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ACM Awards snubs: Why isn't Dolly Parton an Entertainer of the Year?

Dave Paulson and Matthew Leimkuehler, Nashville Tennessean
·3 min read
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The nominees for the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards arrived on Friday, bringing us all a familiar mix of surprises and head-scratching absences. We've collected a few of the most notable, starting with a call for justice for one of country music's true treasures: Dolly Parton.

Along with radio performance, sales, streaming and television appearances, the Academy of Country Music defines its Entertainer of the Year by "artistic merit" and "contributions to the country music industry." Did no one in country music entertain us more in 2020 than the legend from East Tennessee?

She dominated the holiday season (with a chart-topping album, Netflix film and prime time network special, no less), said "Black lives matter" when many of her peers remained silent and helped fund research for a vital COVID-19 vaccine. Her tireless contributions to entertainment and humanitarianism should earn her a place among top entertainers most award seasons — and especially this year.

Snub: 'Black Like Me'

With "Black Like Me," Mickey Guyton debuted one of the most important songs in country music last year. Released during the height of last summer's Black Lives Matter movement, Guyton chronicled her journey in country music at a time when many call for gatekeepers to elevate more diverse voices in the format.

Mickey Guyton wrote "Black Like Me" a year before George Floyd's death, but rushed to release the song because she said the time was right.
Mickey Guyton wrote "Black Like Me" a year before George Floyd's death, but rushed to release the song because she said the time was right.

Despite initial balking from radio programmers, the song earned Guyton her first Grammy nomination. She wasn't shut out from the show completely, however; Friday morning, Guyton earned her second New Female Artist of the Year nomination.

Snub: Carrie Underwood

For the first time since 2005, Carrie Underwood won't compete for Female Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards.
For the first time since 2005, Carrie Underwood won't compete for Female Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards.

For the first time since 2005, Carrie Underwood won't compete for Female Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards. History's leaned in Miranda Lambert's favor since both launched major label careers — Lambert previously won nine times, compared to Underwood's three — but it's nonetheless surprising to see the show's co-defending Entertainer of the Year absent from major categories. This year's Female Artist category instead features Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris, a strong field of rising and established talent.

Surprise: The Cadillac Three

This is a hard-earned win for The Cadillac Three, a band that has been a constant on the road.
This is a hard-earned win for The Cadillac Three, a band that has been a constant on the road.

Ten years after their formation (though their members have been playing together for nearly 20), hard-driving southern rock trio The Cadillac Three have picked up their first nomination for Group of the Year. It doesn't come in the wake of a giant hit or a massive label push — this is a hard-earned win for a band that has been a constant on the road.

Snub: Sam Hunt

Sam Hunt is a no-show on this year's ballot.
Sam Hunt is a no-show on this year's ballot.

He earned four nominations for his 2014 smash debut "Montevallo," and last year's follow-up "Southside" went platinum and racked up critical praise. Yet Hunt is a no-show on this year's ballot, just three years after the ACMs gave him the prestigious Gene Weed Milestone Award. Whether it's due to a ton of competition in a male-dominated genre, or a result of his 2019 DUI arrest, Hunt's absence is glaring here.

RELATED: These were the most popular country albums of 2020

Snubs: Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw

Kenny Chesney was among Friday's ACM snubs.
Kenny Chesney was among Friday's ACM snubs.

Both country giants released new albums in 2020 and had massive summer tours plotted, but with the pandemic keeping them off of stages, they appear to be losing ground to the younger likes of Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett.

RELATED: Tim McGraw, Tyler Hubbard call for national unity on new song, 'Undivided'

MORE: Eddie Van Halen: Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley salute guitar giant

Surprise: Hardy

Hardy scored a nod for New Male Artist of the Year.
Hardy scored a nod for New Male Artist of the Year.

He's no stranger to the ACMs, having won last year's Single of the Year award for "God's Country," which he cowrote. But Hardy is also a rising recording artist and getting more recognition than ever for that this year, including a nod for New Male Artist of the Year.

RELATED: Ashley McBryde, Hardy and more perform at CRS New Faces virtual showcase

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: ACM Awards snubs: Why no Dolly Parton among nominations?