By KRISTIN M. HALL
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton are the leading nominees for the Academy of Country Music Awards, but only Stapleton joined the all-male ballot for the top prize of entertainer of the year.
The academy announced on Friday that Morris and Stapleton both had six nominations ahead of the April 18 awards show, which will air on CBS from Nashville, Tennessee.
Women were left out of the top category after Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for entertainer of the year last year, the first time ever for a tie and the first time a woman had won the category since Taylor Swift in 2012. Also nominated for entertainer of the year are Rhett, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Luke Combs.
This year, Morris’ crossover pop hit “The Bones,” was nominated for single of the year and earned her two nominations as songwriter and artist for song of the year. She was also nominated for female artist of the year, which she won last year, and music video of the year for “Better Than We Found It.” She had another nomination for the all-star collaboration The Highwomen in group of the year.
Stapleton, who released his fourth solo studio album last year, “Starting Over,” was nominated twice as artist and producer for album of the year, as well as twice for being the songwriter/artist for the title track for song of the year. He also has a nomination for male artist of the year.
Country star Morgan Wallen, who won new male artist of the year last year, was declared ineligible by the ACMs after he was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year. His most recent record, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” has spent six weeks at the top of the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, despite being removed from radio stations and some streaming playlists. The album was not eligible for album of the year award because it came out in 2021, but Wallen likely would have been a strong contender for male artist of the year and singles such as “7 Summers” and “More Than My Hometown” would have qualified for other awards.
Miranda Lambert, who is already the most nominated artist in ACM history, stretched her streak with five nominations. Lambert’s song “Bluebird” earned her four nominations total as writer and artist in song, single and video of the year. Lambert is nominated in female artist of the year, a category she has won nine times.
While women are absent from entertainer of the year, all five nominees for the single of the year are performed by women, a first for the ACM Awards.
In addition to Lambert’s “Bluebird” and Morris’ “The Bones,” Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope,” Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s duet “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and Ingrid Andress’ “More Hearts Than Mine” fill out the category.
Four Black artists are also nominated this year across all categories, another first for the ACM Awards. Kane Brown was nominated for album of the year for his record “Mixtape Vol. 1” while Jimmie Allen was nominated for new male artist of the year again after first being nominated in the same category in 2018.
Mickey Guyton was nominated again for new female artist of the year, after first being nominated in 2015. Her 2020 song “Black Like Me,” released after the death of George Floyd, never gained traction at radio, but brought her critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for best country solo performance.
Under ACM award criteria, artists can be nominated more than once in the new artist of the year categories as long as they haven’t won it previously and have not yet released a single from their third studio album.
Grammy winner John Legend has his first ACM Awards nomination for video of the year for his duet with Carrie Underwood on “Hallelujah.”
The album of the year category also includes Luke Bryan for “Born Here Live Here Die Here,” Ashley McBryde for “Never Will” and Brothers Osborne for “Skeletons.”