The Year in Music: Garth turns the page for country’s next generation

Back in July, when seven-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Garth Brooks announced his intention to remove himself from consideration for the coveted category, little did he know he might be ushering in a new era. 2020 seemed to welcome a new age, where stars who were newcomers only five years ago stepped to the forefront.

Indeed, Entertainers of the Year for both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association were completely different from only a year before. Reigning ACM Entertainer Keith Urban presented the trophy to first-time winner Thomas Rhett, who tied in the voting with Carrie Underwood.

Some saw the history-making tie as controversial, feeling the first female winner since Taylor Swift in 2012 shouldn’t have to share the honor. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the Academy has given Carrie its top award twice before, in 2009 and 2010. 

Critical favorite Eric Church managed to finally clinch CMA Entertainer in November, though he and pal Luke Combs good-naturedly bantered about who would win, as they were seated together.

Indeed, Combs seems to be on an Entertainer-worthy trajectory. Just this year, he took home Album and Male Vocalist trophies from both the ACM and CMA organizations, while Maren Morris could very well be the next Female artist staking her claim on Entertainer. In 2020, Maren accepted Female Vocalist honors from both the CMA and ACM for the first time, while the CMA named “The Bones” Single and Song of the Year. 

Old Dominion first broke Little Big Town’s string of six wins for CMA Vocal Group in 2018. Now, they’ve taken home the CMA trophy three times, and the accompanying ACM honor thrice as well. This year, the Academy also named “One Man Band” Song of the Year. 

Similarly, Dan + Shay have become the ones to beat in the Duo category, assuming the previous momentum held by Brothers Osborne and Florida Georgia Line.

But don’t count out your legendary favorites just yet. In 2020, Miranda Lambert still took home CMA Music Video honors for “Bluebird” and the ACM Music Event trophy for “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Ex-husband Blake Shelton also walked away with ACM Single recognition, for “God’s Country.”

By Stephen Hubbard
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