots radio.

    So, Yes, it’s not the artists in each case, but the material we Tradtionalists have an issue with. And the more they are rewarded with chart topping success and awards, the less likely they will be to explore Country’s roots. They may INTEND to someday, when their financial success and popular acclam is so great, and so undenialble and irreversible that they feel they have the freedom to do whatever they please, but whether they will ever actually get around to recording and performing the kind of rootsy Country they say they love, I guess only time will tell.

  14. To be clear, vp, I think you have a good attitude about a lot of this. I honestly don’t have a problem with Carrie and Taylor making the kind of music they want to, and I think both of them have done it well at least some of the time (although I’d be interested to hear them stretch themselves artistically).

    What I resent is that the pop-oriented country on the radio is not balanced with more material that acknowledges tradition, and that’s as much the guys’ faults as it is the girls’ (not to mention radio’s and record labels’, but that’s a whole different conversation). I love good pop-country and I love good traditional country, but I get bored when one completely stomps out the other, and that’s what I think has happened now.

    Anyway, I did admire Carrie for not remixing “Before He Cheats,” and like I said, I think Taylor’s remixes have been pretty bad and not at all necessary.

    Sorry Leeann! I hope you don’t wind up resenting me for it. I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it myself. I thought her debut album was more promising than actually good.

  15. Dan, I know your comment wasn’t addressed to me, but I’d just like to pick up on it.

    I think you nailed it…and I think my main issue may also the ‘stomping out” of Traditional sounding Country by Pop Country. I’m not as big a fan of Carrie or Taylor as you are, but I can see the appeal and recognize the talent.

    But this complete and utter domination of pop country on the radio and tv is what is really troubling to me…and I admit it’s not just Carrie and Taylor, but they were the subject at hand. It is also Keith, Rascal Flatts, Kenny (to a degree) and previoiusly Faith, Martina and Shania who contributed to this state of affairs.

  16. I honestly hope George Strait does not win. Of course “King George” wins everything, but like people complain about Taylor Swift, some of George’s material gets repetitive and he hasn’t had much radio success, however that should not matter much. He’s released so many albums and won so many awards that like I say to Carrie, he/she/they should give someone else a shot at winning.

    Montgomery Gentry? Ummm…what are they doing there?

    Carrie Underwood…decent album….good shot I guess. It’s just an ‘old album’, if you will. Good hits, like Carrie always delivers. It’s an album that I own, but not one I’d listen over and over to.

    Taylor Swift is so succesful and has achieved so much and it is so incredible. They HAD to nominate her. Plus, like the review here on Country Universe concluded: it’s a good album. Whether’s it’s a good country album or a good pop album or a mix-that’s debatable. But I think Taylor has written a great ALBUM, whether it’s a great album that should be celebrated at a country award show is my only doubt. I’d like to see her win, however I think she has the competition of George Strait (eh he wins everything), Jamey Johnson (very country and the academy changed the rules, arguably, just for him) and Carrie Underwood (she wins all the female awards, basically)

    Jamey Johnson-great country album…a very strong contender if sales, radio airplay, popularity and “looks” aren’t taken into consideration too much,

  17. To address some comments higher up than my “run-through of the nominees”:

    Taylor Swift is talented. Deny it, but you have to admit, this girl has got at least some sort of songwriting or performing skills to at least some degree.

    I think her pop mixes are very unneccesary and I’m a huge Taylor fan who has loved Taylor the day I saw her in a sundress singing about a favorite country song at a Brad Paisley concert. I wish her newer album was a bit more country like her debut, but she is talented and I’m so happy for her success and I still love her as much as I did.

    I don’t even think her songs need pop mixes, and i’ve barely even heard them played. They just sound TERRIBLE! But she is a great artist and is talented in at least songwriting, if not vocals.

    Taylor has stated that country radio stations will always get first priority, she said they will always get the singles first, press releases etctera. However, how long country will play her songs as they get more and more pop flavored with some country influences is questionable. Taylor has a song called “Crazier” in the new Hannah Montana movie. Judge whatever by hearing her in Hannah Montana, many mature fans dont’ like all Taylor’s Disney involvement, but “Crazier” definitely is a lot less pop and has a lot of country influences (or at least judging by the sound clip, the whole track has not yet leaked).


  18. So I’m a bit surprised to see Montgomery Gentry in there instead of Sugarland. I thought aside from Johnson and Strait, Sugarland’s Love on the Inside was one of the best albums of the past year. I’m a bit bummed that they left it off the list. The other four nominees are no surprise to me. I expected that, if it was eligible, Underwood’s Carnival Ride would get a nomination. Strait was a no brainer here along with Johnson and Swift. As far as a winner goes, I would not be surprised if the ACM’s gave it to Taylor mainly based on sales. When Carrie won for Some Hearts a couple years ago, it wasn’t based on the artistic level of the album but more on its huge sales. I can see that happening this year with Swift.

    I personally think they’ll give it to Strait. It’s already picked up the CMA and Grammy award so I don’t see them overlooking it for another album this year.

    As far as this whole Taylor conversation goes, I think it’s very clear that Taylor is trying to crossover. I can’t seem to find a station that isn’t playing her songs. Everyday on XM and I can switch from Highway 16 (or the Highway) to Nashville and hear a Swift song and then I can go to the pop stations and hear the same song. I’m a bit of a fan, but I’m getting a bit tired of hearing her on EVERY single radio station. I agree that the pop remixes are very unnecessary. I’ve only heard a few but the only one I’ve liked is the remix of “Teardrops on my Guitar.” The rest I’ve hated. I don’t think she should be marketed as a country artist because she clearly isn’t…anymore.

    At the same time, I think everyone has to get used to the fact that traditional country is fading out. I know a lot of people, me included, hate to admit that it is going away but there’s really nothing that can be done. We can either learn to like/love the new pop-country (I already love most of it) or just turn off the radio and continue listening to those traditionalists’ albums that get released on independent labels because I don’t think they stand a chance at radio now unless they’re named George Strait or Alan Jackson. It’s just inevitable that the new pop-country will be considered “country” music…whether we like it or not.

  19. “We can either learn to like/love the new pop-country (I already love most of it) or just turn off the radio and continue listening to those traditionalists’ albums that get released on independent labels because I don’t think they stand a chance at radio now unless they’re named George Strait or Alan Jackson. It’s just inevitable that the new pop-country will be considered “country” music…whether we like it or not.”

    I don’t much like it, which is why I turned off my radio about five years ago.

  20. I really hope Jamey Johnson gets it, as his was by far the best album of the bunch, but I can see George Strait taking this. I have no idea why Montgomery Gentrys album was nominated, I’m shocked ‘Love on the Inside’ wasn’t nominated instead, in my opinion it was one of the best albums of the year and one the most commercially successful.

    As for Taylor it was a good album, but I wouldn’t classify it as country. It will be interesting to see what her team do with it when it comes to grammy submissions time. I don’t think it has a chance of being nominated in the country album category, but I think has a big chance of not only be nominated but winning the best pop album category.

    I can see how Carries album was nominated, it did have 4 number 1’s. But it if wasn’t good enough to be nominated last year I don’t think 4 number 1’s suddenly makes it a higher quality album.

  21. Aaron,

    I like some Pop-Country, but I hate the way it’s defining the genre today, and crowding out Traditional style artists. I will listen to some of the better stuff, but will do nothing to support this trend on the whole, and everything I can to oppose it.

    But as long as folks like Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley keep making records, Tradition is in good safe hands. Folks like these are keepers of the Flame and are always ready to educate and inspire a new generation.. And I pin a lot of hope on folks like Joey+Rory as worthy heirs to this noble cause….But trends tend to be cyclical, and I would not be surprised to see a resurgence of the Traditional sound sooner or later, and these heroic artists will deserve a lot of the credit when this happens.

  22. I also don’t buy the argument that mainstream country music is pop country and that’s just how it is and we just need to get used to it. As Steve notes, country music has always proven to be cyclical and it’s not going to start staying the same forever this time either. Sure, we’ll never get super traditional again, but I firmly believe that the time will come that a traditional movement will at least be as strong as it was when Randy Travis, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, etc. came on the scene. The tide will turn someday and I won’t resign myself to think otherwise. I need the hope.

    For now, though, I’ll just keep my radio off and search out music that I can truly enjoy in other ways. Then again, I probably still won’t go back to radio since their playlists are so short…and I doubt that will ever change.

    I will iterate, however, that I’m a sucker for a good pop country song; I just don’t want that sound to dominate mainstream country music for too long.

  23. After all the buzz in the industry surrounding Jamey and the fact that there isn’t anyone inside it that can say a bad word about the man or That Lonesome Song, I think he has this award all but sewn up.

  24. “But trends tend to be cyclical, and I would not be surprised to see a resurgence of the Traditional sound sooner or later…”

    I agree with this. I feel like there has been a growing backlash against pop country, or at least the lushly orchestrated pop country production, as the major labels have feverishly trotted out attractive young blonde women in an effort to recreate at least a portion of Carrie Underwood’s success. The result has been underwhelming from both an artistic and a commercial standpoint. The labels have also been trotting out blandly attractive males with virtually indistinguishable material in the belief that they will appeal to the 35-44 core female demo on the radio. That has resulted in a number of new males scoring top-10 hits, but has spawned startlingly low album sales.

    I have to think that at a certain point, this will come to a head and the suits controlling label A&R and radio will re-evaluate. It seems to me that both radio programmers and country music listeners are bored, but no one has yet figured out what the next hot trend is going to be. In the meantime, we’re still getting overproduced mush even from Dierks Bentley, though Sugarland bucked the trend and so, too, I expect, with Keith Urban. That is, incidentally, part of the appeal of the Taylor Swift album, although her voice can’t handle the driving guitars of many of her uptempo numbers.

    I’ll use that as a segue back onto topic. I can see the appeal of Fearless and I give Taylor a lot of credit for making an album that is whole-heartedly her in sound and substance. It is a fully-realized album when it comes to Taylor’s style and personality, and that is an accomplishment that several artists whom I much prefer to Taylor have yet to manage. Props to her for that. I also give Taylor credit for her conversational writing style, because I don’t think that’s easy to achieve in song.

    That said, I think Fearless reveals some significant limitations. Taylor continues what I consider a deplorable habit of cribbing hooks from other people’s songs (this is a major pet peeve of mine; if you’re going to do it, I would like to see the originator credited and given a share of publishing), and she is starting to recycle her own melodies and motifs. I’m tiring of the limited topical scope of her songs. Moreover, as engaging a writer as Taylor can be about heartbreak, I find her really one-dimensional in perspective when it comes to relationships. Part of that is the low likelihood that she has experience with anything other than the thrill of a love discovered or the heartbreak of a love unrequited. Somewhat related but not totally is my sense that Taylor just isn’t very good at stepping outside of her inner life and understanding what someone with a different background or set of experiences might think. Me, I tend to look for a broader perspective and less self-centeredness from music.

    The appeal of Carrie’s album for me is mostly her voice — I tend to gravitate toward artists with rich, resonant voices that can convey multiple emotions in a single trill, and Carrie has such a voice. She is still learning to use it, for sure, and while I can rationalize some of the big production choices on Carnival Ride, they are usually not the choices I would make. I enjoy Carnival Ride for its breadth of subject matter and also feel like we do get genuine glimpses of Carrie’s personality in most of CR‘s songs. But those glimpses come more from Carrie’s delivery than the song lyrics, and I would really like to see Carrie work on the lyrical specificity of her future albums. I feel like this is both a matter of writing skill/discernment and individual comfort level for Carrie.

    Another thing I like about Carnival Ride is that there is a broad theme that underlies it, and it is one that parallels Carrie’s life. It seems to me that many of CR‘s songs are about contending with the unexpected and uncontrollable turns of life (the Blender review of CR had a funny take on this, calling Carrie the rare “pop star whose central belief is in her own powerlessness”). I don’t think this is a theme that was selected to guide the A&R process, rather, I think that a lot of the songs toward which Carrie gravitated tended to deal with this issue in some way. I find it promising that both of Carrie’s albums have featured some measure of thematic coherence without seeming limited in topical scope. Overall, I think CR represented several steps in the right direction for Carrie but it is a frustrating album because I feel like it underscores a lot of what Carrie can do better. For that reason, although I wouldn’t mind if CR won the ACM Top Album award, I’d prefer for Carrie to win for an album that is a better showcase of her strengths as an interpretive singer and vocalist. For me, given what I hear as the natural inflections of Carrie’s voice, that means an album featuring more pure country. And please, Mark Bright and Carrie, dial down the production from 11.

    Gads, this has run long. I’ve little to say about the Strait and Montgomery Gentry albums, except that the bear/lying incident has irrevocably clouded the way I hear MG music and that the awards dominance of Strait album perplexes me. Jamey Johnson’s The Lonesome Song is the clear class of this category, in my view, because it manages that difficult task of unrelenting self-scrutiny without seeming self-indulgent or repetitive. Johnson’s vocals are more controversial than I would’ve expected, but his minimalist delivery is just right for the kind of songs he is singing, in my view, and there is still a nice resonance to his voice. I think his vocals even convey a sort of reluctant conversationalism, and that enhances his persona on the album. Moreover, the success of his album has defied label formula-chasing, and I’d love to see it recognized for that reason, as well.

  25. George Strait deservedly owns the award for AOTY ACM. It is a terrific CD and I love all the songs on this CD.

    The CMA/ACM does not always give George Strait the recognition/awards he deserved over the years.
    If it did, he should have won EOTY, Male Vocalist over the likes of Kenny Chesney/Brad Paisley.

    King George will reign longer than the above nominees.

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