Each year there are unhappy artists, managers, publishers,publicists, booking agencies, and labels when the CMA nominees are announced. The category that elicits the most outrage is Entertainer of the Year. The list of those “snubbed” is more talked about than the list of nominees.
What is the actual criteria voters are supposed to follow in the nominating process? The wording is “…the act displaying the greatest competence in all aspects of the entertainment field. Voter should give consideration not only to recorded performance, but also to the in-person performance, staging, public acceptance, attitude, leadership, and overall contribution to the Country Music image.”
This year there are a few that have a legitimate claim. KENNY CHESNEY had a record breaking summer tour and his usual radio success. BLAKE SHELTON, while not touring as much as the others, had massive TV and social media exposure, more #1 hits to add to his impressive consecutive #1 streak, and a big album. JASON ALDEAN is a monster touring act and consistent hit maker. ERIC CHURCH continued his phenomenal touring and chart success. MIRANDA LAMBERT also had a tremendous year both on the road and the charts yet she also missed the cut for the testosterone heavy list. All five had a strong record sales year also…relatively speaking in this marginal sales era.
As for a couple that made the list…it can be argued that GARTH, while still a monster touring act, was absent from the airwaves, and his album was his lowest selling studio album. CHRIS STAPLETON had a big album but hasn’t been the single hitmaker others in the conversation have been. He was the darling of the ACM’s this year and is an underdog personality whose artistic quality and personal humility make him an industry (and personal) favorite. He also isn’t a major headlining act like the others.
Every one of the acts, both nominated and snubbed, can lay claim to several of the criteria’s elements but only one checks all of the boxes…with particular strength in that last one – “…overall contribution to the Country Music image”. When you get to that one, the name that clearly emerges as the winner is BLAKE SHELTON. The power of TV, my friends! Blake has done much more to reach the masses and contribute to the overall Country Music image than all the others combined because of his phenomenal TV success.
How does someone like BLAKE get left off the list? Is the fix in? Well…kind of. There are two bodies involved in the process…the voting membership, and the CMA board and staff (the vote counters). It is unfair to suggest that the CMA staff is dishonest. That leaves the membership. Labels pay the annual membership fee for their employees, and in some cases, outside vendors. They then make deals with other labels and trade “blocks” of votes to help with the awards and artists that mean the most to them. They then tell their people who they must vote for. It’s a common practice. Of course, there are some that vote their conscience anyway, but if they were ever caught they would be in trouble. I’ve always voted my conscience no matter what the memo instructed me to do.
All that said…it’s really just a popularity contest and BLAKE has spent too much time in Hollywood to please the Nashville community…..or Warner Bros. was asleep at the wheel in the block vote trading game. I know that when I worked at Warner Bros, label president Jim Ed Norman was too principled to get involved in that game. Maybe his standards still exist at the company.
Look for people pleaser LUKE BRYAN to take the award home.
If you want a sure thing…bet on HUMBLE AND KIND to win both Song and Single of the Year.