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ACM Awards Nominations 2014: Why Do We Even Bother? [A Rant]

49th ACM Awards logo

Once upon a time, my world was on firing for the love of a good country music-focused awards show. Plagued with honest intentions and childish ideals, I would hunker down with family and friends and root for the most stylishly shiny and squeaky clean superstars, hoping my personal favorites would take home some crystal. Years before my admiration for Carrie Underwood blossomed, I clung to the traditional roots of Patty Loveless and Vince Gill, as well as the pop-sheen of Leann Rimes, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks. At the tender age of 10 years old, I hadn’t come to fully realize how polluted Music Row really was, or how it didn’t particularly matter how massive an artists’ previous year had been.

Sure, numbers don’t lie, but voters certainly do.

As I witnessed the unveiling of this year’s clique-ish list of nominees for the 49th Academy of Country Music Awards, I can only muster mild enthusiasm. What had been regurgitated to me through country radio for most of 2012 and 2013 was now re-packaged on a soiled and rusted platter (Blake Shelton), with an assortment of molded goat cheese tartlets (Florida Georgia Line) and a half-sipped, and rather soured, mimosa (Luke Bryan).

All joking aside, why do we even bother?

As much as I enjoy Miranda Lambert and her music, the Lambert-Shelton stronghold on Nashville has become so bloated that I’m completely convinced it will never end. As USA Today reporter Brian Mansfield joked following Lambert’s fourth consecutive Female Vocalist win at last fall’s CMA Awards, “Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton have to stay married now, or they’ll quit winning awards.” [See previous rant: The Golden Age of Country Music]

As silly as that proclamation comes across, it is absolutely true. When the April 6th show goes live, Lambert will once again walk away with her fourth consecutive ACM Female Vocalist trophy, while Shelton is crowned the godsend of all godsends, destined to become the trendsetter for aspiring bro-country performers everywhere. Meanwhile, all the other nominees will be forced to look pretty for the rolling cameras that will be in their faces during the entire telecast. Here’s to hoping Kacey Musgraves whips out her stank face just as their names are called…because that’s the only thing I’m rooting for this year.

Elsewhere, the nominees are nearly carbon copies of the 2013 CMAs. It runs like an exhausted beer-swigging, sugar-shaking, moonlight-dancing, truck-tailgating laundry list of every No. 1 smash hit of the past 12 months: Bryan, FGL, Shelton, Tim McGraw.

Bro-Country Recipe Directions: Make sure to add a teaspoon of faux-emotional-ism, four cans of wild cherries (on her lips), five cups of sugar crystal (the enriched white works best) and allow to marinate overnight in a gallon of ice cold beer.

Rinse and repeat as many times as need for full effect.

As for Underwood’s lack of recognition in the Entertainer of the Year field, I am in no honky-tonking way surprised. Her 2013 was career-defining. I could list all her accomplishments for you, but I’ll let this ad (which was constructed by her management company, not her label) do all the bragging:

CU 2013 Bragging Rights

Even if Underwood isn’t your particular brand of herbal mint tea, numbers don’t lie. But you bet those painted-on blue jeans of yours, that voters do.

Jason Aldean, who had a blockbuster tour and a platinum-selling album, couldn’t even manage to squeeze into the cool kids club of Entertainers. Some of his single choices might not sit particularly well with me — to this day, “Black Tears” remains one of my absolute favorite deep cuts of his that should have been a single — but I can’t deny that the guy is remarkably talented and deserved a little love here.

As far as George Strait’s nomination, I can’t even pretend to be as shocked as Taylor Swift is for hers. He’s a true legend, and considering his last hurrah on the road, he deserves it.

Now, for Swiftie: Her Valedictorian speech at the CMAs last year cemented that country music is grasping at straws to claim her. Red is far and away a pop project, “All Too Well” not included, and despite experimenting with dubpstep, Coldplay-inspired arena rock and simple bubblegum confections (a la Katy Perry), she still remains one of the top contenders. She might not be an awards show darling as she used to be in her Fearless era, but you better believe that she will be the teeny-bopping poster child of country music until her dying day.

The Male and Female Vocalist fields are what I expected. Brad Paisley and Hunter Hayes were shutout in the former. Underwood and Sheryl Crow (who earned her first solo Top 20 hit with “Easy” last year) appear to fill the inevitable “token” slots. When you look at Underwood’s only other nomination, in Video of the Year, you can get the picture that her award days are coming to a tragic end (expect she did win a Grammy for “Blown Away” in 2013). You must remember that Video (along with Song) was determined by a committee, separate from the membership voting block, as Windmills Country reminded us today. Thus, Underwood’s Female nod could potentially be a “oh, we have no one else to nominate, so why not throw her a vote or two” kind of thing. On Crow’s nomination, it was a welcome (and much needed) salute.

Further done the list, the Album of the Year category is a who-could-outdo-each-other-with-misogynistic-hip-hop breakdown, save for Musgraves and her sensational Same Trailer Different Park. Sure, even her album has a peppering of too much polish, but her songwriting more than makes up for a few production faults. Coming off a Grammy win for Best Country Album, her critical acclaim will probably benefit her here, too. And AMEN for that, I say!

Other Notes:

  • The love for “I Drive Your Truck” and its songwriters: It is a song worth rewarding.
  • Lee Brice edging into Male Vocalist? Great to see fresh blood but not deserving over Paisley and Hayes.
  • Dan + Shay earning a Vocal Duo nomination seems out of left field, but really isn’t. They might be the nicest guys at the neighborhood block-party, but they serve as Warner Bros. answer to FGL. With Sugarland out of the picture, there really wasn’t anyone else to put up here. Although, the Civil Wars should have taken their place.
  • “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” landing in Song of the Year is a delight. Hillary Lindsey is one of my favorite songwriters working today, and Gary Allan certainly delivers on the track. I think this committee needs to become the new voting membership. Whattya think?
  • Video of the Year: This entire category is a nice change of pace. It shows the diversity that truly existed at country radio in 2013.

Entertainer of the Year
Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift
Miranda Lambert
George Strait

Male Vocalist of the Year
Luke Bryan
Jason Aldean
Blake Shelton
Lee Brice
Keith Urban

Female Vocalist of the Year
Carrie Underwood
Taylor Swift
Miranda Lambert
Kacey Musgraves
Sheryl Crow

Album of the Year:
“Same Trailer Different Park,” Kacey Musgraves
“Based On A True Story,” Blake Shelton
“Crash My Party,” Luke Bryan
“Here’s To The Good Times,” Florida Georgia Line
“Two Lanes Of Freedom,” Tim McGraw

Vocal Group of the Year:
The Band Perry
Little Big Town
Eli Young Band
Zac Brown Band
Lady Antebellum

Vocal Duo of the Year:
Florida Georgia Line
Thompson Square
Love & Theft
Big & Rich
Dan + Shay

Single Record of the Year (award to artist and producers)
“Cruise,” Florida Georiga LIne
“Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
“I Drive Your Truck,” Lee Brice
“Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert
“Wagon Wheel,” Darius Rucker

Song Of The Year (award to artist and songwriters)
“Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain),” Gary Allan, Hillary Lindsey, Matthew Warren (Gary Allan)
“I Drive Your Truck,” Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Jimmy Yeary (Lee Brice)
“Mama’s Broken Heart,” Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves (Miranda Lambert)
“Mine Would Be You,” Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Deric Ruttan (Blake Shelton)
“Wagon Wheel,” Bob Dylan & Ketch Secor (Darius Rucker)

Vocal Event of the Year
“Boys Round Here,” Blake Shelton & Pistol Annies
“Cruise (remix),” Florida Georgia Line & Nelly
“Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
“Wagon Wheel,” Dairus Rucker,
“We Were Us,” Miranda Lambert & Keith Urban

Video of the Year
“Better Dig Two,” The Band Perry
“Blowin’ Smoke,” Kacey Musgraves
“Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
“I Drive Your Truck,” Lee Brice
“Two Black Cadillacs,” Carrie Underwood
“Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert

About Jason Scott

I'm a Nashville transplant by way of West Virginia. I find that country music heals my soul more than anything else, which is what led me to write about it, obsessively. My work has also been featured on Popdust, Country Outfitter, CM Chat Live, NashvilleGab, Examiner.com, Celebuzz and Hollywood Life. Find me on Twitter: @jasonthescott.
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7 Responses to ACM Awards Nominations 2014: Why Do We Even Bother? [A Rant]

  1. Pingback: 2014 ACMs (April 6th) - Page 33

  2. Vince says:

    I’m sure Blake and Miranda deserve their nominations. They really, really, really worked hard just to get this position in country music. I remember before when Blake and Miranda were overlooked, underrated and gets ZERO nominations! They paid their dues. Honestly, I rather have them than any artist in country music right now. At least they stay true to their roots and not try to crossover.

    • I don’t deny they’ve worked hard, at least Miranda has, but when other artists are outdoing them both in touring, single/album sales, outside country gigs (such as Carrie’s “The Sound Of Music Live!”), etc., the nominations/awards quickly become about who you know and not actually who deserves them.

  3. Katrina says:

    I do think Hunter was shut out; I enjoy the current country music and don’t think George should have gotten ETOTY nomination- I think they should have given him his own.
    I’m glad Blake, Miranda, and FGL were nominated. Taylor not so much.
    I’m also not a big Kacey fan. I’ve seen her live and her attitude is pretty bad in person.

    • I’m not terribly surprised at Hunter’s omission. Sure, he had a great year, but here are far more men getting success, so he has more competition. I still think he deserved a Male Vocalist nod over Lee, though. As far as George goes, I would tend to agree. Just because he’s going on his final tour, doesn’t suggest he’s currently relevant, especially over people like Carrie and Jason (both would had HUGE touring numbers last year and are current charting artists).

  4. Pingback: ACM Awards 2014 – Predictions | For The Country Record

  5. Pingback: Why Dan + Shay Should Never Have Been Nominated For An ACM | For The Country Record

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