The Hodgepodge: The CMA Awards’ Awful Exclusions for Song of the Year

Yesterday, Steven Tyler and Kelsea Ballerini announced the nominees for the upcoming CMA Awards. Some nominations came as no surprise to anyone (notably the Entertainer of the Year category, Vocal Group of the Year category, and the trio of Carrie, Miranda and Kacey at the top of the Female Vocalist category). Other nominations like Chris Stapleton for Album and Male Vocalist of the year are pleasant surprises. I can’t say I’m too surprised to see his name under New Artist, but that nonetheless is a welcome nomination as well.

The one category that draws ire from me, however is the Song of the Year nominees:

  • “American Kids” (Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally)
  • “Girl Crush” (Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillery Lindsey)
  • “Like a Cowboy” (Randy Houser, Brice Long)
  • “Like a Wrecking Ball” (Eric Church, Casey Beathard)
  • “Take Your Time” (Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)

Three of the five (“Girl Crush”, “Take Your Time”, and “American Kids”) are also nominated for Single of the Year. The other singles up for grabs are “Talladega” and “I Don’t Dance.” I find it very odd that none of Carrie’s two recent eligible singles “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Gun” are nominated in either category, especially Song of the Year. Song of the Year is an award that celebrates songwriting and story telling in country music.

“Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” had great chart runs, continuing Carrie’s trend of most of her singles getting to the top three of the airplay charts. “Something in the Water” has been certified platinum and “Little Toy Guns” gold. Both songs feature some fantastic storytelling and songwriting. It’s an insult to country music that two successful, well-written singles are overlooked for Song/Single of the Year while Sam Hunt’s stupid talk-sing pop song and Kenny Chesney’s boring checklist song are nominated for both. I know that the CMA, for whatever reason, have no love for Carrie Underwood, but this is a huge injustice to her music. The mere fact that neither song got at least one nomination is appalling and further exemplifies how the establishment of country music in Nashville continues to abandon its roots in favor of “cool pop music.”

Another song I think was vastly overlooked for the Song of the Year category was Tim McGraw’s “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.” A song that is true country music and that had an impressive chart run among a dreck of pop songs, it’s surprising that “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” didn’t get a nomination. When you look at songs that have won Song of the Year in the past, Tim’s song and Carrie’s two songs fit right in with the slower tempo songs that rely on a raw emotion to draw in listeners.

In a just world, all three singles alongside “Girl Crush” and Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” would have been nominated for Song of the Year, making for an intriguing list and a must-watch category (controversy aside). Instead we have to put up with the fact that the CMA have traded timeless quality and roots in one of their most important categories for songs that are hip today and forgotten tomorrow. The only positive we can take from these two categories is if Sam Hunt goes home empty-handed, but that’s only a moral victory at best.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • The Damn Quails released their second album last Friday on September 4th. I’m bummed I overlooked it in this section until now, but the crowd-funded Out of the Birdcage is an album well worth your time. We should have a review for it soon.
  • Tami Neilson has released a new song and video from her upcoming release Don’t Be Afraid. “Lonely” is a song Ron Neilson, her father, at began writing but never finished before his death in February of this year. Tami and her brother Jay finished the song in his memory.
  • Turnpike Troubadours will release their fourth studio effort on September 18th.
  • Stoney LaRue will be releasing a new album of covers called Us Time on October 16th. This announcement comes quickly after LaRue’s arrest for domestic abuse.
  • And more Red Dirt news, Cody Canada and Mike McClure, of The Great Divide and Mike McClure Band, recently collaborated in a live acoustic show which will be mixed and released into a live acoustic album.
  • Tim McGraw has tweeted a date without any reference “11-6-15.” Being a Friday, this is 100% a date that will coincide with new music, most likely a new album.  I’m sure more details will be revealed over the next two months.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1957, Johnny Cash’s first album, Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar, is released.
  • Lynn Anderson records “Rose Garden” in 1970.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Rose in Paradise” by Waylon Jennings. Also on this day in 1986, Waylon recorded this song at Groundstar Labs in Nashville. This is simply a great country song and shows a nice vocal range for Jennings. While I think Chris Young and Willie Nelson’s collaborative cover of this song is also great, Waylon’s original will always be the best version of the song.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The Arcs Yours, Dreamily, This is a side project for The Black Keys singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach. Auerbach teams up with multi-instrumentalist Leon Michaels for this experimental rock album. Yours, Dreamily, has a good pace and rhythm over the album and features some excellent harmonies and instrumentation.

Tweet of the Week

Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Cole Swindell walk into a college football game…..

An iTunes Review That Makes Me Smile

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 9.18.29 PM

This review was left under Maddie & Tae’s Start Here.  The album received high praise here, and this reviewer seems to be in agreement with us.  Also, you have to love any opportunity to call out Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Chase Rice for their trashy pop music.

20 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: The CMA Awards’ Awful Exclusions for Song of the Year

  1. Megan Conley September 10, 2015 / 1:25 pm

    Great points Derek…I could have thrown a rock and hit better Song of the Year nominees, with the exception of “Girl Crush.” You’re right, at least one of Carrie’s singles deserves a nomination, and “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” does as well. Glad to see Chris Stapleton with so many nominations. The only thing I can see happening that I want to happen is Kacey Musgraves winning Album of the Year possibly. Is Cam eligible for New Artist of the Year? Because if so, her name deserves to be there over Thomas Rhett, who was there last year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin September 10, 2015 / 2:31 pm

      I don’t believe Cam was eligible this year. But if she continues at the rate she’s going and releases a full-length album in the eligibility period for next year, I see no reason why she won’t have a new artist nomination next year

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosalie September 10, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    I’d much rather the nominees for music video were nominated for Song of the Year instead (with the exception of LRW)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 2:17 pm

    It just comes to show how pervasively label politics play into who makes it and who doesn’t in the nomination process.

    For instance, Curb Records always plays arm-wrangling tactics to make sure one of their artists gets a nomination or two, and it’s no exception with Lee Brice this year. Curb Records may be on the verge of bankruptcy, but their history and name recognition still works wonders in ensuring the loyalty of more than enough Academy members.

    “I Don’t Dance” was genuinely a big hit and sold quite well. But considering it was nominated under a different category in 2014, it has no place this year.


    I’m mostly surprised “Something In The Water” received no nominations. That was a bona-fide hit in every sense of the word; from its strong sales to reaching #1 on the Hot Country Songs mongrel chart. Moreover, it had critical acclaim on its side. That’s the snub I’m most inclined to agree with.

    I can’t say I’m surprised with “Little Toy Guns” or “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”, though. Both went Top Five in airplay, but peaked lower on the mongrel chart due to middling to weak sales. The former peaked outside the Top Forty on the Billboard Hot 100 and only went Gold, while the latter also peaked outside the Top Forty of the composite chart and is uncertified still.

    And as much as I hate to admit it, “What We Ain’t Got” just didn’t do enough to warrant a nomination. The CMAs recognize a combination of critical acclaim and popularity, and “What We Ain’t Got” falters with the latter: barely charting the Billboard Hot 100 and failing to go Gold still.


    If I had proposals for songs that should have been nominated instead of “I Don’t Dance” and “American Kids”, it would be “Something In The Water” and “Dirt”. And yes, I absolutely mean the latter with a straight face regardless of our overall opinions on Florida Georgia Line. Like it or not, Florida Georgia Line got snubbed just as badly as Carrie Underwood this cycle, as “Dirt” is a solid song that garnered critical acclaim all around and is encroaching on Double Platinum status. There is NO excuse why “Dirt” is nowhere to be seen here (the eligibility period is July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, and it was released on July 8th, 2014)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josh Schott September 10, 2015 / 2:27 pm

      I completely agree with you on “Dirt.” Despite all of the stupid shit Florida Georgia Line does and all of their horrendous songs, “Dirt” is a good song that should have gotten more accolades. For once the duo actually gave us something good, so they should rightly be rewarded for it. And then maybe they would actually give us more songs like it.

      The other song that should have been considered for Song of the Year in my mind I would add to Derek’s list is Love & Theft’s “Whiskey On My Breath.” Of course being independent, not having any huge radio success or sales with it kept it from being nominated. But it was still one of the best singles I’ve heard in the past year and I would have personally made it a nominee.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin September 10, 2015 / 2:29 pm

      Yeah, I had totally forgotten about “Dirt.” That’s also a song that has Song of the Year written all over it, regardless of who sang it. I see your point of sales/popularity figuring somewhat into this, which makes sense why those other songs may not have been considered.

      But it doesn’t make any sense to me why “Something in the Water” was ignored for either category.


      • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 3:12 pm

        I agree, and I already mentioned “Something In The Water” and “Dirt” are the two tracks that should have been nominated.

        I just realized I was confusing the Single and Song of the Year categories! =P

        I loathe “Take Your Time” with a passion and if I had my druthers, I would disqualify it on the fact it’s not country whatsoever alone………………but apparently the Academy will reward tracks based on combined commercial and critical acclaim regardless of sound (quixotically, “Montevallo” has been praised by countless professional critics). -__-

        And, honestly, it surprises me “Like A Cowboy” is nominated. I really like this song, but the fact remains it didn’t sell that well. Granted it’s the Song category instead of Single, but I think when you’re considering combined commercial muscle and critical acclaim, “Something In The Water” and “Dirt” both deserve this more than “Like A Cowboy”. Hell, as much as I hate the song with a burning passion, even…………………….really, do I HAVE to………………aaaarrrrrrgggghhhhhhh……………..(throws temper tantrum first)…………………..”Take Your Time” deserves a nomination more than “Like A Cowboy” based off of this logic…………………as long as the CMA academy refuses to acknowledge or disqualify tracks based off of how authentically country any given song sounds or doesn’t sound! (now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my mouth with laundry detergent for 45 minutes! -__- )


        “Like A Wrecking Ball” actually makes sense because, despite its moderate airplay, it has been a stellar seller. It’s on the verge of the million mark, and is a rarer track where its sales and broader appeal outperformed its airplay all along. It has even outsold “Talladega” (which I like better among the two singles).

        And while I understand, from a commercial standpoint, why “American Kids” is nominated………… doesn’t belong in the Song of the Year category. It’s clearly more a fit for Single of the Year (and even there I wouldn’t acknowledge it given there are five singles that have better combined critical and commercial appeal this past year than that).

        Finally, it doesn’t surprise me “Girl Crush” is nominated under both categories. If I had my way it would only be nominated under Single of the Year, but I can’t complain too much over why this turned out to be the case. Still, while “Girl Crush” deserves to win Single of the Year, I am counting on the Academy to give another nominee its due for the Song of the Year (hopefully “Like A Cowboy”, given the current selection and despite my reservations on it being nominated)


    • Megan Conley September 10, 2015 / 3:01 pm

      I forgot about “Dirt,” but I agree with you. It has popularity and critical acclaim. That also brings to mind “Girl in a Country Song,” also released in July 2014. I understand why “What we Ain’t Got” wouldn’t be there, as the CMA’s consider overall popularity.


      • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 3:22 pm

        It’s honestly hard to say whether “Girl In A Country Song” was snubbed, or if it just got lost in the shuffle.

        On one hand, it was a very eventful release. It caught everyone’s attention, which is EXACTLY what a Song of the Year should do. On that basis, it is a more deserving nominee than “Like A Cowboy” at least (which, let’s be honest, is a strong song but few really talked about).

        On the other hand, it was a rather front-loaded release, commercially. It started off rather strong and made it to #1 in an impressive 23 weeks. But beginning several weeks before peaking, it was already languishing in sales and buzz. Which is why it wound up peaking outside of the Top Forty of the Billboard Hot 100 at #54. Its sales are good, all things considered, but they nonetheless don’t quite stand up to some other nominees.

        So I’m honestly kind of torn on that song and whether it actually got snubbed or not. It was definitely an eventful single at the time, but its front-loaded appeal has kind of hurt its case in the long run and underscores why many think of it as a semi-novelty song. I definitely would have nominated it over “Like A Cowboy” (it has nothing to do with quality of track, because I like both songs), but then again I’d argue there were two or three other songs that were better poised to be nominated here than this.


  4. Scotty J September 10, 2015 / 3:33 pm

    Historically speaking the Single Of The Year category has gone to songs that would usually be considered to be the most popular songs of the year and have seen winners like ‘A Boy Named Sue’, ‘Okie From Muskogee’, ‘Elvira’ and ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ while Song Of The Year has usually (though not always) gone to something a little more substantive. Examples of winners have been ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’, ‘Chiseled In Stone’ (one of the greatest country songs ever), ‘Go Rest High On That Mountain’ and ‘Murder On Music Row’.

    So it would seem that the Carrie Underwood songs and the McGraw song in the past would have been natural fits for the Song Of The Year category but apparently not anymore. And many Song Of The Year winners and nominees were not big hits and that was sort of the whole point of having two categories with one for popularity and one leaning towards quality.


    • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 3:50 pm

      And by that logic, there are DOZENS of songs I would deem more worthy of “Song of the Year” than any of the five in this field.

      The aforementioned “Whiskey On My Breath”. “South Dakota” (or “Long Island Sound”). “Standards”. “Be My Baby”. “After The Storm Blows Through”. “Someday Soon”. “Fine”. “Speed Trap Town”. i can go on and on.

      Even among those that have received measurable airplay, I’d deem “She Don’t Love You”, “What We Ain’t Got”, “I Got The Boy”, “Better Than You Left Me”, “Middle of America” and “Hanging on a Lie” as superior to “Girl Crush” (which I do love).


      • Scotty J September 10, 2015 / 4:22 pm

        If I were to select what would be a reasonable 5 for Song Of The Year it would be:

        Something In The Water
        Girl Crush
        Diamond Rings And Old Barstools
        She Don’t Love You
        Like A Cowboy

        Of course these aren’t THE best songs but based on the reality of who does the voting and how the voting has gone in the past these are the types of nominees we have seen. If they are going to turn this category into just a slightly different version of Single Of The Year then I don’t see the point of continuing with both.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 5:05 pm

        That’s definitely a reasonably solid field there, and certainly miles ahead of the actual field for this category.

        My Single of the Year roster would look like this:


        “Girl Crush”
        “Something In The Water”
        “Say You Do”


        The latter two obviously didn’t sell as robustly as the former three, but they have (and continue to) sell steadily, as opposed to being front-loaded in their appeal. “Talladega” was consistently cited as a highlight among professional reviewers in assessing “The Outsiders” (which has a score of 82 on Metacritic), while “Say You Do” enjoys similar well-rounded appeal.

        “American Kids” definitely sold better than either of those two, but it was a more polarizing release critically (color me unimpressed myself, personally). “Take Your Time” should be instantly disqualified in that it doesn’t sound country in any way, shape or form in spite of its solid commercial success. And “I Don’t Dance” has absolutely NO business being here in that it was already nominated last year under a different category.

        There are a few tracks some would argue deserve consideration here based on combined critical and commercial appeal: Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”, Blake Shelton’s “Lonely Tonight” and Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” most notably.

        I’ve already explained my argument against “Homegrown”, but I’ll go ahead and speak my cases against these other two tracks as well. With “Lonely Tonight”, yes: it has sold very well and also was a big hit at radio. But I personally found it a very boring and safe track, in spite of some strong vocals. And, lyrically, it’s something that has been done time and time again significantly better, including Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”. “Lonely Tonight” lacks the teeth and darker vibe of that song. I’ve just never understood the appeal of “Lonely Tonight”. As with “A Guy Walks Into A Bar”,it’s kind of the reversal. I still very much love that song and think it is solid all-around. However, from a commercial standpoint, it falls short in my eyes. It did go Gold, but it also had an extremely lengthy run at radio and never exactly lit up the charts. Same with “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” and “What We Ain’t Got”, most notably.


        As for Song of the Year, here’s my decision if I had my way (considering a combination of cultural appeal, critical reception, longevity and modest commercial reach)


        “She Don’t Love You”
        “What We Ain’t Got”
        “Whiskey On My Breath”


        Some would instantly cry foul seeing no Chris Stapleton represented here, considering his nominations in many other categories. But with many considering his album all-around solid front to back, and having disagreements as to which songs stand out the most, that’s just what happens sometimes.

        In contrast, there is a near-unanimous consensus that “Fine” is one of the biggest standouts on “Pageant Material”, while “Standards” is on “Hold My Beer, Volume 1”.

        Finally, with “Whiskey On My Breath”, that is arguably the single most controversial inclusion here………………….but I’d argue it deserves to be there because it is self-evident, when looking at this blog and many other blogs specializing in country music discussion like Saving Country Music, that this has made measurable impact despite Love & Theft being without a major label and their limited previous commercial success.


  5. Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2015 / 4:29 pm

    One final point I haven’t yet addressed:


    I don’t think the Zac Brown Band got snubbed. I really don’t, and here’s why.

    Firstly, “JEKYLL + HYDE” has gotten a rather mediocre reception, critically-speaking. It has a mere 56 composite score on Mediabase (WAY down from the 87 “The Grohl Sessions, Volume 1” received, and a 71 for “Uncaged”). Add to that the fact this is a collection of songs spanning numerous styles as opposed to a country album through and through, and it should come to no surprise “JEKYLL + HYDE” isn’t listed among the Album of the Year nominees.


    Now, with “Homegrown”, it gets a little more challenging.

    “Homegrown” was unmistakably a huge hit for the band and is not far off from Platinum status. It also is among the handful of tracks that DID garner critical acclaim.

    But here’s where I think “Homegrown” wasn’t exactly snubbed, either.

    Firstly, its chart run had a “Blink, and it’s all over!” feel to it. It wasted no time soaring to the top of the chart, and then “Lovin’ You Easy” followed suit. It was a notably front-loaded release.

    Which leads right into my second point. As good as “Homegrown” is, it lacked an eventful quality. It’s that kind of song that is impossible to hate, but there’s also nothing to necessarily be enamored over either. It was basically the Zac Brown Band rehashing “Chicken Fried”-esque lyrical populism with a sonic update. And while I prefer “Homegrown” over “Chicken Fried” EASILY because of how the former does an effective job conveying some wistfulness that only bolsters Brown’s emotional commitment to the simple lyrics when he sings the titular hook, while the latter strikes more as just rattling off checklist cliches………………..”Homegrown” falls short of having an eventful impact like “Girl Crush” did.


    So, no, there’s no reason to be sympathetic with the Zac Brown Band in being absent this time around.

    If they do the right thing and throw their full weight behind “Bittersweet” and/or “Dress Blues” as follow-up singles, they hit big and they don’t get any love when the 50th annual CMA nominees are announced, THEN I’ll declare the Zac Brown Band were unfairly snubbed. But I don’t think that’s the case at all considering how abysmal the reception to their album has been and how their singles have been more likeable than anything, and as long as they keep pandering to the lowest common denominator with “Beautiful Drug”-esque bullshit, that’s the way the cookie will continue to crumble.


  6. ron12274 September 10, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    And kelsea ballerini in the female vocalist category? Of that doesn’t highlight the lack of women what does?


    • NoahHibiscusEaton September 10, 2015 / 7:05 pm

      It isn’t much of a surprise Ballerini is nominated.

      Black River Entertainment is dead insistent on doing their level best to make her the next breakout female star with lasting appeal, and while I predict they’ll ultimately fail given her terrible opening week sales and middling single sales, I concede her appearance here isn’t far-fetched.


  7. petemarshall724 September 10, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    Call me crazy I think Blake Shelton “Sangria”. FGL “Dirt” and Carrie “something inn the water” should be nominated for cma. I’m hoping “smoking and Drinkin’ “don’t win because I can’t stand this song.


    • NoahHibiscusEaton September 10, 2015 / 8:05 pm

      “Sangria” isn’t bad, and it definitely has solid sales to back it’s case for a nomination.

      To my ears, it’s not impactful enough to warrant being included among the five most impactful singles between July 2014 and July 2015. But “Sangria” would rank among the five follow-ups for Single of the Year consideration, I think.

      Completely agree with you on “Dirt” and “Something in the Water”, though.


  8. Tom September 10, 2015 / 8:05 pm

    Can someone please explain to me why everyone loves “Take Your Time”. Forget about how it sounds, the lyrics are just weird. The narrator doesn’t want to date the girl or have a serious relationship, but also doesn’t want to just have a one night stand. I’ve never seen so many people and critics glam over a song where the guy just wants to have a 2 week fling with a girl.


    • NoahHibiscusEaton September 10, 2015 / 9:31 pm

      I’ve personally hated that song from the very beginning.

      Sam Hunt apologists often love to argue, among other things, that Hunt is respectful of women in contrast to his bro-country peers.

      It remains to be seen what his follow-ups to “Montevallo” consist of, lyrically. All I can say is, I feel quite the contrary when I consider “Montevallo” as a whole.

      And “Take Your Time” is no exception. Sure, on the surface it reads all “Hey, no pressure at all! I respect consent and your boundaries!” But when you really take a deeper look, it’s really no less creepy than your prototypal bro-country hook-up ditty.

      To my ears, it’s a backhanded version of a bro-country hook-up ditty; between lines like “I don’t want to steal your covers, I just want to take your time!” Or “I don’t want to blow your phone up, I just want to blow your mind!” And he still succumbs to the same mind-reader assumptions that bro-country songs often resort to, where they assume just because a female subject hasn’t splashed a drink into the narrator’s face, said “Gi to hell!” or walked away……….that that means she is definitely interested without question. Uh, Hunt, has it ever occurred to you that maybe it’s because she is frightened by your advances and is unsure what to do in this situation?

      This song and “Make You Miss Me” smack as guilt-tripping a subject into a hook-up, more than anything. Worse still are tracks like “Breakup In A Small Town”, “Single For The Summer” and ESPECIALLY “Ex To See”……………..which either outright scorn, play games with the minds of and/or shows casual disinterest toward female subjects/exes.


      As tragic as it is seeing “Take Your Time” get a nomination, I am at the very least relieved the CMA Academy had the good sense to snub the abomination that is “Montevallo” in the Album of the Year category.

      Liked by 2 people

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