Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves are the top nominees for the Country Music Association Awards, signaling something of a left turn for the usually traditional organization.
Swift will be going for her third entertainer of the year award and was nominated for album and female vocalist of the year as well for the Nov. 6 awards in Nashville. Newcomer Musgraves also is up for awards in the album and female vocalist categories.
Reigning entertainer of the year Blake Shelton is next with five nominations. His wife, Miranda Lambert, also has five nominations — three solo and two with her trio Pistol Annies. And Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line have four apiece.
Shelton and Swift are up for top honor entertainer of the year with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and surprise nominee George Strait, a two-time winner in the category who’s being feted by CMA voters as he retires from touring.
The nominations were announced Tuesday morning in New York on “Good Morning America” and in a later news conference by Sheryl Crow and FGL.
Swift’s load of nominations isn’t that surprising. She’s now up to 21 career CMA nominations and has two entertainer of the year awards among her seven wins, tying her with Barbara Mandrell as the lead female winner of the association’s top honor.
Musgraves’ rapid ascendance, though, comes as something of a shock. This is the first year the talented, left-of-center newcomer has been nominated, and the number of trophies she and Swift are up for signals something of an admission that the once deeply conservative format is opening up to new sounds and ideas in the 21st Century.
The 25-year-old Texas-born singer-songwriter takes on divisive topics like homosexuality on her critically acclaimed album “Same Trailer Different Park” and other issues not often heard on country radio, yet still managed to generate hits because of her smart songwriting.
She’s also nominated in the new artist of the year category, as a songwriter on her own hit “Merry Go ‘Round” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
The CMA’s open-armed welcome for Musgraves wasn’t the only nontraditional entry among nominations. Bob Dylan earns a nod with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show as the songwriters of “Wagon Wheel,” the Dylan song sketch that Secor updated and Darius Rucker turned into a country hit. The song also is up for single of the year.
Folk duo The Civil Wars, officially on hiatus, earned a nomination for vocal duo of the year. Rapper Nelly is up for musical event on his “Cruise” mashup with Florida Georgia Line. And pop star and recent Nashville transplant Kelly Clarkson returns as female vocalist nominee.
It should also be noted Swift and Urban wouldn’t be among lead nominees without a little help from Tim McGraw. Each got three nominations apiece for their collaboration on McGraw’s “Highway Don’t Care” — single, musical event and video of the year.
Carrie Underwood, McGraw, Aldean, Bryan and Little Big Town are up for three awards apiece. In another sign he’s arrived, Bryan was nominated for entertainer of the year for the first time, five months after winning the same award from the rival Academy of Country Music.
Underwood’s “Blown Away,” Shelton’s “Based on a True Story” and Little Big Town’s “Tornado” are up for album of the year with Swift’s “Red” and Musgraves’ “Same Trailer.”