Turn on a country music radio station and you can’t always tell if you tuned in correctly or if you have a pop station on. The lines between pop and country are becoming increasingly blurred, so much so that the genres can sometimes be indistinguishable. But even if some songs cross lines, no doubt country music is still a distinct style. And blurred or not, the 51st Country Music Association Awards airing Nov. 8 will honor the best of modern country music.
In anticipation of the event, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the most popular CMA nominees for 2017 based on measures such as CMA Awards history, Billboard performance, and internet popularity.
The list highlights the diversity of acts working in the industry today. While performers who are not historically known for working in the genre – such as P!nk – are featured on the list, the majority of artists are country stalwarts. Those who are among the most popular, by our measure, also happen to be nominated for the most awards this year. Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban lead the pack with five nominations each, with Little Big Town and country crooner Chris Stapleton following behind with four nominations.
Perhaps somewhat surprising, many younger musicians, such as 27-year-old Maren Morris, appear to now be more popular than country legends such as Willie Nelson – now 84-years-old – and Glen Campbell, who sadly passed away in August. However, artists who rose to fame in the 1990s, including Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney, dominate most of the higher rankings on the list, showing younger acts that they still have a ways to go before they make it to the top.
That said, it is nearly impossible to fight the wide appeal of a great pop artist. Despite being nominated for only one award this year, Taylor Swift – who has continued to move away from her early country-based style – is by far the most popular artist this year. For example, Swift has nearly 74 million “likes” on Facebook. This is more than all of the “likes” of the following 10 most popular acts combined.
To determine the most popular CMA nominees, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on various measures related to CMA award history, Billboard performance, and internet presence for all artists nominated for a CMA in 2017. The number of CMA nominations in 2017, the number of lifetime CMA nominations, and the number of CMAs won were each given a one-third weight and included in the index. The position of an artist’s top performing song and album on the Billboard year-end country music charts from 2012 to 2016 were each given a half-weighting and were included in the index. Facebook fan page likes and Spotify followers as of October 31, 2017 were each given a half-weighting and included in the index. Average daily Wikipedia page views over the period of October 31, 2016 to October 30, 2017 were included in the index and given full weight. For artists who toured in 2016, the total annual tour gross and the average gross per show in North America were each given a one-fourth weight and included in the index as a boost to the artist’s overall score. Touring data came from Pollstar are for the year 2016.