2019 ACM Awards Nominations Should Be Regarded with Perspective

The ACM Awards announced their 2019 nominees on Wednesday (2-21), and it felt so liberating to not feel the need to immediately deliberate over the organization’s conclusions, and instead regard them with the tacit relevance they probably deserve. Don’t get me wrong, awards shows still matter as an economic engine for the nominees, performers, and eventual winners. Not giving awards shows any attention in hopes they will just go away would be a fool’s errand, and when April rolls around, Saving Country Music will probably be cueing up a live blog to sow dissent and give whatever props to the few things they get right at the ACMs, and then the whole thing will cycle around to the next year.

Of course the big story line coming out of the 2019 ACM Awards is the lack of women, which would have been the story regardless of how the nominations played out. It is being a little disingenuous and shortsighted to act like women are getting shafted when it comes to country music awards this year, when Kacey Musgraves just won three of the four Grammy Awards in the country categories, as well as the all genre Album of the Year, and Brandi Carlile swept all three of the Americana categories as well. Musgraves also won Album of the Year at the CMAs back in November. And if form holds, Kacey Musgraves is also very likely to win the ACM Album of the Year for Golden Hour come April, giving her the trifecta of Album of the Year trophies for this year’s cycle.

So far in this awards show cycle, Kacey Musgraves has won 4 out of the 7 of the non gender single/song/album awards handed out. For those of you not particularly great with statistics, that’s a majority, and not just for women, but for Kacey Musgraves. Kacey is also is up for two of the three single/song/album categories for the ACMs in April, is a shoo-in for Album of the Year, and has to be considered a strong contender for Song of the Year for “Space Cowboy,” which also won that distinction at the Grammy Awards. Again, this would mean that a women would win the majority of the single/song/album awards across the CMA/Grammy/ACM season, or if Musgraves only wins one ACM Award, it would mean women won half. This is what is called gender parity.

But let’s not let the ACMs or the country music industry off the hook. Women still feel under-represented in the ACM song nominations, and it continues to remain a fair question why the New Artist of the Year category for the men includes five nominees, while the same category for women only includes four. If artist development is one of the reasons women are disappearing from the country format, a New Artist nomination would be a very useful distinction to hand to an up-and-comer that can then tout this as part of their resume. A rule change compelling the nomination process to include five artists in each category is an easy solution here, and may also force the nomination process to dig deeper into the country world into independent artists who also deserve distinction. You can’t guarantee equality of outcome, but you can guarantee equality of opportunity. And right now, women are receiving one less opportunity than the men in the ACM’s New Artist categories.

Another issue is the ACM nominees for Entertainer of the Year, which just like the CMAs, fail to include a woman. But the question we need to ask ourselves is, which woman or women would or could you include in this category for this year? Miranda Lambert hasn’t released a record since 2016. Carrie Underwood did release a record last year, but didn’t really tour, and over the last decade or so, touring has become a big factor in the Entertainer of the Year category, if not the biggest. Perhaps you could consider Kacey Musgraves, but her big Grammy moment came after the majority of voting for the ACMs, and her big touring note from 2018 was opening for Harry Styles.

Maybe next year Kacey Musgraves will be a big contender for Entertainer of the Year after her Grammy bump, or Carrie Underwood as she launches her Cry Pretty world tour, or Miranda Lambert as she (likely) releases a new record, or Maren Morris who is gaining momentum. There’s also a cart-before-the-horse factor here of women not getting radio support, and so thus not being able to turn in an Entertainer of the Year-caliber calendar cycle which also must be considered. But right now, there just isn’t a woman that makes sense as an Entertainer of the Year nominee, and nominating a woman just because she’s a woman would feel more like tokenism.

This leads into another issue with worrying too much about awards shows. It’s hard to argue that Kacey Musgraves hasn’t deserved the awards she’s won so far, because considering the field of nominees, she has. But let’s also not allow award show wins to gloss over deeper issues facing country music, whether it’s a gender grievance, concerns for traditional artists getting locked out of the process, or artists of substance not being given a fair shake beside commercial powerhouses. Handing out awards to quell public uproar can be a way to satiate criticism, and mask instead of address more underlying problems in the industry that don’t allow the best art to rise to the top, regardless of gender, style, or major label status. It’s also ineffective. As illustrated above, Kacey Musgraves is killing it at awards shows right now, yet all the press wants to talk about is how women aren’t being represented at country music awards shows, which isn’t only untrue, it’s kind of an insult to Kacey Musgraves.

The ACM Awards are what they are, which is country music’s 3rd rail awards show rife with bloc voting and horse trading. You hope for the best men and women nominated to win. But ultimately—especially in this streaming era of music and the slow implosion of broadcast television—it’s the support good artists are finding in their careers translated through sustainable touring, streaming, and sales numbers that really matter, measured in scope against their peers on respective levels from the mainstream all the way to the underground. An ACM Award has no cash value. Fans who will show up to your shows and support you regardless of what is popular at the moment or what corrupted organization decides to mint on trophies, that is the asset every artist should work to earn.

2019 ACM Awards Nominees:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
• Jason Aldean
• Luke Bryan
• Kenny Chesney
• Chris Stapleton
• Keith Urban

FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
• Miranda Lambert
• Ashley McBryde
• Maren Morris
• Kacey Musgraves
• Carrie Underwood

MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
• Dierks Bentley
• Luke Combs
• Thomas Rhett
• Chris Stapleton
• Keith Urban

DUO OF THE YEAR
• Brothers Osborne
• Dan + Shay
• Florida Georgia Line
• LOCASH
• Maddie & Tae

GROUP OF THE YEAR
• Lady Antebellum
• LANCO
• Little Big Town
• Midland
• Old Dominion

NEW FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
• Danielle Bradbery
• Lindsay Ell
• Ashley McBryde
• Carly Pearce

NEW MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
• Jimmie Allen
• Luke Combs
• Jordan Davis
• Michael Ray
• Mitchell Tenpenny

NEW DUO OR GROUP OF THE YEAR
• High Valley
• LANCO
• Runaway June

ALBUM OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]
Dan + Shay – Dan + Shay
Producers: Scott Hendricks / Dan Smyers / Matt Dragstrem
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

Desperate Man – Eric Church
Producers: Jay Joyce / Arturo Buenahora Jr.
Record Label: EMI Records Nashville

From A Room: Volume 2 – Chris Stapleton
Producers: Dave Cobb / Chris Stapleton
Record Label: Mercury Nashville

Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
Producers: Ian Fitchuk / Daniel Tashian / Kacey Musgraves
Record Label: MCA Nashville

The Mountain – Dierks Bentley
Producers: Ross Copperman / Jon Randall Stewart / Arturo Buenahora Jr.
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

SINGLE OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]
• Down to the Honky Tonk – Jake Owen
Producer: Joey Moi
Record Label: Big Loud Records

• Heaven – Kane Brown
Producer: Dann Huff / Polow Da Don
Record Label: RCA Nashville

• Meant To Be – Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line
Producer: Wilshire for Rock The Soul Ent
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records

• Most People Are Good – Luke Bryan
Producers: Jeff Stevens / Jody Stevens
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

• Tequila – Dan + Shay
Producers: Scott Hendricks / Dan Smyers
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

SONG OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Songwriter(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]
• Break Up In The End – Cole Swindell
Writers: Jessie Jo Dillon / Chase McGill / Jon Nite
Publishers: EMI April Music Inc. / Nite Writer Music (ASCAP) / Songs of Universal, Inc. / Plum Nelly (BMI) / Big Music Machine (BMI)/ Big Ass Pile Of Dimes Music (BMI)

• Broken Halos – Chris Stapleton
Writers: Mike Henderson / Chris Stapleton
Publishers: WB Music Corp./House of Sea Gayle Music, admin. by ClearBox Rights/Spirit Catalog Holdings, S.a.r.l. admin. by Spirit Two Nashville (ASCAP); Straight Six Music (BMI)

• Meant To Be – Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line
Writers: David Garcia / Tyler Hubbard / Joshua Miller / Bebe Rexha
Publishers: BMG Platinum Songs/Kiss Me If You Can Music (BMI) (all rights administered by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC) Big Loud Mountain (BMI) and T Hubb Publishing (BMI). All Rights Administered by Round Hill Works. Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. on behalf of itself and Songs of the Corn and Jack 10 Publishing. Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP) D Soul Music (ASCAP) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)

• Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves
Writers: Luke Laird / Shane McAnally / Kacey Musgraves
Publishers: Smack Hits/Smack Songs, admin by Kobalt Music Group ltd. (GMR)/Universal Music Works/We Are Creative NBaSmack Hits/Smack Songs, LLC, admin. by Kobalt Music Group Ltd. (GMR); Universal Music Works/We Are Creative Nation/Jake and Mack Music, admin. by Universal Music Works; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./351 Music (BMI).

• Tequila – Dan + Shay
Writers: Nicolle Galyon / Jordan Reynolds / Dan Smyers
Publishers: Beats and Banjos (ASCAP)/ WB Music Corp. (ASCAP)/A Girl Named Charlie (BMI) / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI) / Buckeye26 (ASCAP) / Jreynmusic (ASCAP)

• Yours – Russell Dickerson
Writers: Casey Brown / Russell Dickerson / Parker Welling
Publishers: BMG Platinum Songs/Kailey’s Dream / So Essential Tunes / Not Just Another Song Publishing / Hillbilly Science and Research Publishing/Trailerlily Music

VIDEO OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Producer(s)/Director(s)/Artist(s)]
• Babe – Sugarland featuring Taylor Swift
Producer: Roger Hunt
Director: Anthony Mandler

• Burn Out – Midland
Producer: Ben Skipworth
Director: TK McKamy / Cameron Duddy

• Burning Man – Dierks Bentley featuring Brothers Osborne
Producer: Nate Eggert
Director: Wes Edwards

• Drunk Girl – Chris Janson
Producer: Ben Skipworth
Director: Jeff Venable

• Shoot Me Straight – Brothers Osborne
Producer: April Kimbrell
Director: Wes Edwards / Ryan Silver

• Tequila – Dan + Shay
Producer: Christen Pinkston
Director: Patrick Tracy

SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR*(Off Camera Award)
• Ross Copperman
• Ashley Gorley
• Shane McAnally
• Chase McGill
• Josh Osborne

MUSIC EVENT OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]
• Burning Man – Dierks Bentley featuring Brothers Osborne
Producers: Ross Copperman / Jon Randall Stewart / Arturo Buenahora Jr.
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

• Drowns the Whiskey – Jason Aldean featuring Miranda Lambert
Producer: Michael Knox
Record Labels: Macon Music, LLC; Broken Bow Records; BBR Music Group; BMG

• Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – David Lee Murphy featuring Kenny Chesney
Producers: Buddy Cannon / Kenny Chesney / David Lee Murphy
Record Label: Reviver Records

• Keeping Score – Dan + Shay featuring Kelly Clarkson
Producers: Scott Hendricks / Dan Smyers
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

• Meant To Be – Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line
Producer: Wilshire for Rock The Soul Ent
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records