NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Miranda Lambert proclaimed 2010 the best year of her life. After hauling in seven Academy of Country Music Awards nominations, 2011 isn't looking so bad either.
Lambert, joined by Ronnie Dunn on Tuesday morning to announce the nominees at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, received her first ACM entertainer of the year nomination and will defend her 2010 top female vocalist win, along with nods for song and single of the year. Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band were next with five nominations each.
Dunn summed up Lambert's run with two words: "She's smokin'."
The blonde firebrand started her sizzling hot streak last year at the ACMs, with three wins, including album of the year for the lionized "Revolution." After her engagement to Blake Shelton and the launch of her first headlining tours, she received a record nine nominations at the rival Country Music Association Awards and went on to win three.
Expect 2011 to be eventful as well. In 13 days she's up for two Grammy Awards and her song "The House That Built Me" is also nominated. She's due to marry Shelton later this spring. And she's writing songs for her highly anticipated next album.
"ACMs are always a blast and they've always been great to me," Lambert told The Associated Press after announcing the nominations on "The Early Show." I'm still on Cloud 9 from last year, so I can't really think about this. I can't even believe that it's here already and that I've got seven nominations. I didn't even know I was eligible for seven."
Jason Aldean, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban join Lambert in the entertainer of the year category. In a surprise, two-time reigning entertainer of the year Carrie Underwood was not nominated after becoming the first woman to win multiple trophies in that category.
This is Aldean's first entertainer of the year nomination at either of the major award shows. He's used to being overlooked, so much so that while most of his peers woke up early Tuesday morning, he didn't bother to set the alarm. He woke to calls from his manager, Clarence Spalding.
"My home phone rang, then my cell phone rang, and then my home phone rang again," Aldean said in a phone interview. "I'm like, 'Man, what's going on?,' and it was my manager. He said, 'Hey, I just want to be the first one to congratulate you,' and then he told me. I said, 'Man, you got to be kidding.' I actually didn't believe it till I went online and read it myself. I thought he was trying to pull a very cruel joke on me. I said man, 'It's too early in the morning.'"
Entertainer of the year is one of two awards decided by fans along with top new artist. Fans can vote for this year's entertainer winner into the third hour of the show, which will air live April 3 from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on CBS.
Chesney made a strong return to the awards circuit after a year out of the spotlight. He earned four nominations as producer and artist on album of the year nominee "Hemingway's Whiskey" and "The Boys of Fall," a song of the year nominee. "Boys" also received a video of the year nomination.
The album of the year nomination is special to Chesney, who pulled his highly lucrative tour off the road last year to concentrate on "Hemingway's Whiskey" and an accompanying football documentary around "The Boys of Fall" single.
"I was just so proud of this nomination because we really did try to take care of the music first with this album and to see it be recognized, it means everything, and kind of validates me taking time off the road," Chesney said in a phone interview.
Zac Brown Band got higher value from its nominations than any other nominee. The band scored nods for top vocal group and album of the year for "You Get What You Give." It also was nominated for single, song and vocal event of the year for "As She's Walking Away," earning featured singer Alan Jackson three nominations of his own.
And Brown scored four individual nominations as producer on the album, single and vocal event nominations and composer for song of the year.
"We've been pouring our heart and soul into our music, our albums and our live show for as long as we can remember, so it's an honor to be recognized for all our hard work," Brown said in an e-mail to the AP. "We have a lot to live up to in the coming year – and it's a challenge we're ready to take on!"
Swift and The Band Perry received four nominations each. Swift is up for top female vocalist with Lambert, Underwood, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack.
Paisley, fresh off his artist of the year win at the CMA awards, is up for his fifth straight top male vocalist ACM. Aldean, Shelton, George Strait and Keith Urban also are nominated in the category.
Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Randy Rogers Band and The Band Perry join Zac Brown Band in the top vocal group category and Sugarland, the JaneDear girls, Joey + Rory, Montgomery Gentry and Steel Magnolia are up for top vocal duo.
Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Jamey Johnson's "The Guitar Song," Taylor Swift's "Speak Now" and Dierks Bentley's "Up on the Ridge" round out the album of the year category.
Lambert rode a groundswell of enthusiasm for "Revolution" and its fiery first single, "White Liar," to her success in Vegas last year. This year it's "The House That Built Me," the poignant ballad about tough times that closely mirrored her own personal story growing up in Texas.
The two songs show Lambert's versatility and Dunn, for one, thinks Lambert can expect a long career filled with nominations.
"She has that sass," Dunn said. "It's authentic. It's not manipulated. That's important. If you can come along and back that up with musical talent, you got it made."