Miranda Lambert released the most ambitious album of her career earlier this year and Country Music Association voters responded by giving her a record-tying load of nominations.
Lambert has nine nominations for the 48th annual CMA Awards, tying her own mark for the most nods to a female nominee, and nearly doubling her nearest competitor when the list was announced Wednesday in New York. Dierks Bentley is next with five nominations and Eric Church and Keith Urban have four apiece.
The 30-year-old Lambert is up for top honor entertainer of the year along with husband Blake Shelton and has nominations for major categories album of the year for "Platinum," song and single of the year for "Automatic," and is vying for her fifth straight female vocalist of the year trophy. She's been among the top CMA nominees and winners since "Revolution" won album of the year in 2010 and now has 34 CMA nominations — behind Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn among women.
Urban, George Strait and Luke Bryan round out the entertainer of the year category where Lambert and Bryan are seeking their first win in that category. Bryan and Urban also are up for album of the year. Bryan's "Crash My Party" and Urban's "Fuse" join Bentley's "Riser" and Church's "The Outsiders" in the category.
New artist of the year nominees are Brandy Clark, Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore, Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell.
Bryan and Shelton are tied with Kacey Musgraves and Carrie Underwood with three nominations apiece. The nominations were announced on ABC's "Good Morning America" and at a news conference by Darius Rucker and Little Big Town. Underwood and Brad Paisley host the Nov. 5 show live from Nashville, Tennessee.
Lambert padded out her list of nominations with two apiece in the vocal event ("Somethin' Bad" with Underwood and "We Were Us" with Urban) and music video ("Automatic" and "Somethin' Bad") categories. "Automatic," the first single from "Platinum," was nominated for both song and single of the year as well. Lambert tied with Merle Haggard for second most nominations overall. Only Alan Jackson in 2002 had more nominations in a single year with 10.
Shelton and Lambert will be attempting to extend their record streak of wins by a married couple in the male and female vocalist categories. Each has won four straight. Lambert will be competing against Underwood, Musgraves, Taylor Swift and Martina McBride. Shelton faces Bentley, Bryan, Church and Urban.
The haul of nominations was a career best for Bentley, whose album "Riser" includes personal material from his own life, including his reaction to his father's death and the birth of his son.
"It was totally unexpected," Bentley said. "Dude, I'm not the guy who gets nominated. I'm the guy who knows the guy who gets nominated. That's not who I am. I'm the guy who sits in the chair with my wife when the cameras come in close to get the 'you just lost' reaction shot."
Voters have an interesting choice to make in the entertainer of the year category. Lambert and Bryan are arguably the genre's top stars and voters could justifiably reward either with a trophy that goes hand in hand with superstar status. Strait is seeking his second consecutive win in the category after announcing he would retire from the road. He played his final concert earlier this year, setting attendance records at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. And "American Idol" judge Urban and "The Voice" coach Shelton remain two of country's most visible stars.
Urban won the entertainer award in 2005 and says he felt a "euphoria" when he learned he was back among the nominees. The category signals that a performer has reached the top of the genre in many ways, including as an artist, a live performer and a role model.
"The criteria for entertainer is a mix of things, but I guess for me I've always considered it to be hopefully primarily about the kind of show that we put on and entertaining people at the live concerts," Urban said in a phone interview. "I know it's about more than that, but for me it's really been about that, about putting on a tour. That's something I've always taken with intense passion, detail and care, and so to get that nomination is extraordinary."