Although country stars Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton led Friday’s Academy of Country Music nominations with six apiece, the organization has again shut out female artists from its top category: entertainer of the year.
This year’s nominees for that race include Stapleton, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett.
The academy recognized that it snubbed female nominees for entertainer of the year but touted the number of women in other categories and how that reflects a changing tide in male-dominated country music.
“While our entertainer of the year category is dominated by male artists this year, the academy is thrilled to recognize all of our deserving nominees and to celebrate two important female firsts: For the first time ever, the single of the year category features all female artists and the audio engineer of the year category includes its first-ever female nominee,” said Damon Whiteside, chief executive of the Academy of Country Music, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times Friday.
Whiteside said that the overall ACM artist nominees this year are 43 percent female and bests the academy’s five-year average of 34 percent.
“Some of the other great stories are that our reigning entertainer of the year is Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris is tied for most nominations this year, and Miranda Lambert continues her reign as the most-nominated artist in ACM Awards history,” Whiteside added. “These are all very positive signs of the continued importance and recognition of women in Country.”
The ACM Awards came up against the same issue in 2019, when men exclusively comprised the category too. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Stapleton were nominated as that year’s top entertainers, with Urban ultimately taking home the prize.
Last year, in a surprise twist, Underwood and Rhett tied for the top prize of entertainer of the year — the first time the award had been split between two artists — beating out Church, Bryan and Combs. A woman hadn’t won the award since Taylor Swift did so in 2011.
Women did indeed make a finer showing in the single of the year field: Morris, Miranda Lambert, Gabby Barrett, Ingrid Andress and Carly Pearce (who duets with Lee Brice on “I Hope You’re Happy Now”) were this year’s nominees.
Noticeably absent was beleaguered country star Morgan Wallen, who was not nominated this year because he was barred from ACM eligibility earlier this month after using a racial slur that was caught on video.
Now back to the ACM nominations.
Trailing Morris and Stapleton in the number of 2021 nods are Lambert with five nominations, along with Rhett and Ashley McBryde with four apiece.
“The Bones” and “Better Than We Found It” artist Morris — the defending ACM female artist of the year — is also nominated in the female artist, single, song and video categories as well as group of the year with the Highwomen. She received dual nods in the song category as songwriter and artist, bringing her 2021 nominations tally to six.
Stapleton is also nominated in the male artist, song and album categories.