So, for two years I wrote about the ACM awards. And then, for two years, I did not. The reasons for this have been covered in other awards-show write-ups, but to make them clear at the beginning of this piece: there are not that many country music people at any given time, and so any time an award goes up, the same set of people are nominated over and over again. Couple that with the fact that the ACM awards are only the first of two major country-music-centric awards shows, and that the other one 1 has basically the same set of people involved with it, and also doesn’t have the fucking songwriter category (see below).
Anyway, this year I decided to jump back in. Mainstream country has some more good stuff! Carrie Underwood is performing a new single 2! The ceremony almost moved from Vegas, but decided it was a better idea not to! It seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a good year to jump back on the ACM train!
That said, I took 3 years off, and this field of nominees is functionally (albeit not precisely) identical. The heavy hitters are the same people, they’re here in the same configurations. Country music has not made significant changes, and yet I am soldiering through anyway, because I feel like significant changes may be coming, and it’d be worth getting some words down about it this year. So I’m soldiering on anyway, but I’m doing this one speed-round style, so that nobody has to spend more time than necessary thinking about Thomas Rhett.
Songwriter of the Year
Above I alluded to a problem with this categroy, and here it is: it is near-on impossible to figure out the elegibility of the people in this category in any way that yields an answer to the question “for which songs are these folks nominated”. That annoys me, and it required a long time to suss out. Anyway, Rhett Akins just got a bunch of press for making the country charts for seven years in a row. While that’s impressive, his songs still aren’t very good, so let’s go with Hillary Lindsay.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hillary Lindsay
Vocal Event of the Year
This award is not solely awarded to the vocalist – it is also awarded to the record company, and the producer! This probably excludes such notable vocal events as “Blake Shelton clearing his throat that one time” and Luke Bryan saying “gawww-lee” 3 at something. Anyway, most of these are awful, but the Glen Campbell/Willie Nelson song is good, and, y’know, there aren’t a lot more opportunities to award Glen Campbell for things.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glenn Campbell and Willie Nelson, “Funny (How Time Slips Away)”
Video of the Year
Jesus christ, if this isn’t the most insulting, “country by numbers” set of videos ever nominated, I’ll eat that one guy from the Brothers Osborne’s hat. It’s hard to call anybody the winner, honestly, but at least the “We Should be Friends” video has the Legally Blonde thing going on.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Miranda Lambert, “We Should be Friends”
Song of the Year
Can we just agree that no one outside of actual biologists should be using the word “Female” for any goddamned reason in 2018? Thanks.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, “Whiskey and You”
Single Record of the Year
This one, as a brief reminder, goes to the performance, rather than the nebulous idea of the songs itself (the song of the year award goes to the songwriters). It also goes to the record label, because I guess of course it does? Man, next time I write about these I’m devoting some damn time to the history of the label’s role in these things 4.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”
Album of the Year
In perhaps a shocking development, I actually liked Old Dominion’s album – taken as a whole album – more than Chris Stapleton’s, who I think is a much more solid singles guy. What a twist!
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Old Dominion, Happy Endings
New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year
On the one hand, I kind of like Runaway June, on the other hand, this award has already been given out and it’s gone to Midland, which is, I guess fine.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Runaway June, but it actually went to Midland
New Male Vocalist of the Year
Here’s the thing: I still like Kane Brown somewhat more than Brett Young, just like I did when I wrote about the iHeartMusic Awards 5. But, once more, this award has already been given, and it has already gone to Brett Young.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brett Young
New Female Vocalist of the Year
So the way that long-term nominees seep into the categories is by first appearing here, but given that there’s, like, one new nominee in the non-”New” categories every year, there’s a one in fifteen shot that any of these people will be it. I suppose it’s nice to acknowledge the newness, but it would also be nice to roll the goddamn fucking categories over more. Oh also, this has already been given to Lauren Alaina.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lauren Alaina, actually
Vocal Group of the Year
Hey, wouldn’t you know? I still like Old Dominion more than Midland. What a thing!
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Old Dominion
Vocal Duo of the Year
The fact that a “duo” is of course a “group” of two people apparently carries no weight with the ACM people. How else are we going to wind up with this, the most obnoxious of categories? Seriously almost all of these people are just awful.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brothers Osborne, I guess
Female Vocalist of the Year
I mean, Reba’s here because she’s the host, right? There cannot possibly be another reason. Not in 2018. I suppose there are worse things than giving it to Carrie Underwood. She’s had a rough time of it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Carrie Underwood
Male Vocalist of the Year
Well, it was a nice break, but we’re back to Chris Stapleton, I suppose.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton
Entertainer of the Year
This is the one for all the marbles! That makes it weird that it’s the only category in which Luke Bryan appears! 6 It would also be weird for it to be the only category in which Garth Brooks appears but, y’know, these things do happen, and Garth Brooks is pretty much always up here, no matter what he’s been doing. He’s Garth Brooks, after all.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton
- the CMAs, which are trashier and dumber, but also less entertaining, which is a shame. ↩
- a fact that is not much of an exciting development in and of itself, but is her first public appearance since the accident, and so is at least a little exciting, as someone who likes people generally. ↩
- to be clear, the joke I am making here is that Luke Bryan sounds like Gomer Pyle. ↩
- I mean, I talk about record labels all the time, but their specific role in country music and in the academy, particularly, is where I’m going here. ↩
- where the category was more manageable because it was co-ed, and thus I didn’t have to think about as many people to winnow it down. ↩
- although he did appear in a joke in the vocal event category. ↩