2023 CMA Awards: Full List of Nominees & Commentary

The nominees for this year’s CMA Awards have been announced.  Here’s who’s nominated, as well as who’s in and who’s out in all of the performer categories.


Entertainer of the Year

Luke Combs

Chris Stapleton

Carrie Underwood

Morgan Wallen

Lainey Wilson

Who’s In: Lainey Wilson | Who’s Out: Miranda Lambert

Wilson earns her first nomination in the biggest category, coming on the heels of a year that has seen her transform into one of the biggest stars within the genre, if not necessarily one of the acts like the other four nominees who have had larger pop-cultural impacts. Kane Brown is the obvious miss here by the CMA voters, as his accomplishments and overall genre ambassadorship over the last year more than hold up in the company of these five. Underwood continues to transition into the “legacy act” phase of her career, and it remains absurd that she’s yet to win this. Stapleton’s on a similar trajectory, and folks who are terminally online within country music spaces often overlook just how big a name he is with the general public.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Luke Combs

Jelly Roll

Cody Johnson

Chris Stapleton

Morgan Wallen

Who’s in: Jelly Roll | Who’s Out: Eric Church

Big get for Jelly Roll, for sure, and his emergence as one of the most interesting– not necessarily best– acts in country music over the last year makes him a deserving nominee. That Wallen didn’t run the table with voters to the extent we predicted suggests that he might not repeat his ACM win from back in the Spring, leaving the door open for nearly-as-big, not-as-problematic Combs or maybe even Johnson. Again, Kane Brown is conspicuously absent here.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Ashley McBryde

Carly Pearce

Lainey Wilson

Who’s In:  Kelsea Ballerini | Who’s Out: Carrie Underwood

Lambert’s nomination is absurd. I’ve gone to bat for her plenty over the course of her career, but she did nothing within the eligibility period to warrant this. It’s great to see Ballerini back in the mix for what’s her best work to date, and it’s also great that CMA voters continue to recognize that McBryde is on a different level than most of her peers within the mainstream… even if radio still doesn’t get that.

Vocal Group of the Year

Lady A

Little Big Town


Old Dominion

Zac Brown Band

Who’s In/Who’s Out: No changes from 2022 (or 2021)

As ever: There’s no reason for this category to remain its own entity. Old Dominion will continue their winning streak for reasons I have never once understood.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Brooks & Dunn

Brothers Osborne

Dan + Shay

Maddie & Tae

The War and Treaty

Who’s In: The War and Treaty |Who’s Out: LOCASH

As above. The BrOs latest single has been their biggest actual radio hit in several years. Beyond that? The War & Treaty really and truly should win this just based upon the actual music released during the last year.

New Artist of the Year

Zach Bryan

Jelly Roll

Parker McCollum

Megan Moroney

Hailey Whitters

Who’s In:  Zach Bryan, Jelly Roll, Megan Moroney, Hailey Whitters |

Who’s Out: HARDY, Walker Hayes, Cody Johnson, Lainey Wilson (2022 winner)

Three out of five isn’t so bad, really. McCollum has an absolutely toxic online persona, and what else is there to say about Moroney at this moment? Bryan should have been up for Entertainer Of The Year, frankly, but at least he made the cut here.

Album of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat

Luke Combs, Gettin’ Old

Ashley McBryde, Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville

Morgan Wallen, One Thing at a Time

Lainey Wilson, Bell Bottom Country

Three of our five preferred albums made the final ballot, in something of a pleasant surprise. Of course, the album we were most keen on– the one by the genre’s most prominent black artist at the moment– didn’t make the list in favor of Wallen and his 925152940577 “co-writers.” So it goes.

Single of the Year

“Fast Car” – Luke Combs

“Heart Like a Truck” – Lainey Wilson

“Need a Favor” – Jelly Roll

“Next Thing You Know” – Jordan Davis

“wait in the truck” – HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson

Wilson’s ubiquity translates into a double nomination here, and that’s fine. That Wallen’s massive crossover hit, “Last Night,” didn’t make the cut seems like a very deliberate snub by voters, and we’re real not mad at that.

Song of the Year

“Fast Car” – Tracy Chapman

“Heart Like a Truck” – Trannie Anderson, Dallas Wilson, and Lainey Wilson

“Next Thing You Know” – Jordan Davis, Greylan James, Chase McGill, and Josh Osborne

“Tennessee Orange” – David Fanning, Paul Jenkins, Megan Moroney, and Ben Williams

“wait in the truck” – Renee Blair, HARDY, Hunter Phelps, and Jordan Schmidt

Well, they actually nominated Chapman. Of course, they also nominated David “Doin’ Country Right” Fanning, so it’s not all good news here. But the question is whether “Fast Car” manages to take both Single and Song honors.

Music Video of the Year

“Light On in the Kitchen” – Ashley McBryde; Director: Reid Long

“Memory Lane” – Old Dominion; Directors: Mason Allen and Nicki Fletcher

“Need a Favor” – Jelly Roll; Director: Patrick Tohill

“Next Thing You Know” – Jordan Davis; Director: Running Bear

“‘wait in the truck” – HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson; Director: Justin Clough

Sure. Happy for McBryde. Still think the “wait in the truck” video is laughably over the top but in a way that’s interesting. Whatever.

Musical Event of the Year

“Save Me” – Jelly Roll with Lainey Wilson

“She Had Me at Heads Carolina (Remix)” – Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina

“Thank God” – Kane Brown with Katelyn Brown

“wait in the truck” – HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson

“We Don’t Fight Anymore” – Carly Pearce featuring Chris Stapleton

Oh, look! It’s Kane Brown’s second-ever CMA nomination, tucked away in one of the categories that they announce the winner to before the actual broadcast. Neat.

Musician of the Year

Jenee Fleenor (Fiddle)

Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)

Rob McNelley  (Guitar)

Derek Wells (Guitar)

Charlie Worsham (Guitar)

Who’s In: Rob McNelley (Guitar), Charlie Worsham (Guitar) |

Who’s Out: Brent Mason (Guitar), Ilya Toshinsky (Banjo/Guitar)

We’d prefer to live in the timeline where Charlie Worsham is actually in the running for Male Vocalist awards and isn’t thought of as a session musician. But thrilled to see him here anyway.


  1. Thank you for this perspective. I’m gobsmacked that Kane Brown wasn’t nominated for any major award. Loved his album. Outstanding performance with Shelton on the Voice which really highlighted his own amazing voice. Don’t understand Lambert’s nomination especially since it’s been a quiet year. Saw a lot of posts that WME deals with a heavy hand so perhaps they pushed through. And I’m pleased to see other artists get acknowledged. They should combine group and duo.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.