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Despite Towering Chart Year, Country Music Largely Snubbed in Top Grammy Categories

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This year, country music had a major mainstream moment on Billboard‘s all-genre charts, with four country songs topping the chart: Morgan Wallen’s 16-week No. 1 hit “Last Night,” Zach Bryan’s duet with Kacey Musgraves “I Remember Everything,” Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town,” and Oliver Anthony Music’s two-week viral No. 1 hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Meanwhile, Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” spent eight weeks at No. 2 on the Hot 100, while Bryan also reached the top 10 this year with “Something in the Orange.”

Dating back to the Hot 100’s 1958 start, the only other calendar year that had four or more country chart-toppers was 1975, when five songs became chart leaders.

Even with country music’s lofty, record-breaking showing on the all-genre chart this year, when the Grammy nominations were announced on Friday morning (Nov. 10), most of country music’s biggest artists of the moment — including Bryan, Combs, Wallen and Lainey Wilson, who just picked up the coveted CMA entertainer of the year trophy in a surprise win on Wednesday evening — were shut out of the four biggest categories: album, record and song of the year and best new artist.

Country’s only representation in the “Big Four” is Jelly Roll (who won new artist of the year at Wednesday’s CMAs) and the country/Americana duo The War and Treaty in the best new artist category. Though The War and Treaty’s music hasn’t gotten traction on mainstream country radio, the pair was nominated for vocal duo of the year at the CMA Awards, and their collaboration with Zach Bryan, “Hey Driver,” reached the top five on the Hot Country Songs chart. But primarily, their awards nods have come in Americana spaces, including a 2024 Grammy nomination for best Americana roots song.

“Unfortunately, country still isn’t given the respect it deserves by some Grammy voters….Stereotypes about country music still exist – twangy songs about my dog and my mom dying — and it can be perceived by some as not as good or influential as other genres,” posits Beverly Keel, co-founder of Change the Conversation and dean of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment. “I don’t think many Grammy voters are aware of the popularity and reach of country. While it doesn’t get the attention or respect that other genres do in terms of award nominations, media coverage and perception, the numbers reveal that a large number of people enjoy it.” 

Despite his record-breaking sales and streaming year, Wallen was completely shut out of this year’s Grammy nominations, though his massive hit “Last Night” did earn a country song of the year nod (which goes to songwriters John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin & Ryan Vojtesak). Despite his album One Thing at a Time being one of the biggest-selling albums of the year, it earned no nominations in the all-genre album of the year category, or even the country album of the year category. This shutout seems to echo another loss for Wallen earlier in the week, when he was nominated in three top CMA Awards categories — entertainer of the year, album of the year and male vocalist of the year — but went home empty-handed.

Wilson, who picked up five total wins during the CMA Awards ceremony, was noticeably absent from the all-genre best new artist category, despite being eligible. Her lone Grammy nominations were for country album of the year (Bell Bottom Country, an accolade she also picked up from the CMAs this week) and best country duo/group performance, for her collaboration with Jelly Roll on “Save Me.”

Historically, country music hasn’t had an especially strong showing in the winners circle in the Big Four categories. Country albums that have taken home the coveted album of the year prize include Glen Campbell’s By The Time I Get to Phoenix in 1968, the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2002 and The Chicks’ Taking the Long Way in 2007. More recently, Taylor Swift’s country project Fearless won in 2010 (her two most recent wins were for her pop albums 1989 in 2016 and Folklore in 2020). The most recent country project to win album of the year was Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour at the 2019 Grammys ceremony.

It has been more than a dozen years since a country artist has taken home the trophy for best new artist, with Zac Brown Band winning at the 2010 ceremony. Lady A’s “Need You Now” was the most recent country winner in both the record and song of the year categories at the 2011 Grammys ceremony.

Country has received a slew of nominations in the record of the year category, including Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” in 1999, Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” in 1983, with other nominations including Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” and “Lady,” Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A,” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” The Chicks won in the category with “Not Ready to Make Nice”; Olivia Newton-John’s multi-genre hit “I Honestly Love You” also took home the record of the year honor in 1975.

In the best new artist category, country winners have included Bobbie Gentry, LeAnn Rimes, Carrie Underwood and Zac Brown Band, while nominees have included Jeannie C. Riley, The Judds, Kentucky Headhunters, Shania Twain (notably, she lost to Hootie & The Blowfish, whose lead singer Darius Rucker would go on to become a star in the country genre himself), The Chicks, Brad Paisley, Lady A, Sam Hunt, Brandy Clark, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Kacey Musgraves.

This year, the general field expanded from the Big Four to the Big Six, with producer of the year, non-classical and songwriter of the year, non-classical added to the field. While no country producers received a nomination, both Shane McAnally (Brandy Clark, Old Dominion, Carly Pearce, Chris Stapleton) and Jessie Jo Dillon (Jelly Roll, Old Dominion, Dan + Shay) garnered nominations for songwriter of the year.

In an interview with Billboard on the eve of the nominations, Recording Academy Chief Harvey Mason, Jr. acknowledged that creators in both the Latin and country fields were likely disappointed with the final nominations in top categories. Asked specifically about Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” Mason noted, “That song, and country in general, had such a great year. [There were] so many really good records and great artists, so it was a surprise.”

He added, “We always feel like we can do better. We have to do more outreach in Latin communities, making sure that we’re representing the music accurately. We’re hearing from them things that we can do; making sure we have the right amount of membership and representation. Same goes for country. So, we have to make sure that we’re getting the right membership, which is something we have to talk about every year. When we look at the results of any given year, we always look and see where we can do better; where do we need to balance; where do we need to grow and evolve our membership. … It’s something that we pay close attention to, so we’ll continue to do work on our membership.”

Even within the country-focused categories, songs and albums that dominated country radio and albums sales over the past year did not dominate the nominations.

In addition to “Last Night,” best country song nominations also included Chris Stapleton’s current radio single “White Horse” and the Bryan/Musgraves duet “I Remember Everything,” which topped the Hot Country Songs chart for six weeks. Other nominees in the category were Tyler Childers’ more Americana-leaning “In Your Love” and Brandy Clark’s “Buried.” Childers’ “In Your Love” also earned a best country solo performance nod, as well as an overall best music video nod, while Childers’ Rustin in the Rain earned a best country album nod.

Other country categories, as is often the case, also leaned toward critically praised songs and albums over chart-toppers.

Projects including Wallen’s One Thing at a Time and Combs’ Gettin’ Old were absent from the best country album category, though Wilson’s Bell Bottom Country earned a nod, as did Bryan’s self-titled album. Other nominations are Kelsea Ballerini’s much-lauded divorce record Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, Brothers Osborne’s self-titled album, and Tyler Childers’ Rustin’ in the Rain.

Combs’ chart juggernaut “Fast Car” earned a best country solo performance nomination, as did Stapleton’s current top 20 Country Airplay hit “White Horse,” while the rest of the category was comprised of Childers’ “In Your Love” (which reached No. 7 on the Hot Country Songs chart, and is currently at No. 51 on the Country Airplay chart), in addition to Clark’s “Buried” and Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind,” from the Doc Watson tribute album I Am a Pilgrim: Doc Watson at 100.

The best country duo/group performance category included the Stapleton/Carly Pearce collaboration “We Don’t Fight Anymore,” the Jelly Roll/Wilson collab, and the Bryan/Musgraves collab, with other nods going to Dierks Bentley’s bluegrass-tinged jam “High Note” with Billy Strings as well as Brothers Osborne’s “Nobody’s Nobody” and the Vince Gill/Paul Franklin collab “Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold).”

Notably, Oliver Anthony Music, whose “Rich Men North of Richmond” was submitted for song and record of the year, after being one of the biggest breakthroughs of the year, received no nominations.

Country music did much better in the Big Four categories at the Grammy Awards for 1975, which, as noted, was the last time the genre sent four or more songs to the top of the Hot 100. Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which topped both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs that year, was nominated for both record and song of the year (the latter for its writer, Larry Weiss). Eagles’ pop/country crossover hit “Lyin’ Eyes” was also nominated for record of the year. Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel, which was a No. 1 album on both the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums, was up for album of the year. And Amazing Rhythm Aces, which had the pop/country crossover hit “Third Rate Romance,” was nominated for best new artist.

See the full 2024 country Grammy nominations below:

Best Country Solo Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo country recordings.

“In Your Love,” Tyler Childers

“Buried,” Brandy Clark

“Fast Car,” Luke Combs

“The Last Thing on My Mind,” Dolly Parton

“White Horse,” Chris Stapleton

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative country recordings. (Note: More or less than 5 nominations in a category is the result of ties.)

“High Note,” Dierks Bentley featuring Billy Strings

“Nobody’s Nobody,” Brothers Osborne

“I Remember Everything,” Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves

“Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold),” Vince Gill & Paul Franklin

“Save Me,” Jelly Roll with Lainey Wilson

“We Don’t Fight Anymore,” Carly Pearce featuring Chris Stapleton

Best Country Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

“Buried,” Brandy Clark & Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (Brandy Clark)

“I Remember Everything,” Zach Bryan & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves)

“In Your Love,” Tyler Childers & Geno Seale, songwriters (Tyler Childers)

“Last Night,” John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin & Ryan Vojtesak, songwriters (Morgan Wallen)

“White Horse,” Chris Stapleton & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Chris Stapleton)

Best Country Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new country recordings.

Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, Kelsea Ballerini

Brothers Osborne, Brothers Osborne

Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan

Rustin’ in the Rain, Tyler Childers

Bell Bottom Country, Lainey Wilson

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