Gabby Barrett, Maren Morris and more country stars could wind up in the record books if they win in their categories at the 2021 ACM Awards, which are scheduled to air Sunday. Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton are set to co-host the show, which will air from three iconic Nashville venues: Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Café.
Take a look at some of the history that could be made this year:
Gabby Barrett, who has already been announced as the winner of new female artist of the year, is competing for single of the year with “I Hope.” If she wins, she’ll become the fourth artist to win a new artist award from the ACM and single of the year in the same year. The first three were Clint Black (for “Better Man, 1989), LeAnn Rimes (for “Blue,” 1996) and Carrie Underwood (for “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” 2005).
Maren Morris’ “The Bones,” which won CMA Awards for single and song of the year in November, is nominated in the same two categories at the ACM Awards. If “The Bones” wins here for single of the year, this would be the second year in a row that a track has won in that category at both shows. Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country” achieved the feat last year. “The Bones” would be the first single by a female solo artist to win single of the year at both shows since Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” (recorded with Sons of the Desert) 20 years ago.
Greg Kurstin, who produced Morris’ recording of “The Bones,” won the 2016 Grammy for record of the year for producing Adele’s “Hello.” If “The Bones” wins the ACM for single of the year, Kurstin would become the first producer to win both of these awards for different singles.
“The Bones,” which Morris co-wrote with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz, would become the first song to win song of the year at both shows since “I Drive My Truck” seven years ago. Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary co-wrote that song, which was popularized by Lee Brice.
“I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Carly Pearce and Lee Brice is vying to become the fourth male/female duet to win single of the year. The first three were “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton” (1983), “It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw with Faith Hill” (1997), and “Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson (2011).
Two years after he won for new male artist of the year, Luke Combs is nominated for entertainer of the year. If he wins, Combs will tie Mickey Gilley and Dixie Chicks for the fastest climb from a new artist ACM win to the top prize. Gilley won the 1976 award for entertainer of the year, two years after taking most promising male vocalist. Dixie Chicks won the 2000 award for entertainer of the year, two years after taking top new vocal duet or group. Gilley and Dixie Chicks both won entertainer of the year on their second try, which would also be true of Combs if he wins.
Kane Brown is vying to become the first Black artist to win for album of the year. Brown is nominated for his seven-song EP, Mixtape Vol. 1, which features collaborations with three other Black artists, Swae Lee, Khalid and John Legend. Charley Pride was nominated for album of the year four times, including three years running from 1969-71, but never won.
Brothers Osborne are vying to become the second ongoing duo (not a collab) to win album of the year. Brooks & Dunn took the 1992 award for Brand New Man. Brothers Osborne are nominated for Skeletons.
Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird” is nominated for single, song and music video of the year. (Lambert co-wrote the song with Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby.) If “Bluebird” wins all three awards, it would become the first work to sweep all three awards since Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” 10 years ago. Only one other work in ACM history — Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s “It’s Your Love” (1997) – has swept all three awards.
Lambert could be headed for her third win for video of the year for “Bluebird.” She previously won in the category with “White Liar” (2009) and “The House That Built Me” (2010). That would make Lambert just the second female artist to win three times. Faith Hill was the first, with three consecutive wins from 1997-99, one of them shared with her husband, Tim McGraw.
The Highwomen are vying to become the first all-female group to win for group of the year since Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) won three straight awards in the category from 1998-2000. The Highwomen consists of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. Morris is also nominated for female artist of the year, a category she won last year.
Keith Urban has two nominations for music event of the year. He is nominated for “One Too Many,” a collab with P!nk, and as a featured artist on Thomas Rhett’s “Be a Light” (along with Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott and Chris Tomlin). If either wins, Urban will become the second four-time winner in the category, following Tim McGraw. Urban previously won for collabs with Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s “Nobody But You” is nominated for music event of the year. If it wins, they’ll become the third real-life couple to win in this category. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill won back-to-back awards for “It’s Your Love” (1997) and “Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me (1998). Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black won for “When I Said I Do” (1999).
Shane McAnally is vying to become the first three-time winner for songwriter of the year. The prolific hitmaker previously won in 2013 and 2018. A positive indicator: McAnally is the only songwriter with two song of the year nominations this year. He co-wrote Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards” and Old Dominion’s “Some People Do.” Hillary Lindsey, who won in this category last year, is vying to become the first songwriter to win two years running since Dallas Davidson (2011-12).