An annual reminder that it’s Chris Stapleton’s world, and we’re just living in it: Once again, the Nashville powerhouse dominated the Country Music Association Awards nominations, which were released Tuesday morning.
The rest of the nods were scattered pretty evenly among several artists. Here are five takeaways from the announcement:
1. The lack of female nominees. For the second year in a row, all five nominees for entertainer of the year, the night’s biggest category, are men – the names are similar to last year, with Garth Brooks and Eric Church swapped out for Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney. The glaring lack of female artists on country radio is already a much-discussed issue, and it’s not a great look for the genre’s most prestigious award show. Last year marked the first time in nearly a decade that the category was only men; previously, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood all received nods.
Farther down the list, Kacey Musgraves landed a nod for her critically acclaimed album “Golden Hour,” but the majority of the nominees are male artists. Lauren Alaina is the lone woman in the new artist category, despite a breakout year from Carly Pearce. In the song and single nominees, the only female artist (not counting Lambert’s featured vocals on “Drowns the Whiskey”) is Bebe Rexha; she isn’t a country artist but had a gigantic hit with “Meant to Be,” a collaboration with Florida Georgia Line. Really, no nod for Underwood (the co-host of the show!) for her comeback single “Cry Pretty”?
2. Stapleton’s continued domination. The country crooner has been an award-show favorite for the past three years, bolstered by his viral performance with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMAs. This time around, he earned five nominations, the most of anyone: single and song of the year for “Broken Halos”; album of the year for “From A Room: Volume 2?; male vocalist; and, of course, entertainer.
Could this finally be the year he gets the show’s biggest prize? After two consecutive wins for Garth Brooks, who’s not even nominated this time, we’re thinking it’s highly likely.
3. The repeat of “Body Like a Back Road“ in the song category. We did a double take when we saw Sam Hunt’s smash was nominated for song of the year – wasn’t it already in that category last year?! Indeed, it was. It’s technically not against the rules: Eligibility includes chart performance, and the song was so successful in the past year (with the second-longest run on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in history) that it apparently still qualifies. ”Body Like a Back Road“ would only be ineligible if it had won last year, but it lost to Little Big Town’s Taylor Swift-penned hit ”Better Man.“
4. The coronation of Dan + Shay’s “Tequila“ and Aldean’s “Drowns the Whiskey“ as the year’s biggest hits. These singles, both big commercial successes, are clearly also industry favorites; they each received three nominations, more than any other song. Coincidentally, they’re both about alcohol and past relationships. This should not be surprising, given the genre.
Some notable songs left on the table: Maren Morris’ ”I Could Use a Love Song,“ her first No. 1; Luke Combs’ ”When It Rains It Pours,“ an earworm that won’t stop selling; and Luke Bryan’s ”Most People Are Good,“ a thoughtful ballad that seems tailor-made for song of the year; and Kane Brown’s ”What Ifs,“ the triple platinum single from one of the genre’s youngest new stars. Speaking of which …
5. The lack of Kane Brown. Despite his sales and touring power, this particular show is slow to warm up to Brown – he’s received a few Academy of Country Music Award and CMT Music Award noms, but none from the CMAs. This year seemed like a given, considering the enormous success of singles ”What Ifs,“ a duet with Lauren Alaina, and ”Heaven.“ If anything, it’s a possible loss to the TV telecast, as he has a fiercely devoted fan base.