CMA nominations: Not so 'Swift'?

Swifturban_lBrooks & Dunn have a nifty hit single out now called “Put a Girl in it,” and I only wish the country music industry would take that advice more often. I thought about it as the nominees for the 42nd annual CMA Awards were announced today. Country insiders often bemoan the fact that female artists seem to generally have a tougher time of it at radio than male artists do, or that they at least seem to have fewer slots open to them. That is perennially reflected in the nominations for the CMAs’ highly coveted Entertainer of the Year prize. How long has it been since a woman was even nominated in the category? Here’s a clue: The last female nominee was the then-superstar/now-pariah Dixie Chicks! (You can find a historical list of nominees dating back to 1967 here.) So I was stunned and amazed today when into this reliably vagina-free zone walked Sugarland, who would initially seem, on the face of it, to be half-ineligible. It is no secret by now that the duo are an EW-Approved ™ Country Act (their biggest fan, Whitney Pastorek, found new ways to advocate Sugarland in this very space just yesterday), and thus no surprise that we would endorse this encouraging development on all sorts of levels. Go, “Stay"…etc.

Yet you know I wouldn’t be posting if I hadn’t found some reason to carp, and so here we go: Where is Taylor Swift? If you are an average reader or fan, you are echoing me at this moment and saying, “Yeah, where is Taylor Swift?” If you are in any way connected with the country music industry, you are saying, “Willman, we knew you were an imbecile, but must you so flagrantly trumpet your complete and utter ignorance of the way the world works?” So let me assure you that I had every understanding going in that Swift’s chances of picking up an Entertainer of the Year nomination were roughly less than zero. The category really doesn’t have anything to do with who had a particularly artistic year; it’s largely an ongoing Career Achievement award for performers who are still active superstars. You have to “earn” your way into the category through years of headlining amphitheaters and arenas — I get that, even if I don’t agree with it. And yet, year after year, when Kenny Chesney wins the award (as he will again this time), he comes back to the press room afterward and talks about how good it feels to get the trophy that the industry bestows upon the guy who has been the best or most visible ambassador of country music to the outside world. If that’s really the standard, then, with all due respect to Chesney’s unparalleled live drawing power, wasn’t Swift undeniably country’s Ambassador of the Year in 2008?

Willman’s case for Taylor Swift as Entertainer of the Year, after the jump…

Consider: Her album has sold 3,364,000 copies (1,121,000 of those inthis calendar year). She’s had a great run of hit singles at countryradio (none of which were nominated for song or single of the year, bythe way), some of which have crossed over to the Top 40 and AC. She’sdrawing youth to the format — what other act is showing up on countryradio billboards and Disney Radio billboards? Swift even passes theall-important likability test, since no one I’ve met in the industryconsiders her anything close to an ungrateful snot. So as the youngwoman who is basically leading the charge for country music’s successin tough times, why isn’t she up there for…oh, right, she hasn’tearned it. (Cue Tom Hanks at the end of Saving Private Ryan here.)

For the CMAs, I understand that Entertainer of the Year is like someheavyweight boxing belt, a mantle to be assumed and then given up onlywhen one’s time has passed. But can you imagine a Grammys where NorahJones or Sheryl Crow or Alicia Keys put out their acclaimed,blockbuster first albums, and not only did they not sweep the awardsbut they weren’t even eligible for the ceremony’s top honor? It’d beunthinkable, but that’s the situation the CMAs find themselves in byignoring the realities of what’s really happening within the calendaryear when it comes to handing out the top prize. Make no mistake, theyput on a good show every year; count me as somebody who can’t sitthrough even an hour of the MTV Awards anymore but eagerly sits throughall three of the CMAs. And some of the lesser categories, they evenhave a startling tendency to get right — especially, recently, Album ofthe Year, which has gone to such deserving discs as Lee Ann Womack’s There’s More Where That Came From, Brad Paisley’s Time Well Wasted, and Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.And none of this year’s Entertainer candidates are dire, certainly.(Paisley is truly the best “entertainer” country has right now in anytrue sense of the term, and the other nominees are solid, even if Urbandidn’t have a new album this year and Strait’s wasn’t one of his bestefforts.) But the top prize is the only one that gets much attention oris remembered year after year, and the CMAs don’t do much formaintaining a sense of topical relevance or diversifying the brand byhanding that one out to Kenny year after year in a contest that feelsas preordained as a North Korean election. I only hope the aggrieved18-year-old girls of the world will join me in Swift-boating the CMAswith their protests.

Comments (103 total) Add your comment
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  • aps

    Here’s my take on the situation. I think Taylor Swift has been something special. Undeniable. She has a knack for making catchy music. But, I don’t think she’s a very good vocalist, lyricist, or artist as a whole. She’s a perfectly fine and nice and adorable package. She made herself a star and I think that’s just fantastic for her. She DOES have lots of talent, I’m not saying she’s a hack. But in my eyes, an Entertainer of the Year award should mean the overall quality needs to be better, not just a toe tapper. (Gotta give the girl credit though. She has a nose for getting it right. Even though I’m not a big fan of hers, I do own some of her music.)And I agree with a lot of what you say. enough chesney. Not a fan, and general opinion that I get usually is the same- they think that some of these other folk deserve it more. From Keith Urban to Paisley to Sugarland and on

  • Christina

    Forget Taylor Swift. Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood were left out of this category too and are probably more deserving nominees then Sugarland considering the amount of people they play to in concerts, the number of CD’s they sell, and the #1 singles they rack up. Sugarland are a great duo but their tour numbers ans sales aren’t up to the level of Rascal Flatts or Carrie Underwood

  • Lesley

    I have to respectfully disagree. You certainly have valid reasons, for sure, but Taylor is just too new and green to win the award.
    One other strike against Taylor, is the very crossover appeal she has. Female country artists are often looked down upon if they achieve any kind of crossover success. Nevermind the fact that someone like Keith Urban can have a big pop hit with “You’ll Think Of Me”. A huge double standard in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely agree with your that country ignores alot of the female talen they have, especially since the young female artists like Swift, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert are helping to keep country relevent. I think Swift deserves extra credit for writing her own songs. She will only get better as she ages and gains more experiences to write about.

  • Kelly

    Taylor Swift…really? While she’s adorable and clearly has more talent than I do, she’s not Entertainer of the Year caliber in my opinion. If any female has been the last couple of years, it’s been Carrie Underwood. And where are Rascal Flatts? I’d put them in that category over Taylor Swift too. In fact, I’d agree with Christina and say that both Carrie and Rascal Flatts deserve the nomination over Sugarland. And I’m also so very tired of Kenny Chesney winning.

  • Stacey

    Are you crazy. Taylor Swift in that category? NO WAY. Heck, Sugarland shouldn’t even be nominated when Carrie Underwood should. But really, Taylor can’t sing. She has catchy songs but can’t sing live. No way has she made enough of an impact in this industry to be nominated. Now Carrie has. She has transformed from a American Idol winner to a superstar. Her CDs sales have been holding country music from disaster these last few years. Sugarland is not Entertainer of the year.

  • bb

    I think you have to be a headliner to be Entertainer of the Year, one album worth of songs isn’t enough to be a headliner.

  • Tippa

    Sure shes cute, sells a lot of CDs and is versatile musically, but is not Entertainer of the Year by a long shot. If any woman should find a place in that category its Carrie Underwood. I think its ridiculous to devote an entire Popwatch to Swift not getting a nomination when she got nominated for everything that was appropriate for her. Write a Popwatch about CMA snubs, sure, but not one particular (not that deserving) young female.

  • Liddy

    Taylor Swift is still a relative newcomer and Entertainer of the Year generally goes to the person who consistantly sells out stadiums. And THAT’S why Kenny wins every year. I think the bigger problem for women in country is that the artists are all 20 year old beautiful slender women. The labels refuse to sign anyone who doesn’t fit into that narrow category. Most country fans are sick of it and want something outside the box. I personally am sick of hearing about both Taylor and Sugarland. Yawn.

  • Chris Willman

    Oh, no–you guys have been brainwashed too. “Taylor Swift is still a relative newcomer and Entertainer of the Year generally goes to the person who consistantly sells out stadiums.” How exciting would it be if Grammy voters unofficially decided en masse that Artist of the Year should generally go to the biggest touring act every year, whether that person put out a good record, or any record, or not?

  • Liddy

    Except that the CMAs and Grammys are two very different awards shows. And we’re talking about a specific category: Entertainer of the Year. Who’s out there ‘entertaining’ more people this year? It’s Chesney by far. I’m not saying I like it, I’m just saying that’s what we’re voting on here.

  • Erica

    Taylor Swift for Entertainer of the Year? Am I reading this correctly? There is no way she should be nominated. The Entertainer of the Year is reserved from someone who has a top selling tour, top selling CDs, and provides each and every audience member with a memorable experience after each performance. She is too young and inexperienced to have reached this level yet.
    Sure it may seem like its constantly the same people nominated for Entertainer of the Year but that’s because they are good and consistent and at the top of their game. Just look at the year Kenny Chesney has alone and you’ll see why he’s reigning Entertainer of the Year. I for one and rooting for yet another win for him this year. He deserves it.

  • Sarah

    Have you ever HEARD Taylor Swift in concert? After about 10 minutes of listening to her whine, you’re about ready to walk out on her. 10 more minutes and you have a splitting headache. How can that type of a performance warrant an Entertainer of the Year Award when there are many others out there who leaving you begging for more after their show is over? There are many other talented artists, both males and females, who deserve the award more.

  • Denise

    I cannot even believe what I am reading, you cannot seriously believe that Taylor deserves this award nomination more than Carrie Underwood? Last I checked Carrie sold 7 million of her debut album, that is worlds beyond what Taylor has sold, how can people forget that? Carrie deserved this and I find it laughable that you are a professional journalist, You may want to seek another profession because you are just not very factual in your observations, maybe Taylor is looking for professional someone to bow down to her and kiss her hiney, I think you might be qualifed for that.

  • aps

    I agree with all the posters saying Carrie deserves the award more than Taylor Swift. Also, I have had enough of Sugarland as well. I’m not a huge fan of there’s to begin with. The same goes for Chesney. He does, however, deserve the nomination. although it is refreshing to at least see someone new in the entertainer of the year category (even though it IS really the award for the big showman who sells out the stadium).

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