This year’s CMA nominees are the best in years, with multiple nominations for Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Brandy Clark. Country radio may still be shunning women, but their embrace by CMA voters suggests that the industry knows who is really leading the way in the genre these days.
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait
- Keith Urban
Who’s In: Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban
Who’s Out: Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift
George Strait, a surprise winner last year, is nominated again in a year that includes his record-shattering final concert. Miranda Lambert’s domination of this year’s nominations extends to the big category, where she competes for the first time since 2010.
Lambert and Luke Bryan are the only nominees who haven’t won this yet. Strait has three victories to his credit (1989, 1990, 2013), while Keith Urban (2005) and Blake Shelton (2012) have one victory each.
Among total nominations in this category to date, Strait is way ahead of the pack, with nineteen total nominations since 1985. Urban enjoys his eighth nomination, and his first since 2011. Shelton has four nominations to date, while Bryan and Lambert have two each.
- Dierks Bentley
- Luke Bryan
- Eric Church
- Blake Shelton
- Keith Urban
Who’s in: Dierks Bentley
Who’s Out: Jason Aldean
Dierks Bentley returns to the race for the first time since 2010, earning his third nomination overall. He was also nominated in 2006, so the CMA seems to be including him every fourth year. Jason Aldean is out, after being nominated for three years in a row. Luke Bryan and Eric Church each earn their third consecutive nomination, giving the CMA voters a total of three male vocalists to choose from who have never won the award before.
Also included in the race are reigning champ Blake Shelton (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and previous winner Keith Urban (2004, 2005, 2006). Shelton has never lost this award, winning all four years he was nominated. Urban has been a regular in this category since 2004, and this is his eleventh nomination.
- Miranda Lambert
- Martina McBride
- Kacey Musgraves
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood
Who’s In: Martina McBride
Who’s Out: Kelly Clarkson
The Female Vocalist race is dominated by previous winners and long-time nominees. The only nominee who hasn’t won in the past is Kacey Musgraves, who joined the race for the first time last year and has now earned her second nomination.
She competes against four-time winners Miranda Lambert (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and Martina McBride (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004), three-time winner Carrie Underwood (2006, 2007, 2008) and one-time winner Taylor Swift (2009). McBride leads the pack with seventeen career nominations; since earning her first nod in 1996, she’s only been off the short list twice, in 1997 and in 2013.
The other three ladies have never left the race since joining it for the first time: Underwood in 2006, has nine total nominations. Lambert has eight noms since her first in 2007, and Swift has seven, since her first in 2008.
- The Band Perry
- Eli Young Band
- Lady Antebellum
- Little Big Town
- Zac Brown Band
Who’s In: None
Who’s Out: None
Vocal Group has become the most stable category at the CMA Awards, with the lineup identical for three years running. None of the nominees have even left the race since their first nomination. The reigning champs are Little Big Town, with two consecutive wins (2012, 2013) and nine consecutive nominations since 2006. The only other previous winners are Lady Antebellum, with three victories (2009, 2010, 2011) and seven consecutive nominations since 2008.
Also in the running are Zac Brown Band, with six consecutive nominations since 2009. The Band Perry, with five consecutive nominations since 2010. And Eli Young Band, with three consecutive nominations since 2012.
- Dan + Shay
- Florida Georgia Line
- Love and Theft
- The Swon Brothers
- Thompson Square
Who’s In: Dan + Shay, The Swon Brothers
Who’s Out: Big & Rich, The Civil Wars, Sugarland
This category has become more fluid in recent years, and even with six nominees last year, this year’s list of five still has two newcomers to the race.
The reigning champs are Florida Georgia Line, who add a second nomination after winning with their first in 2013. The only other previous winners are Thompson Square, who won in 2012 and are nominated for the fourth time.
Love and Theft earn their third nomination since joining the race in 2012, while Dan +Shay and the Swon Brothers compete for the first time.
The most notable departure from the race is Sugarland, who were nominated every year from 2007-2013.
- Brandy Clark
- Brett Eldredge
- Kip Moore
- Thomas Rhett
- Cole Swindell
Who’s In: Brandy Clark, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell
Who’s Out: Lee Brice, Florida Georgia Line, Kacey Musgraves
Two of last year’s nominees are ineligible this year: Kacey Musgraves because she won in 2013, and Lee Brice because he already received the maximum two nominations. Florida Georgia Line is the only act eligible to return that did not receive a nomination, perhaps because they won major awards in other categories last year (Single, Vocal Duo).
Brandy Clark’s nod is the most pleasant surprise, as her independent album was heralded by critics but ignored by country radio. This is her first nomination as an artist, but she has two consecutive Song of the Year nominations to her credit – 2013’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Miranda Lambert) and 2014’s “Follow Your Arrow” (Kacey Musgraves).
Also earning their first nominations are Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell, while Brett Eldredge and Kip Moore earn their second consecutive nominations in this category.
- Dierks Bentley, Riser
Produced by Arturo Buenhora Jr., Ross Copperman, and Jaren Johnston
- Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
Produced by Jeff Stevens
- Eric Church, The Outsiders
Produced by Arturo Buenhora Jr. and Jay Joyce
- Miranda Lambert, Platinum
Produced by Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell and Glenn Worf
- Keith Urban, Fuse
Produced by Benny Blanco, Nathan Chapman, Ross Copperman, Zach Crowell, Mike Elizondo, Dann Huff, Jay Joyce, Stargate, Keith Urban, and Butch Walker
All of this year’s nominees have been nominated for this award before. Lambert earns her third nomination, and won in 2010 for Revolution. Church won in 2012 for Church, and this is his second nomination. Bentley and Urban are nominated for the fourth time, and Bryan for the second time, but all three men have yet to win this award.
- Dierks Bentley, “Drunk on a Plane”
Produced by Arturo Buenhora Jr. and Ross Copperman
- Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”
Produced by Arturo Buenhora Jr. and Jay Joyce
- Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
Produced by Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell, and Glenn Worf
- Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”
Produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw
- Blake Shelton, “Mine Would Be You”
Produced by Scott Hendricks
All six artists nominated this year are veterans of the category. Tim McGraw earns his sixth nomination (and second consecutive nod) for his collaboration with wife, Faith Hill, who earns her fourth nomination. McGraw and Hill shared a nomination for “It’s Your Love” in 1997. McGraw’s only win in this race came in 2004 for “Live Like You Were Dying”, exactly ten years ago and exactly ten years after his first nomination in 1994 for “Don’t Take the Girl.” McGraw is the only nominee who has won before.
Lambert earns her fifth nod since 2008, with two of her previous nominations coming in 2010, when she competed with both “White Liar” and “The House That Built Me.” Shelton earns his fourth nod, while Bentley and Church are each nominated for the second time.
Written by Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert
- “Follow Your Arrow”
Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves
- “Give Me Back My Hometown”
Written by Eric Church and Luke Laird
- “I Don’t Dance”
Written by Lee Brice, Dallas Davidson, and Rob Hatch
- “I Hold On”
Written by Dierks Bentley and Brett James
A few previous winners are nominated again. Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves return to the race after winning last year for co-writing “Merry Go ‘Round.” They share the nomination with Brandy Clark, and the trio was nominated last year for “Mama’s Broken Heart”, which lost to “Merry Go ‘Round.”
Miranda Lambert won in 2012 for co-writing “Over You” with Blake Shelton, and she recorded the winning song from 2010, “The House That Built Me.” All other writers nominated this year have never won this award, though Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Natalie Hemby and Luke Laird have all been nominated before.
- Dierks Bentley, “Drunk on a Plane”
Directed by Wes Edwards
- Lady Antebellum, “Bartender”
Directed by Shane Drake
- Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
Directed by Trey Fanjoy
- Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”
Directed by Trey Fanjoy
- Kacey Musgraves, “Follow Your Arrow”
Directed by Honey and Kacey Musgraves
Miranda Lambert is the only artist who has won this award before, taking home the trophy in 2010 for “The House That Built Me.” Trey Fanjoy, who directed both of her clips nominated this year, won for “House” in 2010 and for Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” in 2009. This year brings her thirteenth and fourteenth nominations, and remarkably is her fourth time being a double nominee in this category. In addition to her work with Lambert and Swift , she’s previously been nominated for her collaborations with Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, George Strait, and Lee Ann Womack.
Shane Drake won last year for directing the Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban collaboration, “Highway Don’t Care.” This is his second nomination. Wes Edwards, Honey, and Kacey Musgraves all earned their first nominations this year as directors. Musgraves is the first recording artist in history to be nominated for directing her own music video clip.
- Vince Gill and Paul Franklin, Bakersfield
- Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”
- Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban, “We were Us”
- Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”
- Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “You Can’t Make Old Friends”
This category has changed a lot over the years, being called Vocal Event for more than two decades before it became Musical Event. Before Vocal Event was established in 1988, collaborating artists usually competed in the Vocal Duo category. Dolly Parton won that category three times with Porter Wagoner, and was nominated three times with Kenny Rogers, who won Vocal Duo one time with Dottie West.
Parton was also the first artist to win Vocal Event when the award was created in 1988, for her collaboration with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. She also won in 2006 for her work with Brad Paisley, and in 1996 for her work with fellow nominee Vince Gill. He’s another big veteran of this category, winning four times in the nineties.
McGraw and Hill are nominated together for the fifth time, and they won the first time out in 1997 for “It’s Your Love.” McGraw has won this award for the last two years, thanks to his work with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (2013) and with Kenny Chesney (2012.) McGraw and Chesney also won in 2007, along with Tracy Lawrence, for “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”
Urban’s win last year was his second victory, as he also won in 2009 for “Start a Band” with Paisley. Miranda Lambert receives her third and fourth nominations this year, but joins first time nominees Rogers, Paul Franklin and Carrie Underwood as the only ones who haven’t won a Vocal or Musical Event Trophy.
Fun fact: 2014 is the first time since 2009 that every nominee in this category is primarily associated with country music. No Kid Rock or Nelly this time around.
- Sam Bush (Mandolin)
- Jerry Douglas (Dobro)
- Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
- Dann Huff (Guitar)
- Mac McAnally (Guitar)
Who’s In: Jerry Douglas
Who’s Out: Brent Mason
The only change to the category this year is the return of Jerry Douglas, who earned his first nomination in 1988. This is his eleventh nomination, and he has three wins (2007, 2005, and 2002).
Mac McAnally has dominated this category since he earned his first nomination in 2007. He lost that year, but has won every year since, with six total trophies earned through 2013. The only other previous winner is Dann Huff, who has been nominated fifteen times since 1999 and won twice, in 2001 and 2004.
Sam Bush first joined the category in 2011, and he earns his fourth nomination this year. But the continued underdog remains Paul Franklin, who earns his 22nd nomination since 1989 but still hasn’t won this award. Maybe the collaboration with Vince Gill will put him over the top!
I was wondering where you guys were! Great write-up.
Yeah, this is a really good write up. Very informative.
i read on cmaworld.com that “The eligibility period for the 2014 CMA Awards is July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014”. If that’s correct, BC’s “12 Stories” was eligible since it was released in October of 2013. Would I be correct in assuming that lack of sales is the reason it didn’t get nominated?
Just wondering if the pictures posted are your picks for the winner? ;)
No, just the best way to use pictures of a different artist in each category. Tricky in a year where there are so many artists with multiple nominations!
Rooting for Paul Franklin. Also I don’t understand all the love shown Mac McAnally – he’s good but he’s not THAT good to have won the award six times
Frankin should be a double winner this year. The BAKERSFIELD collaboration this year far exceeded the other nominees in the category
Kevin always does a great and thorough job of analyzing these awards show nominations!
I agree that this is the most excited that I’ve been about the CMAs in many years.
Yay for George Strait getting his last Entertainer nom. I hope he wins it. I expect him to win it.
I love that Aldean and Florida Georgia Line were totally shut out.
Why, oh why did Martina get another female nomination.
I actually like three of the album nominations: Platinum, Riser and The Outsider.
I’m glad to see “Meanwhile Back at Mamas” up for single and “Follow Your Arrow” up for song.
I’m totally roothing for Brandy Clark for New Artist!
And It’s cool that Vince Gill and Paul Franklin’s entire album is up for Musical Event!!
Also, I agree with Paul. It’d be great to see Paul Franklin be a double winner. It’s about time he wins, that a steel guitar player wthe country music award. Imagine it!
More or less a fantastic group. Love the appreciation for Brandy Clark and Dierks Bentley. Also agree on the Paul Franklin love. The album of the year nominations are especially stellar outside of Luke.
I may add though, as much as you may despise FGL and their music, there is no denying they had a monster year, certainly much bigger than Keith Urban, yet all they could muster was a measly duo nomination (I’m assuming that was a typo when Leeann said they were shutout. That or she’s purposely ignoring DOTY.)
My only other issue here is Kip Moore’s inclusion in the new artist category. He’s done nothing to warrant being chosen over Scotty McCreery, Cassadee Pope, Dan+Shay, Eric Paslay or Tyler Farr. Hell, Parmalee, Chase Rice and Dustin Lynch have done more.
Overall, nice set.
I overlooked that they were in the duo category, which it does make sense for them to be there. Where else do you think they rightfully belong though? They’re big right now, but it’s obviously too soon for Entertainer. I don’t think they’ve got any songs or an album that would deserve a nomination, though I’m surprised they didn’t get in on any of those categories. What other category should they have been in? I’m glad that the Association recognized substance/quality over popularity more this year than they have in awhile.
I’ll add that I’m glad to see Musgraves nominated for Female vocalist. I saw her live over the summer and her voice was surprisingly strong. It’s good on record, but I was surprised by just how good it is when I heard her live.
I projected them as an entertainer nominee personally, though I guess I am pleased Urban got in just based on the fact that I loved Fuse.
I forgot to acknowledge a couple things in my original comment.
How the hell did Martina get a female vocalist nomination? Cassadee Pope, Maggie Rose, Danielle Bradbery, Brandy Clark, Kellie Pickler, Jennifer Nettles are all more worthy in my opinion.
And I’m very happy “I Don’t Dance” got recognition. Very underrated single IMO.
Interesting that you’d project them for Entertainer. I don’t think they’re even close to qualifying for that category yet. I believe they’re still openers. They were just here, in my town, opening for the sold out Jason Aldean show. Speaking of Aldean, while I’m personally glad that he was shut out, I’m technically surprised considering how big his concerts have been.
They are actually headlining their own shows (albeit now nearly as big as say, Aldean). They came to my area a couple months back.
Not exactly a big feat though as Cole Swindell and David Nail have announced headlining tours.
The fact that Aldean isn’t nominated for anything brings me so much joy, in a weird way. But I think his Night Train album is too old to be nominated for Album and it wasn’t nominated last year either, which is cool. Neither “When She Says Baby” nor “Night Train” seem like Single of the Year type songs, more just “end of the album cycle” songs.
But I think it’s awesome that, in a year where Aldean breaks Fenway Park’s attendance record, he isn’t nominated for EOTY. This seems like the CMAs are trying to make a point.
I’m a huge Keith Urban fan and very happy for his nominations. As for as him not doing as much as FGL…how do you figure that?? He put out an album during the eligibility period that was #1 in US, Canada, Australia and he toured in all these countries and is still touring with great reviews! Radio may not be showing him the love he once had, but he’s holding his own. Keith will still be here when some acts will long be gone and forgotten, FGL, is one of them IMO! FUSE is a great album……it’s refreshing compared to everyone else singing about the same thing…..drinking, partying, mudding, and rednecking. So don’t always count a talent like Keith Urban out!
The “Just Say NO! To Jason Aldean” campaign is one that I can fully support. He’s never released a solitary single that I’ve liked even a little bit, and I find his success baffling. And as liberally as the word “snub” gets thrown around in discussion of awards show nominations, I agree that his absence comes across as pointed, rather than simply a reflection of voting blocs and the respective clout of different-sized record labels.
The paltry haul of nominations for Luke Bryan– note that his bid to be taken more seriously with the underwritten “Drink a Beer” was ignored– and Florida-Georgia Line goes hand-in-hand with the current commercial trends within the genre. Hi-fives and handshakes to the voters who chose not to embrace things simply because they’re popular.
Thrilled by the nominations for Brandy Clark, Bakersfield, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” Sam Bush, Paul Franklin, “Follow Your Arrow,” Miranda Lambert, and Dierks Bentley. It’s been far too long since I felt like there was an opportunity to choose among nominees that I genuinely like, rather than playing some version of Death Is Not An Option.
Oh, yes, I forgot to say that I’m pleased about the nomination for “You Can’t Make Old Friends” too. It’s such a sweet collaboration.
Not to be a “hater,” but as long as Luke Bryan doesn’t win, I’m happy. I know he’s a great guy and all, but as an artist he is extraordinarily boring. And why is T-Swift still considered in the country market? Her most recent album is decidedly non-country, not even in the slightest, as she has acknowledged.
Dierks, Miranda, LBT, and Tim (finally!) have had solid contributions this year. I would have liked to see Joe Nichols and Justin Moore. Moore’s latest album is by far his best, and Nichols’ comeback as an independent artist is a great story.
The voting was done pre-Taylor leaving country completely announcement, which is probably why she’s in on the FVOTY category. I fully expect her to be excluded from all award shows from now going forward.
Thanks, Markus, that’s good to know.
One small correction; Carrie Underwood isn’t a first time nominee in Musical Event. She was nominated with Randy Travis for “I Told You So” back in 2009.
I didn’t realize Carrie hadn’t won Video before. I wonder if she and Miranda can win this year, or if Miranda will sort of cancel herself out.
I think Martina deserves her nomination. She had been touring a lot for her “Everlasting” era. Although the album is decidedly not country, but still she is country. The way she sings is still her signature Martina style.
PS.: I am hoping the female is going to Carrie or Martina. For Carrie, because of her exposure with SOM and NFL. For Martina, for her highly-praised touring. Just my two cents! :)
Congratulations to the CMA for yet again refusing to embrace bro-country and nominating what little substance is actually left in mainstream country. It’s just too bad there are such slim pickings.
I am beyond thrilled Jason Aldean was shut out. His vocal ability is terrible and he releases the most artistically empty songs to country radio. But I was surprised he didn’t receive a requisite male vocalist nomination. If Dierks Bentley takes his place from now on, all the better.
Also, “Merry Go ‘Round” didn’t win Song of The Year in 2013. The honor went to the writing team behind “I Drive Your Truck.” The Kacey Musgraves hit won Best Country Song at this year’s Grammy ceremony.
Hope they give back Female Vocalist to Carrie again! With The Sound of Music, the SNF theme, perform at the Emmys, 2 #1s singles, sold out festivals, co-host the CMAs for 7 times counting this year, I mean WHO else can do that!?? Its clear who is the Female Vocalist of the year and Entertainer but she is not nominated sadly.
The best album is The Outsiders.
Song: Give Me Back My Hometown or I Hold On.
But with this voters you never know… lol
I don’t think Carrie deserved an entertainer nomination this year. Now, last year is a different story, but she didn’t release any music this eligibility period so I’d find an Entertainer nomination to be absurd.
I did think that Carrie would get a nomination considering she pulled in around 20 million viewers with the live television production of The Sound of Music.
They do seem to be giving a little bit less love to “bro country” this time around.
Re. Carrie Underwood: I think she deserves the nod, not only because of Sound Of Music, but also because of her excellent performance of “Different Drum” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in April, in honor of Linda Ronstadt, a performance that many cite as a big highlight of that event.
Personally I don’t think you deserve and EOTY nod if you don’t release new music, but that’s just me.
I will be a happy camper if Kacey Musgraves doesn’t win.
Dierks Bentley or Eric Church should win Song of the Year and Single of the Year.
Eric Church’s album in 2012 was “Chief”, not Church.
By that logic, George Strait and Blake Shelton would be outs ide the eligibility period, but neither of them seem unworthy of the nomination, especially George Strait. I’d even say that Jason Aldean would deserved a nomination, due to his huge attendance records, even if I’m glad that he didn’t get one.
To be fair, I do think that Carrie deserved a nomination, but I wouldn’t have cited her performance on the Rock and Roll induction as reason enough for the nomination and I don’t think, if you stepped back with somewhat of an unbiased angle, you would either if it had been for anyone other than Linda Ronstadt.:)
When I say new music, I’m including singles.
Blake had 3 number one hits in “Mine Would Be You”, “Doin’ What She Likes” and “My Eyes”.
Of course that’s not all that matters, but I think any entertainer nominee should at least have a couple of successful radio singles out during the eligibility period. That’s just my opinion though.
Carrie did have one single that peaked at the start of the eligibility period. See You Again was a no.1 hit for her and she has the duet with Miranda that came out at the end of the eligibility period.
I hope award shows will get back to honoring real talent instead of the “IT” factor and how much money an artist brings in regardless of having real talent. Real talent to me is being able to sing live without all the bells and whistles and backup singers and huge stage productions. I was watching Coal Miners Daughter on TV the other night and seeing how simple it seemed to be when Loretta started out. Not sure how much of it is factual but she taught herself to play the guitar and her songs were about her normal life and her first audience was her husband and children! I guess this doesn’t have much to do with the topic, but I loved Loretta’s real talent!
Nominations this year are GREAT. Thrilled with the minimal love for Florida Georgia Line, ecstatic over Jason Aldean’s lackluster material getting zero recognition, and over the moon with the Kacey Musgraves & Brandy Clark love!
RE: Carrie Underwood/EOTY. As a big fan of hers, I couldn’t endorse her as a deserving EOTY nominee this year. She didn’t tour, she only released a couple songs (“Keep Us Safe”, “Somethin’ Bad”), and has done just a few festival dates here and there. Her TSOM stint was obviously massive, but I don’t think that alone should warrant a nomination, and I’m glad it didn’t. Her being left off of last year’s ballot, though, was absolute absurdity in any and all aspects. I still feel the sting from that burn FOR her.
Great write-up and great comments.
I am late to this discussion, but I want to say that I am stunned by the Aldean snub. Not a huge fan, but it is surprising. Dierks does certainly deserve his nomination. He has been underrated for a long time.
I do like Kacey Musgraves, but I feel that she will ultimately follow the very noble path of Nanci Griffith, Matreca Berg, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle. They all played with the fire of mainstream success at a certain point. There is just something too songwriter-ish about her that may prevent her from being a country music superstar.
I am a huge Miranda fan. Objectively speaking, I think that she is making her mark in a way that is unprecedented in country music. There are few country artists to achieve that kind of fame and chart success and critical success. It is often hard to see history while it occurs. However, I honestly feel that she is one for the record books, like Loretta and Dolly and Tammy. I can’t recall an artist ever achieving that mix of adoration, crossover appeal, AND critical acclaim. (The Dixie Chicks were on their way to the same place before the scandal.) Even when people like Shania and Faith Hill became household names, they lacked the same street credibility and artistic respect that the Miranda seems to have. Miranda has been very lucky to have some very non-traditional sounding music get radio airplay. Again, I am not just gushing because I am a Miranda fan. I really, honestly find her success and career trajectory incredibly noteworthy.
Martin, I agree regarding Miranda, and I actually like her new album a lot. I still maintain Four the Record was overrated and over-rewarded, though. I think there would be less griping if Blake Shelton wasn’t getting so much love because it makes it obvious the voting for Miranda is more about politics than the music. She doesn’t need voting blocs or a celebrity marriage to help her because of the time her music stands on its own.
In response to a couple of questions in your comments, let me state why Martina McBride was nominated for CMA’s female artist of the year: she simply is the finest voice on the planet. I will repeat that: Martina McBride is the finest voice on the planet. Her Everlasting album is an extraordinary set of recordings and has been coupled with a wonderful tour. She accompanied George Strait for most of his two-year touring finale, at George’s request. He wanted to end a touring career with the best out there. (They together broke concert attendance records back in March in the New York market – the New York market!) While all five are fine candidates, Martina McBride surely deserves the award this year.
It has been announced that Ariana Grande will perform with Little Big Town and Megan Trainor and Miranda Lambert will perform “All About That Bass.” I am sure these will be at the expense of legitimate country singers/songs getting performed.
Don’t forget about Taylor Swift’s new “music”.
To this point, Swift hasn’t been announced as either a performer or a presenter. I wouldn’t be stunned if she were and, frankly, that would be preferable to me than the Trainor and Grande performances, since at least Swift has actual ties to the country genre.
The CU crew have traded messages over the past two days about this, and I’m still feeling pretty frustrated by it.
Country music hates itself; it always has. It’s intrinsic to the genre’s ties to cultures that are broadly viewed as inferior or shameful– the rural, the Southern, the poor— and, however far modern country may have departed from the genre’s origins, that’s just far too long a history to outrun. So here we have what’s supposed to be country’s most storied, most prestigious “in house” celebration, trotting out a couple of pop stars to make the big show seem a little less unfashionable. Fine. It’s no mystery how or why we arrived here, and no legion of interchangeable dudebros half-singing the same “country” “pride” party anthems can change that this year or any other.
The bigger issue for me is how this reinforces the genre’s treatment of women. Particularly in comparison to pop and R&B, country music hates women; but for the statistical outlier of the 1990s, it always has. And I’d argue that it hates women more vehemently and insidiously now than ever before. Here, we have the televised awards ceremony for the country genre’s biggest and most influential institution, giving performance slots to two fairly prominent women in pop music.
Assuming that Lambert will also have a solo performance slot (though that has not yet been confirmed, and there are rumblings that she and Trainor will perform some sort of medley or mashup of “All About That Bass” with a track / new single from Platinum), the fact remains that one of the exactly two A-list women of country music in 2014 will be sharing the stage for a performance of a #1 pop hit.
(The other one? Will likely spend a good portion of her evening by being a good sport about a bunch of jokes about her pregnancy, because, hey, what else are women good for, amirite?)
It all reinforces the idea that the women of country music don’t deserve even the opportunity to have their voices heard. And this is hardly a new problem: One has to look no further back than this year’s ACM awards, when Kacey Musgraves entered with four nominations and won the Album of the Year award, yet she still didn’t merit an invitation for a full performance slot in favor of several men who weren’t nominated at all and for a performance of a duet between pop star Shakira and Blake Shelton, who had an additional performance of his own. These are decisions, not accidents.
The always brilliant @WindmillsCountry has outlined the machinations that led to the collaboration between Grande and Little Big Town, and there’s no real faulting Lambert herself for wanting to perform with an artist who might be able to expose her to a broader audience. Again: There are no great mysteries as to how we got here.
But there are scores of women who record country music– say, double nominee Brandy Clark or former Female Vocalist of the Year Lee Ann Womack, who just released a brilliant new album that has struggled to find an audience– who would be equally or more deserving of the chance to perform of the genre’s biggest stage and biggest night.
Ultimately, these performances marginalize the women of country music even further than they already have been. There are still plenty of reasons to celebrate the CMA’s gutsy, surprising slate of nominees this year– Clark, Parton’s & Rogers’ lovely duet, the exceptional Bakersfield collaboration between Gill and Franklin– but the broadcast is already shaping up to be the same ol’, same ol’.
I guess I also see a genre with no love for its roots. Only two #1 country songs in the last 25 years have been remakes of older #1 country songs: Randy Travis’ “It’s Just a Matter of Time” and Alan Jackson’s “It Must Be Love”. I somehow doubt The Band Perry’s cover of “Gentle on My Mind” will be added to this list. The only mainstream country artists I can think of who have recently covered the songs of those who came before them are Blake Shelton doing Dan Seals’ “Addicted” and Rascal Flatts covering Shenandoah’s “Next to You, Next to Me” and both of those were just bonus tracks on their albums.
According to wiki, “It’s Just a Matter of Time” was originally recorded by Brook Benton in 1959. The song was written by Benton, Clyde Otis & Belford Hendricks. It was later recorded by Sonny James and Glen Campbell before Travis covered it.
I’d be surprised if Swift performs, since she did say that she won’t be performing on country shows for the upcoming album, since it’s “officially” decidedly pop.
When Jonathan reminds me of the Kacey Musgraves ACM debacle, my blood boils significantly more! While I’m guiltily intrigued by the Trainor/Lambert collaboration (I’m a sucker for cross genre collaborations), Jonathan makes excellent points that can’t be dismissed, particularly about the treatment of women at these shows. All I know is that Brandy Clark had better win New Artist!!
Carrie Underwood’s cover of Randy Travis’ “I Told You So” too.
Good call, Leeann. I had forgotten about that one since it didn’t hit #1 on a Billboard chart. Thanks.
Country music hates itself; it always has. It’s intrinsic to the genre’s ties to cultures that are broadly viewed as inferior or shameful– the rural, the Southern, the poor– and, however far modern country may have departed from the genre’s origins, that’s just far too long a history to outrun.
Late to the discussion as usual, but I find it interesting that the only time in recent country music history that it clearly didn’t hate itself – late eighties until about 1994 or 1995 – we got more great music than any time before or since.
Other covers from recent years:
Trisha Yearwood covered “Seven Year Ache”
Reba McEntire with “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Hands”
(And kudos to Yearwood and McEntire for picking the Lisa Brokop should’ve been hit “She Can’t Save Him” for the latter’s duet set)
Martina McBride covered “Two More Bottles of Wine”
And lots, lots more