ACM Spotlight Series: Album of the Year

Our ACM Spotlight Series is featuring the ACM’s Album of the Year category. Over the years, the Academy has become known to bestow this award on albums that have done well commercially rather than albums that have excelled artistically. As with our other Spotlights, we’ll be looking back at the last ten years of winners and nominees starting with this year’s nominees.


  • American Saturday Night – Brad Paisley
  • The Foundation – Zac Brown Band
  • Lady Antebellum – Lady Antebellum
  • Play On – Carrie Underwood
  • Revolution – Miranda Lambert

This year’s nominees includes three platinum albums, two gold albums, and five of country’s best talent. If the Academy chooses to award a successful album, it may decide to give the award to Zac Brown Band or Carrie Underwood because they’ve sold the most out of the five. However, if they want to award an album based on the quality, they could choose either the Miranda Lambert or Brad Paisley album for the win. My best bet is they’ll go with critical darling, Miranda Lambert.

  • Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
  • Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift
  • That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson
  • Troubadour – George Strait
It was no surprise that the ACMs decided to award Swift’s Fearless with the Album of the Year trophy because it was the year’s biggest selling album, and eventually went on to win the CMA and Grammy awards (including the all-genre Album of the Year Grammy). This was also the third straight year a solo female artist took home the award, coincedentally all three have been blondes.
  • 5th Gear – Brad Paisley
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Miranda Lambert
  • If You’re Going Through Hell – Rodney Atkins
  • Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates – Kenny Chesney
  • Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift
In a bit of an upset, Miranda Lambert’s critically acclaimed sophomore album pulled off the win, beating massive sellers like Swift’s debut album and Brad Paisley’s 5th Gear. This has been the most recent time the Academy awarded an album based on its outstanding quality.


  • Hillbilly Deluxe – Brooks & Dunn
  • It Just Comes Natural – George Strait
  • Me And My Gang – Rascal Flatts
  • Some Hearts – Carrie Underwood
  • These Days – Vince Gill
It was no surprise that Carrie Underwood’s debut album would secure the win considering it was one of the biggest debut albums in country music history. This would mark the beginning of a female artist streak in this category, one that is still going strong.
  • Feels Like Today – Rascal Flatts
  • There’s More Where That Came From – Lee Ann Womack
  • Time Well Wasted – Brad Paisley
  • Tough All Over – Gary Allan
  • Twice the Speed of Life – Sugarland
2005’s nominees included two of the best albums of the year in the Womack and Paisley albums, which have become their best albums to date. However, on awards show night, it was Brad Paisley’s Time Well Wasted that took home the award. Later that fall, it was Womack that took home the CMA Album of the Year award while Paisley was shut out of all six nominations he received.


  • Be Here – Keith Urban
  • Here For the Party – Gretchen Wilson
  • Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw
  • Restless – Sara Evans
  • When The Sun Goes Down – Kenny Chesney

Usually, the ACM’s like to throw in an underdog and this year it was Sara Evans’ Restless which was a nice surprise. Meanwhile, it was a showdown between two superstars and a redneck woman, but it was Keith Urban’s stellar Be Here album that claimed the prize that night.


  • Honkytonkville – George Strait
  • Martina – Martina McBride
  • Mud on the Tires – Brad Paisley
  • Red Dirt Road – Brooks & Dunn
  • Shock’n Y’all – Toby Keith

The ACM’s continued to show their support for Toby Keith by awarding him four awards during the 2004 award show including Album, Top Male Vocalist, Video of the Year, and his second Entertainer of the Year award. Keith has yet to receive the same recognition from the CMA’s.


  • Drive – Alan Jackson
  • Home – Dixie Chicks
  • No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems – Kenny Chesney
  • On A Mission – Trick Pony
  • Unleashed – Toby Keith
In a showdown between the two most critically acclaimed albums of the year, it was Alan Jackson who prevented a Dixie Chicks win by walking away with the Album trophy for his outstanding Drive album, even though Home took home the Grammy earlier that year.
  • Down The Road I Go – Travis Tritt
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Various Artists
  • Pull My Chain – Toby Keith
  • Set This Circus Down – Tim McGraw
  • Steers and Stripes – Brooks & Dunn
It won the Grammy for overall Album of the Year and also took home the CMA Album of the Year so it was no surprise that the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack took home the ACM award.

  • American III: Solitary Man – Johnny Cash
  • How Do You Like Me Now?! – Toby Keith
  • I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
  • One Voice – Billy Gillman
  • Who Needs Pictures – Brad Paisley

The inclusion of pre-teen sensation Billy Gillman was a huge surprise along with the inclusion of rising star Brad Paisley’s debut album. However, it was Toby Keith’s muli-platinum album that took home the gold that night.


  • A Place in the Sun – Tim McGraw
  • Breathe – Faith Hill
  • Cold Hard Truth  – George Jones
  • Fly – Dixie Chicks
  • Ride With Bob – Asleep at the Wheel
The stellar sophomore album from the Dixie Chicks took home the award during the 2000 ACM awards show, beating favorite Faith Hill. The album also won the Grammy and CMA awards and was also the only Dixie Chicks album to win the ACM Album of the Year award.

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