The Hodgepodge: Reactions to the 50th CMA Awards’ Nominations

CMA Awards 50

Yesterday morning on Good Morning America the nominations for the 50th annual CMA Awards were announced to the entire world. As always these nominations were greatly anticipated, but more than usual after the scathing Facebook post published by Sturgill Simpson earlier in the week that followed him being one of the finalists for multiple awards at the show. So now we know who was nominated and who got snubbed. Needless to say there’s plenty to dissect, so let’s get to it:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

Well well well. Right away I’m a little taken aback by the nominations I see. Garth and Luke were a slam dunk to be nominated, as Garth is still a major force touring and Bryan is still the top star of the Nashville pop. Then we get to Stapleton, who earns his very first nod for the top spot and has an excellent shot. Carrie Underwood surprisingly earns her first nomination too, as she has been one of the top touring artists in the genre in 2016. Rounding it out is Keith Urban, who has experienced a lot of success with Ripcord (ugh) and sells well also. I would say he’s the long-shot here though. Ultimately I think it will be between Stapleton and Bryan, as disheartening as this will sound for Carrie fans.

Two big snubs that immediately stands out here are Blake Shelton and Eric Church. Now before you pull out the pitchforks Church fans, you shouldn’t feel too bad because Church is well represented in every other award. Blake on the other hand, well more on Blake in a second…

Album of the Year

Far and away Eric Church is the most deserving of winning this award. Stapleton’s big night at last year’s CMA Awards unfortunately also overshadowed Church’s best album of his career. This year’s CMA Awards should make it up for that and I expect him to walk away with a lot of hardware. Keep in mind country music needs Church as much as it needs Stapleton if you want to see improvement in the mainstream scene. Carrie’s album is easily #2, despite it’s pop leanings at times. The rest of the nominations are kind of a joke. Morris made a good pop album, Urban made a bad pop album and I don’t know what the hell Dierks was thinking with Black. Despite my disdain for Bentley’s album though, it’s probably the closest competition for Church’s album because Bentley’s team is hellbent on making him an A-list artist.

Single of the Year

  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”
  • Eric Church – “Record Year”

Anyone but Thomas Rhett winning here and I’m happy. Unfortunately I think he has a good chance because so many industry insiders touted this as his most mature and deep song, despite it just being a ripoff of Ed Sheeran. Keep in mind this is for single of the year, so that benefits Rhett more here. If I was asked who I would choose to win here I would choose “Record Year” because it went #1 at radio. I also believe this song will go down as a career song for Church and it’ll be hailed as a classic years from now. McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” also went #1 and was a big hit this year. Stapleton would be my close third choice because he was weirdly not chosen for Song of the Year and I would like to see both songs from Church and Stapleton recognized.

Song of the Year

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Eric Church – “Record Year”

Same candidates as above, only Cam replaces Stapleton. It would have made more sense to put “Burning House” up for Single of the Year, but I guess it doesn’t matter to the CMA. If Church doesn’t win Single of the Year, I would pick him to win this one. If he does win Single of the Year, I would pick “Humble and Kind” because I would love to see Lori McKenna get recognized for this great song. I wouldn’t be surprised though if “My Church” ends up walking way with either Single or Song of the Year.

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Tim McGraw
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Stapleton won this last year and I think he’s the favorite to win again if he’s not taking home Entertainer of the Year. So if he is winning EOTY, I expect Eric Church to win this one and Dierks Bentley being the other favorite. It’s kind of ironic after years of Bentley being the best choice in most categories that he’s now one of the worst choice. That’s what happens when you go chasing for fame and not focusing on making quality music I guess.

But let’s talk about Blake Shelton, who you can see did not make the above list. In fact he’s not nominated for a single award. Neither is Jason Aldean and Sam Hunt. All three have been shut out! Isn’t it wonderful? Hunt really hasn’t done anything in the past year except release “Make You Miss Me” as a single, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him missing. But Aldean and Shelton have been fixtures at these awards shows. Shelton used to dominate this award. Of course they could easily re-emerge next year. But for now let’s appreciate this moment.

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

Miranda Lambert will once again because reasons. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting this blog is that you don’t bet against Lambert for this award. She wins it every year, even though she didn’t do hardly anything to win it last year and that’s the case once again this year. “Vice” was released after the eligibility window for this award, so she can’t win for that song and that’s the only new music outside of “Sweet By and By” on the Southern Family album that she’s released in 2016. Hands down this should be going to Carrie Underwood or even Maren Morris. Kacey Musgraves is somewhere sarcastically chuckling at her token nomination. Kelsea Ballerini continues to be one of the most fake stars in not just country music, but in all of music with her fabricated #1 songs. Her just being a nomination is an absolute joke and one of the best examples of the bullshit that is spun out on Music Row.

New Artist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris
  • Old Dominion
  • Cole Swindell

Why is Ballerini up for this award too? And Swindell? Meanwhile Jon Pardi, Sturgill Simpson and Brandy Clark didn’t make the cut. Fuck you, CMAs! If this was Douches of the Year, I would give it to Old Dominion. Morris should walk away the winner here. If there’s one category you should be angry at, it’s this one.

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Joey + Rory
  • Maddie & Tae

Florida Georgia Line will win again and will continue to win since their new soft AC direction seems to have won the mainstream crowd over. Dan + Shay are probably just happy that this country career is working out so they don’t have to go back to being back up singers for a pop band. The remaining three choices would be the favorites if I were making the choice. Seeing Joey + Rory being recognized would be an awesome, feel good moment. They should be the winners. Brothers Osborne will probably be the main contenders to the Florida Georgie Line dynasty for years to come, but will continue to fall short in the immediate future. I hope Maddie & Tae are plotting their escape to the independent scene.

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Wait a minute! Why in the hell are Lady A nominated? They’ve been broken up all year! Meanwhile the CMA snubbed Randy Rogers Band (they were a finalist), who produced a fine album in Nothing Shines Like Neon. Yes, I know they wouldn’t have won. But what’s the harm in a nomination, especially over a group that’s not currently active? This is just all-around stupidity. I wouldn’t give any of these groups the recognition of Vocal Group of the Year. I would write in Turnpike Troubadours, who run circles around all five of them.

Music Video of the Year

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Eric Church – “Record Year”
  • Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere on a Beach”

I would be fine with anyone but Dierks Bentley winning here. To be honest though it should absolutely, 100% go to “Fire Away.” That music video is something special and one of the best I’ve seen in years. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it (and have some tissues on hand).

Musical Event of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  • Luke Bryan & Karen Fairchild – “Home Alone Tonight”
  • Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood – “The Fighter”
  • Chris Young & Cassadee Pope – “Think of You”
  • Morgane Stapleton & Chris Stapleton – “You Are My Sunshine”

Again hands down this should go to the Stapletons. There’s no question in my mind they deserve it with their excellent take on a classic song. Also Don Henley and Merle Haggard’s “Cost of Living” (a finalist) should have been one of the above five nominations. Once again the country industry snubs Haggard.

Musician of the Year

  • Jerry Douglas
  • Paul Franklin
  • Dann Huff
  • Brent Mason
  • Derek Wells

All are excellent and deserving, but I would have to go with the dobro master Jerry Douglas. He should win it alone for his reaction to the Stapleton performance.

Overall there’s a lot to like and dislike about these nominations. As I predicted, Stapleton and Church racked up the most nominations. Morris also tied them for most nominations, which I knew she would get a lot of attention but not this much. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on, as she appears poised to breakout. There’s a lot of love for Urban, Underwood and Bentley, which I also expected. For the most part I think the CMA got it right outside of groups and new artist. These are categories where they could have went out on a limb and went with different artists. Sturgill fans should rightly be angry, but he’ll at least get his due at the Americana Awards and the Grammys. Jon Pardi and Brandy Clark fans have more to be angry about, as they should have been shoe-ins for New Artist. Clark is probably the worst snub of all, as she had legitimate claims not just for New Artist, but Female Vocalist and Album of the Year.

As always I’m curious to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comments below.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • First I just wanted to point out that Eric Church sent a radio edit version of “Kill A Word” to country radio that features Rhiannon Giddens singing one line solo. This was deliberately done so it could be listed as featuring Giddens, which is a cool move by Church and his team to help her get recognition.
  • Next week Whiskey Myers will be releasing their new album MUD. I’ll definitely have a review on it soon.
  • Also next week St. Paul & The Broken Bones release their new album Sea of Noise.
  • Karen Jonas will be releasing her sophomore album Country Songs on October 14. This could definitely emerge as an album of the year contender, much like her debut album Oklahoma Lottery in 2014.
  • Jon Pardi’s next single will be “Dirt on My Boots” and will impact country radio on September 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

Kelleigh Bannen – “Cheap Sunglasses” – I just wanted to take a moment to shout out Kelleigh Bannen, who had the guts to leave EMI Nashville to go out and make the music she wants. Her new EP released earlier this year was pretty solid and I would review it, but I don’t like to review EPs because I will get bombarded with EP pitches (despite clearly stating in the about section we don’t take EP pitches). The entire EP is worth a listen, but I particularly enjoyed this song. I’ve always saw potential in Bannen and now we’re finally getting to hear it.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Temperance Movement – White Bear – One of my favorite rock groups today and their new album White Bear proves once again they’re a rock band you should know.

Tweet of the Week

1000%

iTunes Reviews of the New Florida Georgia Line Album

FGL Dig Your Crap

I haven’t actually completely ruled out reviewing the new Florida Georgia Line album. But these reviews give you a taste of what I would say. I guess not everyone loves their new AC direction.

One more thing…

Site News: Derek is taking an indefinite hiatus from writing on the blog, as he settles his personal schedule. Once that’s settled, he’ll be back. For the time being I will be doing the Hodgepodge.

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26 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Reactions to the 50th CMA Awards’ Nominations

  1. I am actually not shocked Lady Antebellum got the nomination for Vocal Group. They are back in the studio working on new music and from ehat it seems they are scheduled for a November to February release of a new lead single. Getting nominated for Vocal Group might generate a little buzz, especially if they plan on debuting a new song CMA time.

    Also Tim McGraw did go #1 to radio with “Humble and Kind”. I am happy to see him get a decent amount of love again from awards. Also at the expense of Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean is even better.

    Ok Josh, realistically speaking I know you have a hate for Kelsea Ballerini music, but who could have possibly replaced her. Jennifer Nettles or Cam (really they would have replaced Kacey Musgraves as Kacey did next to nothing) I mean that’s honestly it. “Peter Pan” has been a pretty big hit for her and if it wasn’t for the industry love for Maren Morris and the overall star power of Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini would be a contender, but she has neither of those as she’s a newcomer and her acclaim has been mixed at best.

    I am satisfied with all the nominations except Keith Urban (who lately I’ve been finding more overrated as his stans on Pulse Music board are insufferable) as all the rest make sense

    (Side note Josh, New artists are allowed twice for the award unless they won a CMA Award beforehand, so since Brandy Clark won a CMA a couple of years ago for writing “Follow Your Arrow” I think she’s disqualified). For Jon Pardi however I don’t know maybe ACM, the New Artist field was stacked so I imagine Jon Pardi just barely missed the cut. I am more shocked Cam missed out.

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    • Again Lady A is still not deserving. Them being back in the studio means nothing and shouldn’t net them a nomination for an award in which most of the year they were broken up into solo acts.

      Here’s a list of artists who I would replace Ballerini’s nomination spot with:

      Jennifer Nettles (not my favorite female artist, but blows Ballerini away and released one of the best singles at country radio this year)
      Margo Price (released one of the best country albums of 2016)
      Cam (her buzz for “Burning House” and releasing a decent album, still better than Ballerini’s)
      Jana Kramer (also leans pop like Ballerini, but still more qualified to be a country artist)
      Lori McKenna (released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year and wrote an actual hit #1 song)
      Brandy Clark (another critically acclaimed album release, along with a top 40 single)
      Aubrie Sellers (released one of the most interesting country albums of the year and is now with Warner)
      Lee Ann Womack (did nothing but at least she’s country and this is a country award)

      Kacey would get in over Ballerini for the same reason. Ballerini could have 10 #1 songs this year and I still wouldn’t say she’s worthy. I view her #1 hits as hollow and meaningless because they’re not hits in my eyes, no matter how much her label shoves her down America’s throat and how willing radio is to take it down their throats. At the base of it I don’t think she should be eligible for country awards because she isn’t country and her music isn’t good. She’s a pop artist in the wrong genre. But I will say this as to not completely dog pile on Kelsea. These nominations show you just how little major labels care about women talent. Things have gotten better in this regard, but women are still pathetically under represented in country music. There’s an over abundance of talent for the male awards, but they’re always scraping for the female awards. It’s not for the lack of female talent out there either, as there’s plenty but Music Row doesn’t want them (they’re either out there in the independent scene like Sunny Sweeney and Kelsey Waldon or they’re being wasted by a major label and essentially being kept in a closet like Ashley Monroe).

      Brandy was eligible again and Windmills confirmed this in her reaction post: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/50th-annual-country-music-association-awards-nominations-preview-live-blog-full-list.htm

      In fact I’m pretty sure Clark was a finalist on the CMA Nominees Showcase site.

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      • While it admittedly makes sense that Kelsea Ballerini would be nominated seeing that commercial clout plays a considerable part in the nominee selection process, there is simply no way she deserves to win her category on that exact same basis.

        She has only sold 167,000 copies of her debut album since May of last year. That’s about 4,080 albums a week. That’s just pathetic for someone of Ballerini’s stature who is now apparently regarded as the righteous successor of Taylor Swift’s former spot among the trio of women who get to represent country radio.

        Again, because commercial success plays an important part in the nomination process as opposed to critical acclaim, it is for that reason why Carrie Underwood SHOULD clean up the category this year………………..and I’m saying that as someone who didn’t even like “Storyteller” as a whole. Miranda Lambert had been laying low most of the past year, Maren Morris’ debut album was only recently released and even now her current single “80’s Mercedes” is quixotically struggling to blow up, and Kacey Musgraves is only there because of name recognition: seeing that the bulk of the fanfare surrounding “Pageant Material” pre-dated the eligibility window for this particular CMA cycle.

        In other words, I have to honestly say it makes more sense Kelsea Ballerini is here than Kacey Musgraves. If anything, I’d replace Kacey Musgraves with Cam since she has had a breakout hit within the current eligibility cycle. Brandy Clark also deserves to be there more than Kacey Musgraves this particular year, though her commercial achievements still fall short of Kelsea Ballerini’s.

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  2. I am very angry at the new artist nominations. I mean Cole Swindell, seriously? He’s been around for like four years! Jon Pardi should have definitely been nominated. William Michael Morgan would have also been a good candidate. Touché on the Old Dominion comment, they are far and away the douchebags of the year. They should have nominated William Michael Morgan and Jon Pardi instead of Cole Shitdell (whoops, meant Swindell…damn typo ;)) and maybe the Barbie of country music (Kelsea Ballerini) or country music’s resident misogynistic douchebags Old Dominion. But that’s just my two cents.

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    • To be fair, William Michael Morgan has only now garnered a lot of momentum with his debut single, so it makes sense why he missed the boat this go around seeing that commercial returns play a considerable factor into who they determine as nominees. Even Jon Pardi may be a stretch for a similar reason.

      That said, it’s absurd that Cole Swindell is nominated. If they REALLY couldn’t find another male newcomer with significant breakout commercial success in their eyes, they should have simply settled on four nominees. Me, I would have personally went with Chris Janson in filling the fifth spot. I may not have liked “Buy Me A Boat” at all, but there’s no denying that was a huge hit for both him and country radio as a whole and he has also contributed plenty as a songwriter.

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  3. I think 2016 is the “Eric Church Year”. He will win album, male vocalist, single or song.
    It’s time to recognise the success of Carrie Underwood (the live act). I know she must beat Brooks & Bryan but she can sell concert tickets too.
    Too much love for Maren Morris. She will an award (New Artist).
    I hope it’s the last big year for Keith Urban. No award.
    Single or Song for “Humble & Kind”. But there is Thomas Rhett & “Die…”. The song is still a recurrent hit.
    Female vocalist should go to Carrie Underwood. Too early for Maren Morris. No chance for Kacey Musgraves. Kelsea Ballerini…well…& there is CMA-member darling Miranda Lambert.
    Lady A? What a joke. It’s the “i-don’t-care”-award.
    The Vocal Duo will go to…Joey + Rory. Against Hubbard & his background singer? Yep.
    “Fire Away” will win Video. Because one award will go to Chris Stapleton.
    The Musical of the year…event…(who cares)…Luke Bryan & Karen Fairchild. Because one award must go to Luke Bryan.
    Musician of the year: Mr. Drum Loops.

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  4. Perhaps I shouldn’t be seeing that he wasn’t touring often throughout this past year, but I was surprised to see Eric Church absent from the Entertainer of the Year category entirely this go around: seeing his impeccable ability to generate water cooler conversation about HOW he performs and gets his music to fans.

    If he doesn’t emerge a serious contender in 2017, then we’ll KNOW he’s being snubbed because he is embarking on a broad tour playing three hour sets solo. That said, I expect Album of he Year will go to him this cycle.

    *

    The Cole Swindell nomination for Best New Artist is such a f***ing joke. It’s that whole Justin Moore balderdash again, except this time it’s even worse because Swindell’s eponymous debut achieved a Platinum certification off of about half a million in sales and another cumulative half a million in streaming. No one who has produced success of that sort from the onset should be eligible in that specific category.

    Maren Morris is clearly the one who SHOULD win that category since she’s the only nominee who actually rouses any sort of water cooler conversation and also has critical backing that Kelsea Ballerini and Old Dominion lack.

    *

    I personally like Kelleigh Bannen a fair deal, and while I wouldn’t consider most of what she has released country, for the most part she has this Sheryl Crow-informed flavor to her brand of pop-rock that makes her music still fit at home with recent country radio persuasions anyway and there’s really no excuse why she hasn’t broken out.

    “Famous” was very annoying, but outside of that, there’s just something about her music and personality that’s quite likeable. Even if some of its lyrics are a bit check-listy, how can you not enjoy the escapist romp of a sound of “You Are What You Love”? Even if the lyrics are your usual summer party fare, how can you not enjoy the meaty heartland guitar and infectious melody of “Landlocked”? And how could “All Good Things” not be a perfect type of song for country radio? Seriously: the only reason “Landlocked” or “All Good Things” are not current radio hits is because 1) she’s a so-called “tomato” and we’re apparently not allowed to have more than three tomatoes enjoying sustained chart success at the same time, and 2) she’s now an independent artist.

    It’s a pity. Her music may be decidedly more heartland-sensible pop-rock than country, but it’s still easily an upgrade over the straight-up pop of Kelsea Ballerini.

    *

    Speaking of Kelleigh Bannen, she has also launched the pilot episode for her new podcast “This Nashville Life”.

    She has likened it as more of a realistic take on Music Row compared to the “Nashville” show. And in the first installment, she does sort of subtly hint at how her then-label was promising “Famous” was a fool-proof hit for her and, yet, was never promoted seriously. So while she’s certainly not going full-on Sturgill Simpson in calling the industry out, she does seem willing to point out the less glamorous side of the big machine, so to speak. Needless t say, the first episode was rather intriguing.

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  5. It’s a shame that Sturgill and Margo didn’t make the cut. That’s a huge snub in my opinion.

    But I love that Morganne & Chris got a nom for Vocal Event!

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    • I saw a neat photo on John Prine’s page about eating lunch with Chris & Sturgill. What a cool music conversation one could have with that trio… Anyway, on the female nominations, in addition to Margo, I would’ve enjoyed seeing the great Loretta Lynn. I’m generally opposed to the idea that nobody over 50 is nominated for any category other than musician. A young talent I like is Aubrie Sellers, a good balance of traditional and modern.

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  6. I can’t be the only one who hears “80s Mercedes” in the chorus of Kelleigh Bannen’s “Cheap Sunglasses,” right?

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  7. I swear if Carrie Underwood doesn’t win Female Vocalist, then I may throw my beer bottle at the television. I’ll need to restrain myself. Even Miranda knows that it would be ridiculous for her to win again and not Carrie. Sure, Carrie won it multiple times at the beginning of her career, but it’s long overdue for her to win again. And I even say that as someone who is a much bigger fan of Miranda.

    And as I’ve complained before, they need to combine Duo and Group into one category. There simply are not enough options for each as separate categories.

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  8. I really like Maren Morris because she is a very unique artist. I really like the little (country) vibe in her pop record! Brad paisley got snubbed too; wait a minute he didn’t do anything in the past year.

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  9. Glad we more or less share the same taste about the CMA 50 Awards – not trying to intrude, just to add my points to it – http://countrymusicinthenews.blogspot.com/2016/08/nothing-new-on-western-front.html – these nominations really underline Sturgill’s rant.
    There is nothing new, old or worthy to be excited about. Basically the CMA knuckled under the pressure of the labels and radio…
    If it smells like a turd it probably is a turd.

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  10. The Farce the Music tweet is 100% true. Maren Morris may not be country, but nonetheless, she’s a great artist. I really enjoy her music. Kelsea Ballerini, on the other hand, seems somewhat fake and manufactured, and reminds me of a Barbie doll, even if I do enjoy Peter Pan to a certain degree.

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    • Marren has one good, sorry very good song and that is “My Church” – the rest of the album is unfortunately mediocre. I personally think she’s currently the most overrated artist in the Americana / Alt-Country / True Country / Ameripolitan view of country music. Kelsey Waldon, Brandy Clark, Margo Price & Cheryl Deseree should get all the limelight.

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  11. I would disagree with your assertion that Mr. Misunderstood is Eric Church’s best work. I don’t think it can quite top Chief as his top album (at least in my opinion)

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    • I can see that. Way I would rank them:

      1. Mr. Misunderstood
      2. Sinners Like Me (tossup with Chief)
      3. Chief
      4. Carolina
      5. The Outsiders

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      • 1: “Mr. Misunderstood” (Strong 8/10)
        2: “Chief” (Strong 7/10)
        3: “Sinners Like Me” (Decent 7/10)
        4: “The Outsiders” (Strong 6/10)
        5: “Carolina” (Decent 6/10)

        I expect “The Outsiders” being preferred slightly over “Carolina” will be a point of contention to plenty, but though it’s easily his most incohesive album, the high points on that album are superior to those on “Carolina”. And I just didn’t care for either of the Top Ten hits from “Carolina”.

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  12. If anyone’s interested, I noted the itunes ranks of all country songs on radio since 2012 here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/183lz4uq51xqLxrXR7LTgYgw3Mq_ZMBwFQkoTe0jdafw/edit#gid=230214213

    and also noted the album sales and stream ratings for those released since 2015 (includes country albums). Just ctrl+f to find your favorite artist.
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/183lz4uq51xqLxrXR7LTgYgw3Mq_ZMBwFQkoTe0jdafw/edit#gid=1269792153

    Could be a useful guide for these awards.

    Needless to say, someone like Kelsea Ballerini has three songs that were in the top 50 of itunes for at least a third of her chart run, but can’t get any streams or long-term sales (or even short term ones). While Stapleton has little radio and is 8th in long term album rating.

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