Snub: Kacey Musgraves, like Underwood, was passed over for a nod for female artist of the year. She had been nominated in that category in seven of the last eight years. Musgraves hasn’t released a studio album in nearly three years, since her award-sweeping Golden Hour. When she does, she may well reclaim her spot.
Surprise: Carly Pearce landed her first nomination for female artist of the year, and Ashley McBryde nabbed her second. They took the slots filled last year by category perennials Underwood and Musgraves.
Surprise: Mickey Guyton was nominated for new female artist of the year. Guyton was first nominated in this category five years ago. Another highly promising Black country star, Jimmie Allen, received his second nod for new male artist of the year. He was first nominated in the category two years ago. (ACM rules allow for two nominations in the category, but it’s unusual for the years to be non-consecutive.) Both Guyton and Allen performed on last year’s ACM Awards. Guyton sang “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” becoming the first solo Black female artist to perform on the show; Allen sang “Make Me Want To.”
Snub: Sam Hunt was shut out with his long-awaited sophomore album, Southside. His 2014 debut album, Montevallo, was showered with nominations and awards at the ACM Awards for three years, from a nod for new artist of the year in 2014 to wining the Gene Weed milestone award in 2017.
Surprise: The Cadillac Three received its first nod for group of the year. The country rock band, which was briefly known as The Cadillac Black before changing its name in 2012, replaced Midland, which had been nominated in the category the last three years running.
Snub: The Chicks released their first studio album in 14 years, Gaslighter, and got no ACM love. It’s not a total surprise. Their last album before Gaslighter, 2006’s Taking the Long Way, was passed over too.
Surprise: Three pop stars — John Legend, P!nk and Gwen Stefani — received their first ACM nods, as did Contemporary Christian music star Chris Tomlin. Legend has a video of the year nod for “Hallelujah,” a collab with Underwood. P!nk and Stefani are nominated for music event of the year for collabs with Keith Urban and Blake Shelton, respectively. (Both of those pairs performed on last year’s ACM Awards.) Tomlin is nominated for music event of the year as one of four guests on Rhett’s “Be a Light.”
Snub: Little Big Town’s latest studio album, Nightfall, failed to nab an album of the year nomination. LBT’s last three country-promoted studio albums — Tornado, Pain Killer and The Breaker — were nominated in that category. On the plus side, the group landed its 14th nomination for group of the year in the past 15 years. (The group broke its streak in 2011.)
Surprise: Ingrid Andress, who surprised many by becoming the only country artist to land a Grammy nomination in one of the Big Four categories (album, record or song of the year plus best new artist) also achieves a surprising distinction in the ACM nominations: She’s the only artist to have produced or co-produced his or her single of the year nominee. She co-produced the exquisite “More Hearts Than Mine” with Sam Ellis.
Snub: Keith Urban failed to land a nod for male artist of the year for only the fifth time in the past 18 years. The other four nominees in the category are holdovers from last year. The slot Urban filled last year was filled this year by Eric Church, who is nominated in the category for the first time in five years. (Get this: Either Urban or Church has been nominated in this category in all but one of the last 18 years. Yet they have never been nominated in the same year.)
Surprise: Michael Hardy, who was nominated for four ACM Awards last year, mostly for his work on Shelton’s “God’s Country,” is nominated for three awards this year for his own recordings, released as HARDY. He’s up for songwriter of the year for the second year in a row and also new male artist of the year.
Snub? Surprise? You Decide: Luke Bryan received his ninth consecutive nomination for entertainer of the year, but he was passed over for male artist of the year for the sixth year in a row. The voters seem to be saying: We like you as a singer, but love you as an entertainer.