Kip Moore
Credit: Rick Reins

The 46th Annual CMA award nominations were announced yesterday. Here are a few thoughts on who made the cut — and who was sorely left out:

SURPRISE! Kelly Clarkson: I don't know that anyone in the country community dislikes Kelly Clarkson. Heck, I don't know if anyone in any community dislikes Kelly Clarkson. But it rings rather false that she scored a Female Vocalist of the Year nomination. Though the original American Idol did have a country remix of her single "Mr. Know It All" out to radio last year, and though she did appear on Jason Aldean's "Don't You Wanna Stay," two songs does not a country singer make — even if she is dating Reba McEntire's stepson. Should Lady Gaga have gotten a nomination after putting out a country remix of "Born This Way"?

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

SNUB Kellie Pickler: If there was one lady who was sorely ignored as a result of Clarkson's inclusion, it was the criminally underrated Kellie Pickler. Back in January, the singer, who made headlines yesterday after shaving her head in support of a cancer-stricken friend, released a terrifically rootsy record, 100 Proof, which was stuffed with authentic honky-tonk toe-tappers like "Where's Tammy Wynette," but it was all but ignored by country radio (and according to Pickler, her former label as well). She deserved some recognition from the country community.

SURPRISE! Eric Church: It was nice to see Church lead the field with four nominations following his breakout year. His well-regarded disc, Chief, has gone platinum. He has toured all over the U.S. on his successful Blood, Sweat, and Beers tour. And his songs "Drink in my Hand" and "Springsteen" are wide-open, feel-great radio smashes enjoyed by country and pop fans alike.

SNUB Dierks Bentley: The gravelly-voiced charmer has had three No. 1 singles in a row — "Am I the Only One," "Home," and "5-1-5-0" — and although he got noms for Single and Album of the Year (both well deserved), methinks he could have easily replaced Keith Urban in the Male Vocalist category. Though, the CMAs love their stalwart inclusions.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

SNUB Kip Moore: Brantley Giblert, Hunter Hayes and Thompson Square (hooray, a woman! …even if she is only one half of the duo) were all pretty much guaranteed Best New Artist noms, but Kip Moore, with his Springsteen-y album, infectious hits "Somethin' Bout A Truck" (which hit No. 1) and "Beer Money," seemed like a lock to me, too. I take nothing away from Love and Theft or Lee Brice, but Kip Moore's debut disc is consistent and impressive, and he sounds terrific live. He's just a curious subtraction.

SURPRISE! The Civil Wars: It says something about the in-flux state of country music that The Civil Wars' sparse, folky sound can be considered country right alongside the decisively poppy Sugarland, who didn't even release any new music last year. I'm happy that the Civil Wars are included though — the whole music industry is trying to figure out where Americana acts like The Civil Wars, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers fit into awards shows.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

SURPRISE! Little Big Town: "Pontoon" hasn't been out for long, but it's clearly caught the attention of the Country Music Association — and it just hit No. 1 today. The hard-working quartet, who've never quite been able to fully break out as country superstars got some satisfying recognition with noms for Single of the Year, Music Video of the Year, and Vocal Group of the Year. Mmmm… motorboatin!

SNUB Carrie Underwood: Granted, the host of the evening's ceremony did get a Female Vocalist nomination, but — and this has been said many times before — what does the superstar have to do to earn an Entertainer of the Year nomination? I would argue that Carrie could have been swapped in for any of the Entertainer nominees other than Jason Aldean and Swift (who, whether you like her or not, put on a remarkable tour last year).

Other thoughts: It's not a travesty that "Why You Wanna" singer Jana Kramer wasn't nominated for Best New Artist, but her inclusion may have mitigated criticism from people like me that country has a solo female problem. Lady Antebellum's Own the Night really should not win Album of the Year. Another year of no nominations for Rascal Flatts. Is anyone else kind of over Blake Shelton? His songs haven't been particularly good lately, and he feels like he's playing the part of "country singer" on The Voice more than he's actually making waves in Nashville.

What are your thoughts on this year's nominees? Sound off in the comments!


Rascal Flatts
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