CMA 2014: The Winners, and The Good, the Bad, and the Whaaaat??

Miranda LambertThe 2014 CMA Awards show had more great moments than any telecast in years, pulling off the rare feat of making the genre appear far healthier and more appealing than it actually is!  Here is a complete list of winners, followed by a few thoughts on the show itself.

As always, share your own thoughts in the comments!

2014 CMA Winners

Luke Bryan

Female Vocalist
Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist
Blake Shelton

Vocal Duo
Florida Georgia Line

Vocal Group
Little Big Town

New Artist
Brett Eldredge

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert

“Follow Your Arrow”
Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves

Musical Event
“We Were Us”
Keith Urban featuring Miranda Lambert

Music Video
“Drunk on a Plane”
Dierks Bentley
Wes Edwards, Director

Mac McAnally

Irving Waugh Award of Excellence
Vince Gill

A few thoughts:

Some Truly Deserving Victories

Congratulations to Miranda Lambert being the top winner in the year where she made some of her best music.   Even better, “Follow Your Arrow” acknowledged that Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves are among the best songwriters working today, and showed that the CMA’s can still reward the best, even when it isn’t the biggest.

Wait. Didn’t You Win This Already?

The single best predictor of who would win this year was who won in years past.  In all but three relevant categories – Entertainer, Song, and Music Video – the winner had won in the same category before.   Miranda Lambert became the first woman in history to win a fifth Female Vocalist trophy.  Blake Shelton’s fifth Male Vocalist win tied him with all-time champs Vince Gill and George Strait.   Little Big Town won their third Vocal Group trophy, Mac McAnally won his seventh Musician award, and even Keith Urban’s win in Musical Event was #3 for him in that race.

With so many contenders who hadn’t won those big races, it was disappointing to see so many victors repeat.   Unlike the Grammys, the CMA’s don’t nominate specific performances in the major races.  It seems redundant to keep giving the awards to the same people when there are many who have never won before.  It would be nice to see Shelton and Lambert not submit their names for consideration next year, or maybe actively campaign for someone else to be acknowledged.

Entertainer of the Year?

Luke Bryan’s victory was the most disappointing of the night.  Look, I think the guy is charming as all get out and it’s hard not to be swept away by his enthusiasm.   But if you’re going to overlook a legend like George Strait, it should be for someone who is long overdue and has real artistic clout to go with their popularity.   If you’re going to give every other award to Miranda Lambert, who according to voters made the best album and the best single of the year, then it’s hard to understand how Bryan gets this over her.

Collaborating with the Cool Kids

Kudos to Eric Church picking George Strait and Kacey Musgraves picking Loretta Lynn to sing with.   Even better, they each collaborated on the legend’s song, using their biggest national audience of the year to pay tribute to an idol, instead of just pushing a track off of their latest record. It was cool.

Less cool?  Little Big Town’s performance with Ariana Grande and Lambert’s duet with Meghan Trainor.   Yes, the presence of LBT elevated “Bang Bang” and Lambert found new levels of charm in “All About That Bass.”   But here’s the thing.  If it’s the country acts elevating the song with their presence, that means they’re also lowering themselves by participating in the first place.   A CMA performance has always been the ultimate sign that you’ve finally made it to the big leagues of country music.   That nominees like Brandy Clark didn’t get to sing a note, but imported pop stars did, cheapened the proceedings for me.

Lesson for next year:  Loretta Lynn and George Strait are cooler than whatever cool kids are dominating the pop charts.

A Few More Great Performances

Generally speaking, the night’s best moments came when our best singers took the stage.  Carrie Underwood proved, once again, that she’s just as strong live as she is on record.  Between her powerhouse performance of  her new single and her pure harmonies with Brad Paisley, she was the best singer on the stage that actually sang.  (Trisha Yearwood was just a presenter.)

Dierks Bentley’s stage set was awe-inspiring, but even with all those visuals, his magnetism as a performer kept the focus on him.  Lambert shined in her pairing with Little Big Town, and even the Band Perry reminded us that there’s some talent under all that hair.

Vince Gill

Accepting his achievement award, Gill was as classy and humble as he’s ever been.  It was endearing when he burst into tears while listening to words of praise from Merle Haggard.   By the time he was center stage, he was balancing humor with gratitude without missing a beat.   That being said, I’m sure that when he was wondering aloud if the audience knew who Irving Waugh was, there were probably far too many in the viewing audience wondering who Vince Gill is.   The tether connecting today’s country to its history is far too frayed these days.

Florida Georgia Line

I’ll just say this.   My colleague thinks that FGL are country music’s ultimate trolls.   I think he should leave out the “r.”

Unsung Hero

I’ll close by noting the night’s oddest moment.  Accepting his award for Male Vocalist, Blake Shelton shared that he’d been studying the category’s previous winners and noticed his “all time hero has never won one of these.”

Country legends who were nominated but never won Male Vocalist:   Conway Twitty.  Willie Nelson.  Eddy Arnold.  Ray Price.  Marty Robbins.

Shelton’s hero? Earl Thomas Conley.   Weirdness.


  1. Miranda as entertainer of the year?? you’re kidding with that aren’t you? She can’t even headline her own tour without riding the coattails of the guys on the megaticket. And she has almost no stage presence. Did you watch last night? Two performances and she looked bored and out of place during each,shown up by the others on stage.
    But I do agree since the voters are hell bent on giving her and Blake award after award no matter how undeserved they should pull their names. It’s gotten ridiculous.

  2. Conley is a friend of Shelton’s. They co-wrote one of Shelton’s first singles, “All Over Me.” And I think Conley could easily qualify as a legend who has never won the award.

  3. I didn’t think Carrie’s voice during “Something In The Water” was her best. She was a bit sharp in some parts and seemed to have some difficulty with breathing; but she still nailed the big notes. Of course, the song in itself is difficult to sing. Plus, her pregnancy, hosting duties, and 12 (?!) costume changes should also be taken into consideration. But the pure passion, conviction, and joy while singing were undeniable.

    Anyway, even a subpar Carrie vocal performance is miles better than any of those by her peers. A country awards show is never complete without a Carrie performance.

  4. …well, all in all the cma wasn’t far off the mark overall. mostly, one should bear in mind that these awards only reflect the work/success of the nominees during a limited period of time. in general, their output during the last year or so justified a nomination by and large. if a winning streak continues, it could be as much a sign of outstanding quality as well as just a lack of a broader competition.

    fair enough, one could argue about giving a rare spot during the show to people from other genres, since country music surely would have had a few more stars of its own to showcase on its “biggest night”. however, miranda lambert and megan trainor were quite a sight to see and hear together. similar thoughts must have run trough blake sheltons mind, displaying a priceless facial expression during their appearance. i should pay a penny for his thoughts there and then any time.

  5. Definitely one of the better CMAs that’ve been held in quite some time. Carrie & Brad’s hosting was, as usual, stellar. Generally speaking, there were quite a few top-notch performances: Carrie, LBT/Miranda (their mess with Ariana Grande was towards the bottom of the list of performances for me), Kacey/Loretta (how cool!), Brad, Keith, TBP (they’ve been criminally overlooked this past year in Country music, unfortunately) and even Lady Antebellum seemed quite a bit more animated than they usually do live — Hillary especially. Jason Aldean was, undoubtedly, the worst performance of the evening. Very plain, very uneventful, and very…”Burnin’ it Down,” if that’s an appropriate enough adjective to describe it.

    Kacey/Brandy/Shane winning Song of the Year was phenomenal and I’m thrilled to see “Follow Your Arrow” achieve such a height that has been solely because of the fans. I’m glad she didn’t thank Country radio in her speech — they didn’t have anything to do with the song’s success anyways.

    I would argue that Miranda was the most deserving nominee to win EOTY, but George’s back-end of his last tour (and especially with that record set in Arlington) put him up there as a deserving winner, too. That, and he’s…George Strait. Duh. Luke has had one hell of a year, though, so I see where the CMAs found it fitting to award him.

    The voting bloc really has become quite an issue, though. Blake winning his 5th consecutive MVOTY is just…absurd. Especially with all of the other huge solo male vocalists that came out of this year (which was pretty much 90% of Country radio in 2013/2014), for him to win it a 5th time is crazy to me. I honestly thought the winner was going to be Keith, Luke, or Dierks. As for Miranda’s 5th consecutive win, I can’t argue this year. She’s been the most active. Carrie had TSOM, “Something’ Bad”, and barely had “Something in the Water”. Kacey hasn’t had a whole lot unfortunately. Martina is yesterday’s news, unfortunately. Taylor didn’t have a shot in hell of winning, as everyone knew. Miranda was the clear winner. With that being said, though, her streak should’ve been broken up once or twice — more specifically LAST year — by Carrie. I know not everyone would agree, but to even think that Carrie Underwood — that’s Carrie Underwood, the 6x Grammy Award winner who has more Grammys, #1s, and Platinum records to her name than most of her contemporaries in the genre, and some even COMBINED TOGETHER — has never even seen a CMA EOTY nomination, let alone a win, is just…mindboggling. Hence, voting bloc.

  6. First off- I don’t really like Keith Urban- He is the David Cassidy of his time in my book. But he played that guitar like his life depended on and kept my attention. Brad’s jokes and songs all fell flat. I use to think he was the Roger Miller of his time. But one more song about how amazing his wife is boring. Finally if you watched when they were announcing Best Male Artist you can clearly see the look of disgust and regret on Dierks Bentley’s face. He should have won- no doubt. And I agree with Kelly about Aldean. He had no charm, and his song and voice were hurtful to hear. He has just become a lazy performer.

  7. Don’t know how you can compare Keith to David Cassidy….maybe Luke Bryan, but not Keith. Keith has way more talent that what you give him credit for. Cassidy was just eye candy because he sang a little and was on a TV show. Keith’s resume is a hell of a lot better than Cassidy’s or Luke Bryan’s. I just get so tired of people acting like Keith amounts to nothing. He works his butt off. His performances are pretty much always spot on and he has class and is a very humble person.

  8. Nothing demonstrates better how the CMAs have sold out their art form than the way they prioritize showcasing artists from other genres over those going into their own Hall of Fame. Also, no disrespect to Vince Gill, but if a limited amount of time is going to be allotted at the CMAs for recognizing career contributions to country music, the artists entering the HOF should be highlighted ahead of one who is already there.

  9. …if the CMHoF would not open its gates of gold all too frequently only to dead or meanwhile very senior artists, some more of these greats could possibly be included into the cma tv-show withhout fearing that they might not survive that night, john anthony. it remains highly irritating that the hall of fame acknowledges the artistic periods that elevated artists to potential new members often only decades after it actually took place.

    unlike red wine or paintings, the greatness of a musical work of art or a career in show business does not improve so much as time goes by. it normally has its strongest impact at the time it comes out and hits its generation. moreover, time seems to be rather an enemy than an ally to show business stars, as any plastic surgeon or distiller probably would confirm.

    in my opinion, an invitation to the CMHoF should not arrive with the same mail as avertising material for zimmer frames or extra comfy grey footwear.

  10. Tom , if what you think is typical of what most country music fans think, then the genre is dead anyway. Of course, most of them know little about the genre and its development

    How can you possibly evaluate whether a career, in ANY endeavor, is Hall of Fame worthy until a substantial portion of it is already in the books? Maybe the 25 year period is a bit long in this day and should be shortened to 20 years but the CMHOF honors the career, not a short hot streak. There are many artists who have had hot streaks of 3 to 7 years – if the CMHOF CMHOF inducted every such artist, its roster would be huge and meaningless.

    I also agree that it is time to scale back on all these out of genre artists they keep spotlighting on a show that should be honoring country music. Most of them are “flavor of the month” who will be forgotten shortly.

    How did there get to be such a cult of Mac McAnally ? He’s a fine musician but he’s no Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed or Johnny Gimble. Paul Franklin should have been the winner this year

  11. How did there get to be such a cult of Mac McAnally ? He’s a fine musician but he’s no Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed or Johnny Gimble. Paul Franklin should have been the winner this year.

    In any given year, the “Musician of the Year” category is the one that is guaranteed to include 5 nominees who are all genuinely talented and very good at what they do. But the fascination with McAnally is bizarre, even though he is, as Paul said, a fine musician. I was personally pulling for Sam Bush to win in that category and Bakersfield for “Vocal Event” as a way to recognize two superlative talents. I’m not shocked that McAnally won again, but I don’t understand how he’s developed this stranglehold on the category.

    I stand by my comments in the original post about the nominees: The pop performances reveal the depth of the genre’s self-loathing streak. Regardless of what new album they have coming out, the Doobie Brothers would hardly merit a performance slot on any other awards show in 2014, but leave it to the CMAs to give them two performances. On the bright side, the producers had the good sense not to let Hunter Hayes sing during either of them.

  12. Ronnie Milsap is still touring; I imagine he could have mustered the strength to come in and play a song or two. And Jamie Johnson did a great tribute album to Hank Cochran. Wouldn’t it have been cool to have heard Jamie, Kris, Willie, & Merle perform “Living for a Song,” or maybe have Jamie and Lee Ann Womack duet on “This Ain’t My First Rodeo?” It doesn’t take much creativity or appreciation of country music to image all kinds of possibilities, but those traits seem sadly lacking in those currently charged with organizing the CMAs.

  13. I have an idea, and if we atill had the Open Mike on this blog, I’d put it there, but here goes. I think there should be some kind of write in system. Let me explain with an example…Kacey Musgraves was not nominated for Entertainer, so that’s what i’ll use. They annouce the 5 or 4 or whatever nominees, then fans can go to a website and vote fro their favorite among the un-nominated. if Kacey had gotten a certain number of online votes, lets say 100 thousand, then she becomes the award winner, or at least award 2. what do y’all think?

  14. I am beyond thrilled that someone besides me remembers the great Earl Thomas Conley. Sure he was successful for only one decade. But a decade where he had 18 – yes 18 – number one hits is an incredible feat. I’m so tired of people looking down their noses at non-traditional country music of the past. It’s still more country than anything on country radio today.

  15. Ok forget my write in idea above. The more I think about it the less I like the idea of the most active fan clubs dominating the awards show.

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