CMA Voters Guide: Unpacking the Final Ballot

Decisions, decisions.

Voting members of the Country Music Association should have received their final-round ballot for the 2022 CMA Awards through email on Oct. 3, and they will have plenty of hard calls to make before voting ends Oct. 28.

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How voters mark their ballots will determine what, if any, records are set when the awards air on ABC from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Luke Bryan and football great Peyton Manning are set to co-host the show.

The eligibility period for the 56th annual CMA Awards was July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

Here are nine burning questions that this year’s awards will answer:

Will a woman win entertainer of the year for the first time in over a decade?

The last woman to win in this top category was Taylor Swift in 2011. This year, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood are contenders for the third year in a row. Neither have won this category. The only nominee who has won before is last year’s honoree, Luke Combs. The other nominees are Chris Stapleton and Morgan Wallen.

Will Lambert become the first woman to win album of the year three times?

Lambert, who won for Revolution (2010) and Platinum (2014), is nominated for Palomino. She would become the first woman to win three times. This year’s other nominees are Combs and Maren Morris, who are both looking for their second win in the category, and Lainey Wilson and Old Dominion, who are both looking for their first.

Will Stapleton become the first three-time winner for single of the year?

Stapleton won last year for “Starting Over” and in 2018 for “Broken Halos.” He is nominated for “You Should Probably Leave.” If he wins, he’ll become the first three-time winner for single of the year. He would also become only the second artist to win in this top category two years running. The first was Lady A with “I Run To You” (2009) and “Need You Now” (2010). This year’s other nominees are Jordan Davis’ “Buy Dirt,” featuring Bryan; Kelsea Ballerini’s “half of my hometown,” featuring Kenny Chesney; Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde’s “Never Wanted To Be That Girl”; and Cody Johnson’s “ ’Til You Can’t.”

Will “Buy Dirt” become the first song written by as many as four songwriters to win song of the year?

The song was written by two pairs of brothers: Jordan and Jacob Davis, and Josh and Matt Jenkins. No winner in this category has had more than three credited writers. This year’s other nominees are “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” “Sand in My Boots,” “Things a Man Oughta Know” and “You Should Probably Leave.” Each of these songs are the work of three songwriters.

Will Swift become the first woman to win music video of the year three times?

Swift previously won for “Love Story” (2009) and “Highway Don’t Care,” a collaboration with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban (2013). She is nominated for “I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault),” which features Stapleton. The only artists to win three or more times in the category are Brad Paisley (four) and Hank Williams Jr. (three). This year’s other nominees are Midland featuring Jon Pardi‘s “Longneck Way To Go,” Wilson and Cole Swindell’s “Never Say Never,” Pearce and McBryde’s “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” and Johnson’s “‘Til You Can’t.”

Will Pearce and McBryde become the first all-female collaboration in nearly three decades to win musical event of the year?

Pearce and McBryde are nominated for “Never Wanted To Be That Girl.” They are vying to become the first all-female collaboration to win since Reba McEntire with Linda Davis’ “Does He Love You” in 1994. This year’s other nominees are Dierks Bentley’s “Beers On Me,” with BRELAND and HARDY, Underwood and Jason Aldrean’s “If I Didn’t Love You,” Midland featuring Pardi’s “Longneck Way To Go” and Swindell with Wilson’s “Never Say Never.”

Will Stapleton become the first six-time winner for male vocalist of the year?

If Stapleton wins, he’ll become the first artist in CMA history to win six times in this key category. He would surpass Vince Gill, Blake Shelton and George Strait, each of whom has won five times. This year’s other nominees are two-time winner Combs, as well as Johnson, Wallen and Eric Church, each of whom is looking for his first win in the category.

Will McBryde or Wilson maintain the streak of first-time winners for female vocalist of the year?

The last three winners, Kacey Musgraves (2019), Maren Morris (2020) and Carly Pearce (2021), won the category for the first time. McBryde and Wilson are vying to win their first awards in the field, which would maintain that streak of first-timer wins. Pearce is nominated again this year, as are past winners Lambert and Underwood.

Will Paul Franklin finally win for musician of the year?

The steel guitarist has received 30 nominations in this category over the years, but has yet to win. Fiddler Jenee Fleenor, who has won the last three years, is nominated again, along with guitarist Brent Mason (a two-time winner in the category), as well as banjoist Ilya Toshinskiy and guitarist Derek Wells, who, like Franklin, are seeking their first wins.

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