2016 CMA Nominations

This year’s CMA Nominations have been announced, and there are some major changes afoot, including some surprising inclusions (Maren Morris!) and even more surprising omissions (Blake Shelton!)

Here’s who will compete this fall at the 50th Annual CMA Awards:

Carrie UnderwoodEntertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban

Who’s Out: Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert

Carrie Underwood finally receives her first CMA nomination for Entertainer of the Year, joined by fellow first timer Chris Stapleton.  Chesney and Lambert’s quiet years make their departure from the lineup logical, but I have no explanation for Eric Church moving aside for Keith Urban, who returns to the category for the second time in three years.

Eric Church Record YearMale Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Tim McGraw
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Who’s in: Tim McGraw, Keith Urban

Who’s Out: Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton

Keith Urban also returns to the Male Vocalist race. Last year’s exclusion followed eleven consecutive nominations, so this is his twelfth overall. On the strength of “Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw earns his first Male Vocalist nomination in thirteen years; he last competed in 2003.  After five wins and six consecutive nominations, Blake Shelton is out of the race, as is Luke Bryan.  Still looking for their first win are Dierks Bentley and Eric Church, who both received their fifth nominations this year.

Kelsea BalleriniFemale Vocalist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

Who’s In:  Maren Morris

Who’s Out: Lee Ann Womack

Newcomer Marin Morris takes the fifth slot that went to Lee Ann Womack last year, getting the nod over fellow celebrated newbies Cam and Brandy Clark, as well as veteran winners Martina McBride and Reba McEntire.  Lambert will compete for a record seventh win, while the only other previous winner – Carrie Underwood – looks for that elusive fourth trophy.

Old Dominion Break Up With HimVocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Old Dominion

Who’s Out: The Band Perry

Declaring they’ve gone pop, The Band Perry exit their place in the lineup and a new band, Old Dominion, earns their first nomination.

Joey + RoryVocal Duo of the Year

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Joey + Rory
  • Maddie & Tae

Who’s In: Joey + Rory

Who’s Out: Thompson Square

Following both personal tragedy and their biggest professional success, Joey + Rory return to the race for the first time since 2010.  If they win, get the tissues ready.

Maren MorrisNew Artist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris
  • Old Dominion
  • Cole Swindell

Who’s In: Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Cole Swindell

Who’s Out: Sam Hunt, Maddie & Tae, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton

Kelsea Ballerini and Cole Swindell get their second and last shot at the trophy, while Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris, and Old Dominion compete for the first time.

Dierks Bentley BlackAlbum of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley, Black
    Produced by Arturo Buenahora, Jr. and Ross Copperman
  • Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
    Produced by Arturo Buenahora, Jr. and Jay Joyce
  • Maren Morris, Hero
    Produced by busbee, Brad Hill, and Maren Morris
  • Carrie Underwood, Storyteller
    Produced by Mark Bright, Zach Crowell, and Jay Joyce
  • Keith Urban, Ripcord
    Produced by Jeff Bhasker, busbee, Nathan Chapman, Dann Huff, Tyler Johnson, K-Kov, Johnny Price, Nile Rodgers, Keith Urban, and Greg Wells

Eric Church is the only previous winner in this category, taking home the trophy for Chief in 2012. While Maren Morris enjoys her first nomination, this is the fourth  nomination for Carrie Underwood, and the fifth for both Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban.

Tim McGraw Humble and KindSingle of the Year

  • Eric Church, “Record Year”
    Produced by Jay Joyce
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind”
    Produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw
  • Maren Morris, “My Church”
    Produced by busbee and Maren Morris
  • Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”
    Produced by Jesse Frasure and Dann Huff
  • Chris Stapleton, “Nobody to Blame”
    Produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton

Church scores his third consecutive nomination, and McGraw his third in four years, while Morris, Rhett, and Stapleton compete for the first time.

Lori+McKenna+728615_mckenna_07_200x200Song of the Year

  • “Burning House”
    Written by Jeff Bhasker, Cam, and Tyler Johnson
  • “Die a Happy Man”
    Written by Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur
  • “Humble and Kind”
    Written by Lori McKenna
  • “My Church”
    Written by busbee and Maren Morris
  • “Record Year”
    Written by Eric Church and Jeff Hyde

Lori McKenna might be the first woman to win this award two years in a row, returning with “Humble and Kind” after her win last year for “Girl Crush.”
Cam Burning House VideoMusic Video of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley, “Somewhere on a Beach”
    Directed by Wes Edwards
  • Cam, “Burning House”
    Directed by Trey Fanjoy
  • Eric Church, “Record Year”
    Directed by Reid Long and John Peets
  • Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind”
    Directed by Wes Edwards
  • Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away”
    Directed by Tim Mattia

Having seen the list these nominees were chosen from, the CMA did a solid job identifying music videos that demonstrated creativity and craft. Trey Fanjoy’s nominated for the sixteenth time. Sixteenth!

Morgane Chris StapletonMusical Event of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King, “Different for Girls”
  • Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild, “Home Alone Tonight”
  • Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton, “You are My Sunshine”
  • Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood, “The Fighter”
  • Chris Young with Cassadee Pope, “Think of You”

There are more women nominated as guests in this category than you’re likely to hear sing lead on country radio any given day.

Paul FranklinMusician of the Year

  • Jerry Douglas (Dobro/Lap Steel Guitar)
  • Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
  • Dann Huff (Guitar)
  • Brent Mason (Guitar)
  • Derek Wells (Guitar)

Who’s In: Brent Mason, Derek Wells

Who’s Out: Sam Bush (Mandolin), Mac McAnally (Guitar)

After winning this award for eight consecutive years, Mac McAnally isn’t nominated at all. Paul Franklin earns his 24th nomination, but is still without a win. He’ll compete against two time winners Dann Huff and Brent Mason, three time winner Jerry Douglas, and first time nominee Derek Wells.



  1. I’m a Miranda fan but given her quiet year ( she on,y release one single) I would have given the female vocalist nomination to Cam.

  2. Well, you could read some of Keith Urban’s tour reviews to understand why he’s there and Eric is not! Keith toured festivals and fairs last year and is in the middle of a full blown worldwide tour at present. Eric is not touring and besides Keith has done so much more than just touring. It’s over all public image for the genre and I believe Keith has more than done his part to support the country genre. You guys act like Keith Urban does nothing. Go read the qualifications for entertainer and see who should be there in the category. It’s not about who you like best. Eric was in the last votes, but it seems more voters wanted Keith to be in the nominations. So Eric did not step aside, he didn’t get enough votes from the voters.

  3. While I think Maren Morris could develop into a great artist, she’s definitely a pop singer. There’s nothing even close to country on the album with the exception of “My Church,” which barely qualifies. Taylor Swift’s early albums sound more country than Hero, which says a lot.

    I would have loved to see recognition for Brandy Clark and Margo Price, who had very strong albums with some of the best country storytelling in recent years. They were critically acclaimed by critics outside the country genre, but unfortunately, don’t seem to be gaining any traction within the mainstream country scene. They didn’t have any hit singles, and I can get behind the song/single nominations for My Church as it definitely made an impact and is a solid track. However, I don’t think “Hero” is a strong album as a whole. A couple of good songs, but mostly filler with the exception of My Church. The Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley albums this year aren’t great either.

    I hope Eric Church wins the category. Definitely one of the strongest albums year, and by far the strongest nominated.

  4. I like Maren Morris’s album but she’s about as country as Pavarotti or Kenny G. Eric Church’s album is very good but as for the rest …

    This list of nominees explains why my radio stays tuned to either Willie’s Roadhouse or Bluegrass Junction on XM-Radio

  5. I’m probably going to make some people mad here, but I don’t understand the longevity of Keith Urban with these award nominations. I loved Urban for a few years when his music was fresh and unique. But I can’t remember the last song he put out that didn’t sound like a rehash of the same songs he was doing ten years ago. I don’t think he’s grown or matured at all in over a decade. I have nothing against him personally, but Entertainer of the Year????

  6. caj – Don’t forget Urban had American Idol this past year to count in his favor. The first 3 singles from his latest album were all hits. I don’t know about his tour. Anyway I am just saying there is stuff there to justify the nod, whether or not we would have nominated him.

  7. You’re right about American Idol, Jason. As someone who doesn’t watch those types of shows, I completely forgot that he was one of the judges. I guess that has kept him relevant on radio and in the eyes of award shows. I appreciate the response.

  8. Jason is right in part – Keith Urban benefits from his engaging personality. His genuine good nature, as well as his killer guitar skills, explains a lot. His performances are high energy and just sheer fun to watch. And his music is quite good, even if often familiar. Interestingly, the likeable personality doesn’t translate into award wins easily for Carrie Underwood. On the likeability scale, she genuinely scores huge. Yet, I am amazed that she gets passed over.

  9. In terms of industry awards/prestige, I don’t think “likability” plays as well for females as it does males. Females have to be ‘tough’ (i.e. more like a male) to get respect. That’s true across all genres, really.

  10. No way Joey + Rory doesn’t win this. The emotions of just having them on the list… I can’t help but think the CMA wants to do it.

  11. OT – but I’m hoping there will be a review for the 2016 ACM Honors show that appeared Friday, September 9th on CBS. The show was filmed a few weeks ago but just aired and honored Eddie Rabbitt, Glen Campbell, The Statler Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldeen, Jimmy Webb, and others. I’d love to see what everyone thought of the show.

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