2015 ACM Awards: Nominations & Analysis

The third most prestigious country music industry award nominations – but the most important ones handed out in the spring – have been announced.  Here’s a rundown of all the major categories, along with some back-of-the-envelope analysis:

Garth Brooks 3Entertainer

  • Jason Aldean
  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Miranda Lambert

Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Florida Georgia Line

Who’s Out: Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift

Last year’s winner, George Strait, didn’t get a return invitation, but Garth Brooks, who has won this award six times before, returns to the competition.  Much like Strait’s farewell tour was a reminder of his extensive popularity, Garth’s ability to sell out several dates per city overshadows the lukewarm reception to his new material at radio and retail.   Taylor Swift’s exit is directly tied to her cutting ties with the genre. Jason Aldean’s return makes logical sense, but it’s quite the mystery to see Blake Shelton gone and Florida Georgia Line in.

JasonAldeanMale Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton

Who’s In: Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Brad Paisley

Who’s Out: Lee Brice, Keith Urban

Another category with major turnover, with two of last year’s nominees out, despite there being an additional nominee due to a tie in the nominating process.   Bentley and Church have had big years.  Paisley, not so much, but his five past wins here show he is an ACM favorite.   The real question is whether Jason Aldean will win a third trophy, if Shelton will win his second, or if Bentley, Bryan, or Church will win their first.  It’s a difficult race to handicap.

Brandy Clark 2Female Vocalist

  • Brandy Clark
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

Who’s In: Brandy Clark, Martina McBride

Who’s Out: Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift

With all this Brandy Clark love, we’re starting to know how all those country music bloggers felt a few years back when Jamey Johnson was popping up all over award show ballots.   From a quality standpoint, this is the best lineup this category has seen in a long time.   Sure, it would be nice to have seen Trisha Yearwood in here, but she’s always done better at the CMA and Grammy shows.

Maddie & TaeVocal Duo

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • The Swon Brothers

Who’s In: Brothers Osborne, Maddie & Tae, The Swon Brothers

Who’s Out: Big & Rich, Love and Theft, Thompson Square

For all the flak these shows get for repetitive nominations, there is certainly a lot of turnover this year.  Maddie & Tae are the only real competition for Florida Georgia Line, as they’ve actually had a very big hit.  But since they still haven’t released a full-length album, it’s hard to imagine anything but a repeat victory for the “Cruise” singers  in this category.

The Band PerryVocal Group

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Rascal Flatts

Who’s Out: Eli Young Band

In truth, it’s been more surprising to see Rascal Flatts off the list than on over these last handful of award cycles.   The Band Perry’s win last year wasn’t followed with a triumph at the CMA Awards, where they stuck with Little Big Town.   It should be a close race between those two for the win.

New Artistsam-hunt

  • Sam Hunt
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Cole Swindell

Who’s In: Hunt, Rhett, and Swindell all make the shortlist for the first time.

Who’s Out: Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore, all women.

The ACMs quite rightly drew criticism when their list of 9 semi-finalists for this award was revealed to be a full-on sausage fest. Of the nine men who made that first cut, the final list has been narrowed to these three: Two of the more egregious Bros and an adult-pop artist whose inexplicable critical reception seems to anticipate some kind of revisionist view of former American Idol finalist Blake Lewis.

Eric Church the OutsidersAlbum

  • Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
  • Dierks Bentley, Riser
  • Eric Church, The Outsiders
  • Miranda Lambert, Platinum
  • Little Big Town, Pain Killer

The big contenders here are the sets that keep popping up on all of the short lists: Bentley, Church, and Lambert.   Aldean and Little Big Town are little more than window dressing, though the window might have looked better with Tim McGraw or Brad Paisley hanging in it.

Dierks Bentley Drunk on a PlaneSingle

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Dirt” – Florida Georgia Line
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley
  • “I Don’t Dance” – Lee Brice

These were all sizable hits, though there isn’t one artist represented here by what could be considered a career-defining hit.

Kacey MusgravesSong

  • “American Kids” – written by Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally; performed by Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – written by Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert; performed by Miranda Lambert
  • “Drink a Beer” – written by Jim Beavers and Chris Stapleton; performed by Luke Bryan
  • “Follow Your Arrow” – written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves; performed by Kacey Musgraves
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – written by Eric Church and Luke Laird; performed by Eric Church
  • “I Hold On” – written by Dierks Bentley and Brett James; performed by Dierks Bentley

Kacey Musgraves’ win for Best Country Album at last year’s Grammys rendered “Follow Your Arrow” ineligible for Best Country Song at this year’s Grammy show, so the trifecta is out.  But she stands a good chance of picking up a matching Song of the Year trophy to go with that one from the CMA.

Miranda Lambert Carrie Underwood Somethin Bad VideoVideo
  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney; directed by Shaun Silva
  • “Cop Car” – Keith Urban; directed by John Urbano
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley; directed by Wes Edwards
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell; directed by James Keach
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood; directed by Trey Fanjoy

There’s something poignant about Glen Campbell earning a nomination in the ACM’s fiftieth anniversary year.   The show started as a way to honor West Coast country music, and he was always a popular favorite with the organization.

Tim McGraw Faith Hill Meanwhile Back at Mama'sVocal Event

  • “Lonely Tonight” – Blake Shelton with Ashley Monroe
  • “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tim McGraw with Faith Hill
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood
  • “The South” – The Cadillac Three featuring Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, and Mike Eli
  • “This is How We Roll” – Florida Georgia Line with Luke Bryan

“Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” has earned so many nominations at other shows that it’s surprising to see that this is its only ACM nomination.


  1. I think FGL are utterly dreadful, but they have been very successful, and from point of view they aren’t totally undeserving of EoTY nomination. TBH I’m more surprised to see Garth back in contention.

  2. Can I just say that I love Rascal Flatts’ new single “Riot.” That song alone earns them their nomination. Could CU get a review for that song? I’ve seen Sara Haze perform it live (she co-wrote it) and have loved that song for about two years. I was glad to see that a major act recorded it.

  3. Won’t watch but will be rooting for:
    Entertainer – GB by default. If not, ML just to have a woman win.
    Male – none
    Female – Brandy Clark
    duo – M&T, hopefully Striking Matches, Sarah Zimmerman & Justin Davis, will be nominated in this category next year. I’ve already pre-ordered their first full album “Nothing But the Silence”. I believe they’re appeared at the Grand Ole Opry over 30 times.
    group – BP or ZBB
    album – none
    single – none
    song – Follow Your Arrow

  4. Here’s who SHOULD win each category, based solely on the nominations (I won’t even get into who should be nominated in some of these categories)

    Garth Brooks, hands down, no question. The only other potential deserving recipient is Miranda, but the rest are just awful

    Male Vocalist
    Eric Church or Dierks Bentley

    Female Vocalist
    Kacey Musgraves

    Maddie & Tae

    Zac Brown Band

    “The Outsiders”

    “Automatic” (as good as “dirt” may have been, I can’t bear to give FGL an award)

    “Follow Your Arrow”

    “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”

    “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”

  5. One of three things must be happening: 1) the years are flying by at the speed of light, 2) these award shows are no longer annual but semi annual, 3) we have waaaaaay too many country award shows.

  6. My predictions…
    EOTY – Garth Brooks, because it’s the ACM’s 50th anniversary and they’ll likely want a big, big way to celebrate it.
    MVOTY – It’ll either be Shelton, Bryan, or Aldean, in which case I couldn’t care less who won. If it was a competition between Paisley, Church, and Bentley (and throw in Keith Urban, too), then I’d be more interested.
    FVOTY – Miranda’s going to be picking up her SIXTH consecutive win here? Gross. Love her to pieces, but this passed the point of overkill about 2 years ago. Carrie’s the only other logical selection (unless the ACMs decided to actually give it to Brandy Clark or Kacey Musgraves, in which case, WOOHOO! But neither of those would happen), but given the injustices between Country music awards shows + Carrie Underwood lately, there isn’t a slight shot in hell anyone else is winning this except for Miranda. Again. Ugh. Someone put a stop to this voting block.
    Duo – Why isn’t this an off-air award yet?
    Group – LBT will win.
    Album – I’m banking on the idea that whoever wins at the Grammys will win here, too. So, either Bentley, Lambert, or Church. If Brandy Clark swings a win at the Grammys, though, then all bets are off for the ACMs.
    Song – Yawn.
    Single – See above.
    Music Video – Glen Campbell will win, even though Miranda & Carrie put out the strongest video.
    Collaboration – I’ll be beside myself if they don’t give it to Tim & Faith, even if I think that the song is dull.

  7. Now that Sturgill Simpson is signed to a major recording label in Atlantic Records, can we have a last minute addition of “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” to album of the year? It has after-all, out-sold and charted many of the mainstream country albums of the past eyar.

  8. The finalists for New Artist have been announced, for those who like to spend their time weeping for both the present and future of the genre…

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