Country singer Chris Stapleton continued his awards show dominance at the Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday night, picking up such prizes as album of the year and song of the year.
Mr. Stapleton had been working in the industry for years, writing songs for artists like Luke Bryan, among others, when he released his first solo album, "Traveller," in 2015. The album quickly found critical acclaim, winning the album of the year award, among other prizes, at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in November.
At the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards, Stapleton also won such awards as best New Male Vocalist and best Male Vocalist. His song "Nobody to Blame" was the track that won him the Song of the Year.
Meanwhile, singer Jason Aldean won the Entertainer of the Year prize and Miranda Lambert won the Female Vocalist of the Year award, while Little Big Town won the Vocal Group of the Year award and Florida Georgia Line won the Vocal Duo of the Year prize.
Singer Kelsea Ballerini won the New Female Vocalist of the Year prize, while Old Dominion was the ensemble that received the prize for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year. Singer Eric Church picked up the Video of the Year award for his track "Mr. Misunderstood."
Many critics point to the CMA Awards late last year as the time when Stapleton suddenly became known to the American public. "The newly-turned solo artist is still something of a mystery to the general public, leading to plenty of 'Who is Chris Stapleton?' queries on social media today," Rolling Stone staff noted the day after the CMA Awards.
What led to Stapleton's success? One factor was probably the quality of his debut solo album. "Traveller" was very positively received by critics, so for music fans who pay attention to reviews, Stapleton's name was suddenly everywhere.
Rolling Stone named the album to their list of the best releases of 2015, with staff writing, "The secret is finally out: Stapleton is a major talent," and NPR writer Ann Powers wrote of the album, "Chris Stapleton has the double axels and triple jumps down, but he delivers each with a remarkable lack of showiness....[he] sings with the power of a classic Southern rocker, but modulates his rawness with a great sense of soul phrasing and a seasoned balladeer's ability to scale down."
Winning major prizes like Album of the Year in front of millions of viewers and performing at the same ceremony with a big star like Justin Timberlake no doubt also made fans want to seek out Stapleton's work. "One musician proved just how powerful award shows can be as platforms for launching newcomers into the mainstream," Forbes writer Hugh McIntyre wrote of Stapleton’s career soon after the CMAs. "Thanks to Timberlake’s star power, millions of people learned who Chris Stapleton was....If sharing the stage with Justin Timberlake didn’t convince people to check him out after the show, beating names like Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, and Kacey Musgraves surely was."
Meanwhile, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic writes that Stapleton's triumph is a great success story.
"He's neither a revered veteran with built-in acclaim nor an over-hyped newcomer but rather someone who has worked and worked behind the scenes and finally decided to make his own statement," Mr. Kornhaber wrote.