The Academy of Country Music announced its nominees for the 2015 ACM Awards on Friday (Jan. 30), while the list is mostly filled with the superstar artists that country fans and media expected to see nominated -- Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood among them -- there are a few pleasant surprises in the mix, including both seasoned legends and talented newcomers.

No one should underestimate the power of ‘Girl in a Country Song’ – or, more broadly, the power of an industry looking for something new and fresh.

The New Artist of the Year category is, as always, a showcase of the most promising up-and-coming talents in country music. While the preliminary round of nominees -- the current field of eight will be whittled down to a Top 3 based on industry and fan voting -- includes its fair share of artists we'd classify as "bro-country," it's exciting to see Brett Eldredge and Sam Hunt among them. Eldredge had a stellar 2014, with a CMA Awards New Artist of the year victory and an American Country Countdown Awards win among his achievements, and Hunt put out one of the best albums of the year, full of smart lyrics and new twists on old cliches; their budding careers are most worthy of this nod.

Florida Georgia Line are nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year, of course, but they're competing against a roster of relative newcomers: Brothers OsborneMaddie & TaeDan + Shay and the Swon Brothers. Bigger duos like Love and Theft, Sugarland and Thompson Square have been quiet recently, working on new material or solo projects, so this category was open for the taking by the newbies. And while FGL may seem like the shoo-in victor, no one should underestimate the power of 'Girl in a Country Song' -- or, more broadly, the power of an industry looking for something new and fresh.

But one of the ACM's biggest surprise nominees is in the Vocal Event of the Year category: The Cadillac Three earned a nod for 'The South,' a tune featuring Florida Georgia Line, Bentley and Mike Eli, whose inclusion probably helped the track get noticed. Among a list of radio smashes, the down-home, guitar-heavy song stands out, and is a promising sign for the Southern rockers, who are putting the finishing touches on their sophomore album.

It's not just newer names among the surprises, though: The last time Rascal Flatts won an ACM or a CMA was in 2008 -- they won both that year -- so the fact they're nominated for Vocal Group of the Year is a huge nod to them; their extensive tours, No. 1 albums and devotion to the genre are impressive, and the nomination is a representation of their hard work. Similarly, seeing Garth Brooks' name among the Entertainer of the Year nominees is a testament to both his lasting legacy in country music and the power of his comeback, and Glen Campbell's Video of the Year nod is a touching and much-deserved gesture by ACM voters.

Shelton is the definition of an entertainer, and his name is a noticeable absence in the Entertainer of the Year category.

On the other end of the spectrum, Blake Shelton not being nominated for Entertainer of the Year came as a huge shock -- a snub, even. Shelton's newest album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, and he is hugely popular -- and successful -- as a coach on 'The Voice,' but beyond his musical abilities, he recently acted as both host and musical guest on 'Saturday Night Live,' has a movie role in the works and will be co-hosting the ACM Awards show. Shelton is the definition of an entertainer, and his name is a noticeable absence in that category.

The 2015 ACM Awards will air live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 19 at 8 PM ET on CBS.

This story was written by Christina Vinson and Angela Stefano.

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