Maren Morris fans, rejoice. Your girl is the lead nominee for the 53rd annual CMA Awards on Nov. 13 with six nominations, and no one could be more deserving of the recognition.
With the launch of her sophomore album GIRL, Morris has established herself as one of country music’s most honest storytellers. She landed key all-genre performances at major festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, which have secured her spot as one of the genre’s greatest ambassadors. “The Middle” with Zedd and Grey made her signature melisma inescapable. And the formation of the Highwomen band with Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires only shows her commitment to contributing to country music’s traditional legacy.
However, with every awards show announcement, there are usually a few snubs and surprises that fans can’t ignore. It’s important to note that the eligibility period for the 53rd annual CMA Awards was from July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019. Here are a few of the standout observations we’ve noticed:
Entertainer of the Year: All of the nominees are deserving of the honor, especially Oklahomans Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood. Whether it’s at a dive bar or Notre Dame, every Brooks concert is pure magic. And Underwood is one of country music’s most consistent powerhouse vocalists. Eric Church is fire personified every time he steps onstage, and Keith Urban’s contributions to music are timeless. But Blake Shelton should be in the mix. He’s a household name after multiple seasons of coaching rising artists on The Voice, with a successful vodka line and a fourth Ole Red restaurant opening in Orlando, Fla. in 2020 to boot. “God’s Country,” a single and song of the year nominee, was the soundtrack of spring that burned through summer. But the last time Shelton was nominated for entertainer was in 2014 with George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan and Urban. That year, the award went to his buddy, Bryan. And where is Jason Aldean? The Georgia native has easily defined the last decade with his signature hard rock-country sound. His Ride All Night tour will wrap at the Texas’ Rangers Globe Life Park on Oct. 11, and he will return to Las Vegas, Dec. 6-8, for Jason Aldean’s Ride All Night Vegas at Park Theater at Park MGM.
Male Vocalist of the Year: Experiencing déjà vu? The 2018 nominees — Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton and Urban — make triumphant returns this year. But Shelton, Kane Brown or Chris Young are arguably the genre’s most successful crooners at the moment. Brown is the first artist in history to top all five Billboard Country charts at once. Last year he began using his platform for good when he started reserving his meet-and-greets for children and adolescents from the Boys and Girls Club of America. Plus, “Good As You” was a multi-week No. 1. Young’s last year in music includes back-to-back hits “Hangin’ On” and “Raised on Country,” as well as his current Raised On Country Tour with Eli Young Band and Matt Stell. Partner that with the fact that he’s been a reliable hit-maker for the last decade.
New Artist of the Year: Beyond any shadow of a doubt, all 2019 nominees are right where they need to be. Except we can’t make sense of Midland’s return. Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach and Jess Carson were 2018 nominees in the same category, so shouldn’t that rule the band out for the following year? Asking for a friend.
Single of the Year: Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne’s “Burning Man” was pretty hot at the start of the year. But it wasn’t a multi-week No. 1 like Brown’s “Good As You,” Morgan Wallen’s “Whiskey Glasses,” Chase Rice’s “Eyes On You” and Scotty McCreery’s “This Is It.” All of these are worthy of the nomination, as well as the behemoth, “Old Town Road” remix with Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. But can’t nobody tell me nothin’.
Vocal Group of the Year: Rascal Flatts, where y’at? The band’s Summer Playlist tour was ridiculous amounts of first-class showmanship powered by the success of “Back to Life,” another undeniable earworm. However, the bands in the 2019 vocal group category — Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Midland, Old Dominion and Zac Brown Band – deserve their nominations, too.
Musical Event of the Year: This is arguably the fiercest competition among new collaborations featuring ’90s country legends. Check out those names – Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man” featuring Luke Combs is up against Brooks and Shelton’s “Dive Bar” and Lil Nas X’s unstoppable “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus. They should call it a draw and start a super-super group with fellow nominees Morris, Brothers Osborne, Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell.
Musician of the Year: All the congrats in the universe go to Jenee Fleenor. As Blake Shelton’s longtime fiddle player, she is the first female musician ever to be nominated in the category. Her fellow nominees are Ilya Toshinsky, Derek Wells, Mac McAnally and Paul Franklin.