As the dust settles on the 2016 CMA Awards nominations, announced Wednesday morning from Nashville, it stirs the usual mix of “they got it right!” and righteous indignation. While the latter might not be expressed by the artists themselves – not everyone is as ballsy as Sturgill Simpson – some of this year’s snubs do deserve a public forum.
Most egregious: the exclusion of Cam in the Female Vocalist and New Artist races. While the singer-songwriter’s stark, vulnerable “Burning House” (a Grammy nominee earlier this year) earned nods for Song of the Year and Video, the California native was shut out of the Female Vocalist race in favor of another newcomer, Maren Morris, one of the CMAs’ leading nominees with five.
The biggest oversight with regards to Cam, however, is her omission from the Best New Artist category. While Cole Swindell has had a great year with his You Should Be Here LP and its poignant title track, he was already nominated in the category two years ago, shortly after he notched his first Number One single – Cam seems the more timely choice, especially given her Grammy recognition. Meanwhile, 2014’s Best New Artist winner Brett Eldredge, renowned for his smooth voice and his two recent hits “Lose My Mind” and “Drunk on Your Love,” is criminally absent from the Male Vocalist category.
In the Entertainer of the Year race, Carrie Underwood makes her first-ever appearance in the category, which is surprising only because it’s taken this damn long. Chris Stapleton, who led the charge for traditional country with 2015’s Album of the Year Traveller, and won in two other categories, joins Underwood as a first-timer in the Entertainer nominees. Underwood’s nod, and the arguably early inclusion for Stapleton in the most prestigious category, helped bump Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert, who were all nominated last year.
After a streak of nominations from 2002 to 2009, Chesney only made the Entertainer cut again in 2012 and 2015, but the four-time champ is between albums, with his upcoming Cosmic Hallelujah having been bumped from a summer release to late October. The absence of Church’s name is much more surprising, as he’s tied with Morris and Stapleton for the most nominations and has consistently sold out his arena tours. Lambert was an Entertainer nominee in 2015 and is the reigning Female Vocalist for the sixth record year. She has a chance to extend that streak to seven, but the apparent breakout of Morris, bolstered by her sing-along hit “My Church,” may threaten Lambert repeating.
Lambert’s ex-husband Blake Shelton, meanwhile, whose five-time streak as Male Vocalist was snapped last year, isn’t even a contender at the 50th annual CMAs. His post-divorce album If I’m Honest – released in May within the voting eligibility period of July 1st, 2015, through June 30th, 2016 – didn’t resonate with voters, nor did Shelton’s status as a pop-culture figure on The Voice land him back in the Entertainer field.
Touring and radio giant Jason Aldean was also a notable snub for both Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, while Kacey Musgraves, who has struggled for radio airplay despite the critical acclaim for her album Pageant Material, landed an out-of-left-field Female Vocalist nomination. But Margo Price, another acclaimed trad-country singer-songwriter who scored a high-profile appearance on Saturday Night Live in April, and the revered Brandy Clark were overlooked, as were their respective albums Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and Big Day in a Small Town. Like Price and Clark, Sturgill Simpson also appeared on the initial ballot for CMA voting, but he too failed to advance to a nomination – not that he would have attended the ceremony anyway.
When it comes to the Vocal Duo and Vocal Group categories, the nominees are the usual suspects, with a couple of exceptions. Best New Artist nominees Old Dominion take the Band Perry’s slot from last year in Vocal Group, while Thompson Square, a 2015 Duo contender are MIA. In their place is arguably the most touching nomination of the CMA Awards: a Vocal Duo nod for Joey + Rory. Last nominated in 2010, the husband-and-wife duo return to the category one final time, a fitting tribute to the couple in light of Joey Feek’s death from cancer earlier this year.