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Holler's 2024 ACM Awards Predictions: Who Will Win, Who Should Win and Who Missed Out

May 14, 2024 2:39 pm GMT

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Words by Ross Jones, Alli Patton, Maxim Mower, Jof Owen & Lydia Farthing

After a truly monumental year for country music in 2023, it's time to dust off our Sunday best and place our bets for the 2024 ACM Awards.

Marking the show's 59th edition, country music's self-proclaimed Party of the Year is set to take over Ford Center in Frisco, Texas on May 16, and we're willing to bet there will be plenty of surprises – and potentially some shocking victories and losses – in store for us this time around.

With virtually all of the genre's most illustrious stars dropping new projects, the upper ranks of artists embarking on blockbuster, international tours and the undeniable ascension of country music into the mainstream thanks to acts like Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs and Zach Bryan, it's bound to be an evening full of much-deserved celebration and a smorgasbord of exciting performances to boot.

As several giants of the genre walk into this year's ceremony with multiple nods in their favor, including Wallen, Lainey Wilson, Cody Johnson, Jelly Roll, Megan Moroney and more, it begs the question of who exactly will emerge victorious among such a stacked slew of nominees.

Looking ahead to the highly-anticipated award show, we've taken some key statistics, data and a healthy dose of emotion into consideration to compile Holler's 2024 ACM Awards Predictions. From who we think will win, who should win and who absolutely got snubbed, we've put together our best guesses for what to expect.

Enough chit chat! Here are Holler's Predictions for the 2024 ACM Awards:

Entertainer of the Year

Nominees:

  • Kane Brown
  • Luke Combs
  • Jelly Roll
  • Cody Johnson
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Morgan Wallen
  • Lainey Wilson

Who Will Win: Lainey Wilson

Who Should Win: Morgan Wallen

Snubbed: Megan Moroney, Kelsea Ballerini

Who Won Last Year: Chris Stapleton

The most coveted prize of the evening, ACM Entertainer of the Year honours the artist that has enjoyed the most across-the-board success, visibility and influence over the past year. The criteria includes the amount of radio play, music video views, vocal performances, live concert ticket sales, TV/Film appearances and more.

Although Lainey Wilson's victory in the equivalent category at the 2023 CMA Awards came as a surprise, her triumph may have very well paved the way for another win at the 2024 ACMs. Wilson's rise in popularity over the past 12-plus months has been meteoric, with the Louisiana hitmaker now undoubtedly one of the biggest names in country music.

Having said this, it's difficult to see what more Morgan Wallen can do to earn his first Entertainer of the Year trophy. With the highest-grossing country tour of 2023 – raking in a staggering $230 million – and the most streamed song and album of the year across all genres, in addition to four country radio No. 1s (including the record-breaking ‘Last Night’), Wallen has helped catapult the genre back into the mainstream.

With that said, we think Wallen has the best claim to the throne in a roster of nominees that feels like one of the most on-the-pulse lists of Entertainer of the Year categories in recent memory.

Even so, Kelsea Ballerini and Megan Moroney could have been valid candidates for the gong, with the latter surely set to contend in 2025.

Female Artist of the Year

Nominees:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Ashley McBryde
  • Megan Moroney
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Lainey Wilson

Who Will Win: Lainey Wilson

Who Should Win: Lainey Wilson

Snubbed: Carly Pearce

Who Won Last Year: Lainey Wilson

With acts like Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBryde and Megan Moroney all nominated for the ACM’s Female Artist of the Year, who the honor goes to feels like a toss-up this time around.

While Carly Pearce’s absence from the list is felt and Kacey Musgraves’ nomination seems a bit out of place, seeing as she only released two duets – ‘I Remember Everything’ with Zach Bryan and ‘She Calls Me Back’ with Noah Kahan – during the award’s eligibility period, the roster of nominees is still overflowing with powerhouse talent.

In the end, it will all come down to who is the best of the best, and after another year full of whirlwind success, the winner may very well be the returning champ: Lainey Wilson.

The ’Watermelon Moonshine’ star took home the title during last year’s ceremony and surely she has put in the work to don the badge once more.

Male Artist of the Year

Nominees:

  • Luke Combs
  • Jelly Roll
  • Cody Johnson
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Morgan Wallen

Who Will Win: Chris Stapleton

Who Should Win: Jelly Roll, Morgan Wallen

Snubbed: Zach Bryan, Kane Brown, HARDY, Parker McCollum

Who Won Last Year: Morgan Wallen

Much the same as the award for Female Artist of the Year, Male is judged on a wide criteria that's not limited to chart success.

While the progression in recognising the importance of ticket sales, streaming and impact digitally (across social media, essentially) is a welcome development, it does really limit the number of artists that warrant such an adage, particularly in 2024.

While all five nominees have had a prominent past 12 months, there's certainly something missing across the board in this year's selections. Kane Brown's streaming numbers stack up with the best of them in this category, while Zach Bryan's unfathomable social media reach and ticket sales arguably surpass most in the field (bar, perhaps, Morgan Wallen).

When it comes down to it, it's difficult to argue on these requirements how anyone could top Wallen's overall performance this past year, while Jelly Roll's incredible introduction to the genre and mainstream popular culture on the whole should have many in the industry asking how they can replicate it.

Nevertheless, we feel, much like at the CMAs, that this is Chris Stapleton's award to lose. The 'White Horse' singer has won it in years past with a lot less fanfare, particularly in years without an album release, major summer headline shows or prominent public appearances. In what would be his fourth win in 9 nominations, Stapleton feels like a shoo-in.

The main takeaway from all this, though, focuses on a certain Texan. Over 15 years into his career, this is the first time that Cody Johnson has found himself nominated for the prestigious award. Despite this, you can't help but feel Johnson will be the Susan Lucci of the country music award ceremonies – perennially nominated and never quite respected enough to be handed the gong. Let's hope, much like with Lucci, that doesn't come true.

Duo of the Year

Nominees:

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Maddie & Tae
  • The War And Treaty

Who Will Win: Dan + Shay

Who Should Win: Brothers Osborne

Who Won Last Year: Brothers Osborne

Ahh, Duo of the Year, the only category that can somehow still feature a pairing who's most prominent success ended nearly twenty years ago...

When you have to continuously include a nominee like Brooks & Dunn, who've famously been recycling their Reboot Tour for the last half a dozen years, it feels like a pretty weak category, and furthermore makes you question why they bothered adding in the New Duo or Group honor after being in the dark for six years.

With the nominees available, it's hard to see how country music's favorite pop-leaning crooners, Dan + Shay, don't take it home this year. After returning from their years-long hiatus, they spent 2023 solidifying their spot in the mainstream with the release of their quasi-introspective Bigger Houses and attempting to reinvigorate their late 2010's hype, making them one of the busier duos in contention.

However, an argument should really be made for the reigning winners, Brothers Osborne, too. Since the fall of Florida Georgia Line began in 2015, the pair have nabbed the award five times in the last eight years. With their self-titled album released last year and the general staying power of the group, it kind of feels like they should continue their streak in the category, notching their fourth straight trophy.

Regardless of the winner, this collection just reinforces that country music is in dire need of a new duo, but perhaps a pair of blonde sisters in a forthcoming category will be able to bridge that gap.

Group of the Year

Nominees:

  • Flatland Cavalry
  • Lady A
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Zac Brown Band

Who Will Win: Old Dominion

Who Should Win: Flatland Cavalry

Who Won Last Year: Old Dominion

An equally antiquated category, this year's Group of the Year offerings see a lot of nominees that just feel out of touch, three of which didn't even release an album of new material during the eligibility period.

While Lady A and Little Big Town are desperately clinging to life and their status as active country outfits – their last wins in the category coming in 2011 and 2016, respectively – Zac Brown Band is currently only really relevant for their supporting slot on Kenny Chesney's Sun Goes Down Tour.

With this in mind, the only real contenders are reigning winners for the last seven consecutive years, Old Dominion, and red dirt six-piece Flatland Cavalry, who are vying for their very first ACM Award.

The Texas ensemble is arguably the most relevant of the five and is actively achieving new career milestones left and right, all while rallying a growing army of fans behind them and releasing new records with a packed touring schedule.

Even though we probably have to accept that Old Dominion will snag the trophy for yet another year, it's crucial to note the representation of non-commercial country groups like Flatland Cavalry, which (news flash) is becoming a major sector of the country genre.

At the end of the day, the inclusion of these more fringe acts in major awards is extremely validating and on-the-pulse for an organization like ACM, but for these inclusions to really matter, they also need to win.

New Female Artist of the Year

Nominees:

  • Kassi Ashton
  • Ashley Cooke
  • Hannah Ellis
  • Kylie Morgan
  • Megan Moroney

Who Will Win: Megan Moroney

Who Should Win: Ashley Cooke

Snubbed: Lauren Watkins, Anne Wilson

Who Won Last Year: Hailey Whitters

This accolade recognises an artist that's broken onto the scene, with the candidate having a single that reached the Top 50 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs or the Mediabase Country charts, as well as dropping either their debut or sophomore record.

This somewhat pedantic criteria excludes two fast-emerging artists we think should've otherwise received a nod, Lauren Watkins and Anne Wilson, but it's nonetheless a strong category.

It's difficult to look past Megan Moroney, the only member of the group to have earned a No. 1 hit at country radio, and someone who will pose a fierce challenge to Lainey Wilson for the Female Artist of the Year award.

In our book, with Wilson looking likely to win Entertainer of the Year, Moroney should win Female Artist of the Year, leaving Ashley Cooke as the leading candidate for New Female Artist of the Year. With her sinuous, slow-burning track, ‘your place' picking up speed, Cooke is hurtling towards the top spot on the Mediabase chart and a first ACM win.

New Male Artist of the Year

Nominees:

  • ERNEST
  • Kameron Marlowe
  • Dylan Scott
  • Conner Smith
  • Nate Smith

Who Will Win: Nate Smith

Who Should Win: Nate Smith

Snubbed: Charles Wesley Godwin, Bailey Zimmerman, Zach Top

Who Won Last Year: Zach Bryan

The ACM’s New Male Artist of the Year honor goes to a musician experiencing their breakthrough, having found initial fame and Hot Country chart success following their debut or sophomore releases.

Last year's ceremony saw Zach Bryan get handed the trophy, with this year's event finding even more hefty talent up for the award. While it's no surprise ERNEST, Kameron Marlowe and Conner Smith have all earned nods in the newcomer category, there is an unusual pick among them: Dylan Scott.

With several albums and years of Top 50 chart success under his belt, the ‘What He’ll Never Have’ star is far from a “new” artist, making his place on the list feel out of touch, especially with recent sensations like Charles Wesley Godwin, Bailey Zimmerman and Zach Top absent from the recognition.

However, we feel it will be Nate Smith who wears the crown in the end, and rightfully so. The 'World on Fire' artist has quickly staked his claim on the country genre, first becoming a one-to-watch following viral success and then solidifying his stardom with his acclaimed self-titled debut.

New Duo or Group of the Year

Nominees:

  • Neon Union
  • Restless Road
  • Tigirlily Gold

Who Will Win: Tigirlily Gold

Who Should Win: Tigirlily Gold

Snubbed: The Red Clay Strays

The New Duo or Group of the Year award has not been given out since 2018, and it's not entirely clear why it's been brought back this year.

It's also not entirely understandable why only three acts are nominated - with a selection of exciting and popular new groups coming through right now (The Red Clay Strays and The Castellows, anyone?), it's as if the ACM forgot they could select groups with more than three members in.

Of the three actually nominated, Tigirlily Gold, would be our pick and should be the voters' also. The North Dakota sisters have gone from strength to strength since their breakthrough hit 'Shoot Tequila' took over TikTok and, frankly, they have the artistic quality to carry them further than their competitors in this category. Again, it's not entirely silly to ask why they aren't in the running for Best Duo.

The big question we have to ask though is... Who the heck are Neon Union?

Album of the Year

Nominees:

  • Gettin’ Old - Luke Combs
  • Higher - Chris Stapleton
  • Leather - Cody Johnson
  • One Thing At A Time - Morgan Wallen
  • Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) - Kelsea Ballerini

Who Will Win: Higher - Chris Stapleton

Who Should Win: Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) - Kelsea Ballerini

Snubbed: Whitsitt Chapel - Jelly Roll, Lucky - Megan Moroney, Zach Bryan - Zach Bryan

Who Won Last Year: Bell Bottom Country - Lainey Wilson

2023 was the year of the album for country music, so it begs to differ how exactly ACM landed on these five contenders.

While they're all fine collections of music in their own right, there are a few glaring omissions in this year's nominees, including and not limited to Zach Bryan's self-titled best-selling opus, Jelly Roll's Whitsitt Chapel and Megan Moroney's Lucky, among others. With this in mind, the final five feel a bit... bland.

Though Gettin' Old was undoubtedly a better release than Growin' Up, you'd be hard-pressed to say that it was a top-tier Luke Combs album, pulling that out of our running. Similarly, even though we think Kelsea Ballerini should win this honor, the criteria clearly states that submissions must only be standard editions of albums. Unfortunately, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat (For Good) is a deluxe repackaging, so on a technicality, that's out, too.

Morgan Wallen had an undeniably monumental year in 2023, spawning several hits from his sprawling One Thing At A Time record. However, as a whole, the project just doesn't really feel like a cohesive project, but rather a collection of singles and tunes from the last few years in his career. And anyway, like we said earlier, he has a better chance at either Male Artist or Entertainer of the Year for his personal accomplishments.

So what's left? Cody Johnson's Leather or Chris Stapleton's Higher. Both released around the same time in late 2023 and both the first batches of new music from their respective artists in a couple of years.

Overall, we think the gong goes to Stapleton simply for his star power. As we mentioned previously, Stapleton has won his fair share of awards during years where he didn't even have new music in contention, so now that he does, it kind of feels like a no brainer.

Single of the Year

Nominees:

  • 'Burn It Down' - Parker McCollum
  • 'Fast Car' - Luke Combs
  • 'Last Night' - Morgan Wallen
  • 'Need A Favor' - Jelly Roll
  • 'Next Thing You Know' - Jordan Davis

Who Will Win: 'Fast Car - Luke Combs

Who Should Win: 'Last Night' - Morgan Wallen

Snubbed: ‘I Remember Everything’ - Zach Bryan & Kacey Musgraves, ‘Watermelon Moonshine’ - Lainey Wilson, ‘Rock And A Hard Place’ - Bailey Zimmerman

Who Won Last Year: ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’ – Cole Swindell

Awarded to the artist, as well as any producers and record labels associated with the winning song, the award for Single of the Year is given to any single released and achieving a Top 20 charted position on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs or Mediabase Country charts during the eligibility period.

Cole Swindell scooped the award last year for ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’ from under the noses of Lainey Wilson, Cody Johnson and a couple of big duets from Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown and Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde.

This year, the award will be just as hotly contested, with huge crossover hits by Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen battling it out with fan favourites from Jelly Roll, Jordan Davis and Parker McCollum.

Perhaps the toughest category of the night, there’s no denying how big some of these singles have been. Although Lainey Wilson, Bailey Zimmerman, Zach Bryan, Kacey Musgraves and women in general could feel a little miffed at missing out on a nomination, seeing as Parker McCollum got one.

We predict a win on the night for Luke Combs, but the omnipresence of ‘Last Night’ on radio ever since it came out does make it perhaps more deserving.

Song of the Year

Nominees:

  • 'Fast Car' - Luke Combs
  • 'Heart Like A Truck' - Lainey Wilson
  • 'Next Thing You Know' - Jordan Davis
  • 'The Painter' - Cody Johnson
  • 'Tennessee Orange' - Megan Moroney

Who Will Win: 'Fast Car' - Luke Combs

Who Should Win: 'Next Thing You Know' - Jordan Davis

Snubbed: ‘Light On In The Kitchen’ - Ashley McBryde, ‘In Your Love’ - Tyler Childers

Who Won Last Year: ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’ – Cole Swindell

Much like the differentiation between the Grammy awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, the same exists in the land of the Academy of Country Music. Whereas the Single of the Year deals with a specific recording of a song and recognizes the artists, producers and engineers who contribute to that recording, the Song of the Year deals with the composition of a song and recognizes the songwriters who wrote the song.

In theory, the same song could win both awards, and just like last year, where Cole Swindell did the double, this year we’re predicting Tracy Chapman will be picking up the award as the songwriter behind the Luke Combs crossover smash, ‘Fast Car.’

The exact meaning of the phrase “of the year” is pushed to its limits as three of the other songs in the running for the award came out in 2022. Our personal pick, Jordan Davis’ ‘Next Thing You Know,’ came out in August, Megan Moroney’s ‘Tennessee Orange’ wasn’t long after in September and Lainey Wilson’s 'Heart Like a Truck’ came out all the way back in May 2022; over two years ago! If these songs were babies they’d be dressing themselves by now.

Benjy Davis, Kat Higgins and Ryan Larkins, the songwriters behind Cody Johnson’s ‘The Painter,’ are also in the running, but Tyler Childers and Ashley McBryde are both notable by their absence.

Music Event of the Year

Nominees:

  • 'Can’t Break Up Now' - Old Dominion, Megan Moroney
  • 'Different ‘Round Here' - Riley Green (feat. Luke Combs)
  • 'I Remember Everything' - Zach Bryan (feat. Kacey Musgraves)
  • 'Man Made A Bar' - Morgan Wallen (feat. Eric Church)
  • 'Save Me' - Jelly Roll (with Lainey Wilson)

Who Will Win: 'Save Me' - Jelly Roll (with Lainey Wilson)

Who Should Win: 'I Remember Everything' - Zach Bryan (feat. Kacey Musgraves)

Who Won Last Year: ‘wait in the truck’ - HARDY & Lainey Wilson

Music Event, or Collaboration of the Year, as it should be entitled, is actually pretty strongly contested this year, in terms of both performance and quality.

On chart performance, streams and overall impact, Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves' 'I Remember Everything' towers over the competition, a beautifully sorrowful tune that both warranted becoming the No.1 song in the US and cemented Bryan's position as the one of the most popular acts in the country today.

Its main challenge surely lies with Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson, not only country music's current sweethearts but popular culture's on the whole, with both at the forefront of country's rise in popularity as it has broken through the mainstream.

It's a flip of a coin, but our money's on the latter.

Visual Media of the Year

Nominees:

  • 'Burn It Down' - Parker McCollum
  • 'Human' - Cody Johnson
  • 'In Your Love' - Tyler Childers
  • 'Next Thing You Know' - Jordan Davis
  • 'Tennessee Orange' - Megan Moroney

Who Will Win: 'Next Thing You Know' - Jordan Davis

Who Should Win: 'In Your Love' - Tyler Childers

Who Won Last Year: ‘wait in the truck’ – HARDY & Lainey Wilson

Presented to the visual’s producer, director and artist or artists, the ACM’s Visual Media of the Year award honors an exemplary piece of video content accompanying a song or single.

Last year saw HARDY and Lainey Wilson take home the trophy for their evocative ‘wait in the truck’, a video that planted the two stars in the middle of a harrowing scenario involving domestic violence. While many of this year’s nominees share the same strong visual storytelling, like Cody Johnson’s soberingly personal tale told in his ‘Human’ video and Megan Moroney’s loved-up POV from ‘Tennessee Orange’, there is one music video that trumps them all.

Tyler Childers’ ‘In Your Love’ was accompanied by a striking visual, a heart wrenching video centered around the love of two men and the hardships and the eventual loss the pair face. It’s a song and video that has gained Childers some of his first-ever nods this music awards season. He didn’t take home Video of the Year at the 2024 CMT Music Awards and will likely be snubbed again at the ACMs, but ‘In Your Love’ feels the most deserving of all the category’s nominees.

Ultimately, we’re predicting the visual for Jordan Davis’ saccharine and sentimental 'Next Thing You Know' will take the trophy instead. The heart-tugging video, with its time-worn footage of young lovers and the life they nurture together, will likely be a shoo-in.

Artist-Songwriter of the Year

Nominees:

  • Zach Bryan
  • ERNEST
  • HARDY
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Morgan Wallen

Who Will Win: Chris Stapleton

Who Should Win: Morgan Wallen

Who Won Last Year: HARDY

As we've alluded to earlier, it seems to be an unspoken rule of country awards shows that if Chris Stapleton is nominated, then usually, Chris Stapleton wins.

We reckon he's most likely to take home the Artist-Songwriter of the Year award. Yet, despite the bearded crooner's pen being revered throughout the genre, we'd argue he hasn't done enough this time around to warrant victory in a category packed with some of the most prolific and decorated songwriters in modern country.

With the criteria revolving around Top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs or Mediabase Country charts as the primary recording artist - or Top 50 singles as a credited songwriter - it's virtually impossible to look past Morgan Wallen for this one.

In 2023, Stapleton notched a solitary Top 20 hit on the Hot Country rankings, ‘White Horse’, whereas Wallen picked up a whopping 13 as the lead artist, writing six of them.

For more on the 2024 ACM Awards, see below:

Written by Lydia Farthing
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