This story has been updated (see below).
Kane Brown is not happy about getting snubbed by the CMAs, again. And as he’s did last year, he took to Twitter on Wednesday (8-28) after the CMA nominations were revealed to show his disdain, posting a GIF of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shaking his head in disappointment. This caused many reactions on Twitter and beyond of people both in Kane’s corner, and people calling him a sore loser who might receive a nomination if he didn’t complain as much, along with predictions that he would eventually buckle and delete the tweet, which he did. And then Kane Brown deleted his entire Twitter account. At time of posting, there is no Kane Brown on Twitter (see update below).
The situation is a little different from 2018 when it felt like Kane Brown was one of the biggest, and fastest-rising stars in country music right beside Luke Combs. Sales of Kane Brown’s latest album Experiment have been lower than expected for what was supposed to be country music’s hottest new star, and similar to Florida Georgia Line, it appears both the country music listening public and industry are moving away from the Bro-Country style of performers that have dominated mainstream country music in previous years.
CMA voters have been dubious of Kane Brown from the beginning. The early portion of his career was marked by astronomical numbers that seemed too unreal to be true, causing a cloud of suspicion to swirl around his ascent. In 2015, Kane Brown addressed the concerns by saying, “A lot of the people in Nashville think the numbers are fake, but they can’t prove it. They’ve never had a Justin Bieber in country music, so they don’t know how to deal with it.”
Earlier this summer, Kane Brown added a new song to his current album Experiment on Spotify, allowing the entire record to be re-sent through Spotify’s “New Releases” promotional cycle, and a new release date of July 12th to be posted when the album had been originally released on November 9th, 2018. This paralleled a boost in streaming activity and chart performance, once again raising concerns that Kane Brown’s management was taking advantage of streaming loopholes and a lack of oversight in the streaming world.
Nonetheless, the appeal for Kane Brown is significant, and it does seem strange he hasn’t even received a nomination. However, over the last few years, the CMA has put its foot down when it comes to handing out awards solely due to commercial achievement, and has started to value critical acclaim. The Brothers Osborne had no business winning the CMA’s Vocal Duo of the Year the last three years. They’re not even in the same universe as Florida Georgia Line when it comes to sales, chart success, and touring purses. Yet by awarding Brothers Osborne over Florida Georgia Line, the CMA voters sent a message that the era of Bro-Country was over. Substance, and the degree in which your music is grounded in the roots of country now counts for something. This is the same reason Sam Hunt has never won a CMA Award despite his massive commercial success, and why Jason Isbell received a nomination for his album The Nashville Sound in 2017.
The other potential factor in Kane Brown’s commercial malaise and lack of attention is the rise of Lil Nas X. What made Kane Brown unique in the country music space was how he drew influences from both traditional country and R&B/hip-hop. This was reason he called his last record Experiment—an experimental mixing of these two music worlds. He was also one of mainstream country’s few artists of African American descent, which drew him elevated attention. However Lil Nas X has stolen much of that recognition and thunder, while think piece writers often espousing the importance of Lil Nas X integrating country music ignore the contributions of not just Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, and mainstream country’s other African American performers in their rush to paint country music racist, but all of country music’s black performers of both the past and present, hiding their efforts and successes to make country music appear exclusionary.
The Lil Nas X phenomenon has been a driver of black erasure and the overshadowing of African American performers more than the potential vestiges of racism left over from country music’s far past. Lil Nas X now has a CMA nomination. “Old Town Road” was nominated for the 2019 Musical Event of the Year as a collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus, and the song is a clear frontrunner to win the award come November. Meanwhile Kane Brown—an artist who has devoted his career to the country genre—is still on the outside looking into the CMA nomination process. All things being equal, Kane Brown does have a legitimate gripe, even with the concerns swirling around him about the manipulation of streaming numbers—something that is also swirling around Lil Nas X.
Kane Brown’s career will continue, and after he cools off, it’s likely his Twitter account will be re-activated. But if he ever wants love from the CMAs, perhaps he should work harder to keep his composure, find some humility, and make them look like the offending party, as opposed to vice versa.
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UPDATE: 8/30: Kane Brown restarted his Twitter account late Friday morning, and posted on Instagram, “My management team will be running my twitter and Facebook from now on so I can focus on music and my family and stay off my phone it’s taking over my life lol so instagram will be the only thing u can get ahold of me on at least until the next album.”
The GIF of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shaking his head at the CMAs is included.