Music

ACM Awards 2024 Predictions: Who Will Take Home the Top Honors?

Who will be the big winner at the 59th Academy of Country Music Awards on Thursday (May 16) night?

Luke Combs, who is hoping to land his first entertainer of the year win in his fifth nomination, leads all artists with eight nods. Should he take home entertainer of the year, he will clinch the ACMs Awards’ Triple Crown — bestowed upon acts who have also taken home the trophy for new artist and artist of the year in their eligible categories.

He is followed by Megan Moroney, who is the leading female nominee, and reigning male artist of the year Morgan Wallen, both of whom nabbed six nods. Cody Johnson, reigning entertainer of the year Chris Stapleton and Lainey Wilson each garnered five nominations. Wilson was last year’s big winner, along with HARDY, taking home four trophies.

Jelly Roll is up for four nominations. He is the first artist since Billy Ray Cyrus 32 years ago to be nominated for entertainer of the year in his first year of receiving any nominations. He is joined by Jordan Davis, who also received four nominations. Kelsea Ballerini and Zach Bryan garnered three nods each.

Tracy Chapman receives her first ACM nomination as writer of song of the year nominee, “Fast Car.”

Returning for a record 17th time, Reba McEntire will host the show, which will stream for free live on Prime Video across more than 240 countries and territories from Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas starting at 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. CDT and 5 p.m. PDT. The 16-time ACM Award winner will also perform.  The eligibility period for nominations runs Jan. 1, 2023-Dec. 31, 2023.

Below, Billboard’s Melinda Newman and Jessica Nicholson select their picks to take home the trophy.

Entertainer of the Year

Kane Brown

Luke Combs

Jelly Roll

Cody Johnson

Chris Stapleton

Morgan Wallen

Lainey Wilson

Newman: Stapleton is the reigning champ, but even he seemed surprised when he won last year. In his fifth try, Combs is more than deserving of his first win, but faces very stiff competition from the other contenders, especially Wallen and Jelly Roll. Plus, after being the surprise winner at the CMA Awards, it’s foolish to rule out Wilson. Winner: Wallen

Nicholson: Each contender in this category has had a solid year including chart-topping singles, sold-out arena or stadium shows, and/or an array of high-profile media appearances. Having released his album Higher in November and continued his All-American Road Show tour, Stapleton could repeat last year’s entertainer win. However, Combs has been spearheading his slate of stadium concerts and several international stops, and had one of the songs of the summer with “Fast Car.” Winner: Combs

Female Artist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini

Ashley McBryde

Megan Moroney

Kacey Musgraves

Lainey Wilson

Newman: All these deserving women had stellar years, including Moroney, who is the rookie of the bunch, but Wilson, who took home the award last year, continues her meteoric rise and seems unstoppable. Winner: Wilson

Nicholson: Each artist here has released a stellar slate of music over the past year, including Ballerini’s post-divorce album Rolling Up the Welcome Mat and Moroney’s debut album Lucky. But Wilson’s rocketship-like career surge doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Winner: Wilson

Male Artist of the Year

Luke Combs

Jelly Roll

Cody Johnson

Chris Stapleton

Morgan Wallen

Newman: Wallen is the reigning champ and he could end up repeating, especially given the success of “Last Night,” which spent eight weeks atop the Country Airplay chart. Combs and Stapleton have also both prevailed before. But Jelly Roll has had an undeniable year. Winner: Jelly Roll

Nicholson: Combs and Wallen each scored major crossover hits over the past year, with Combs’s cover of “Fast Car” and Wallen’s “Last Night” each notching lengthy stays in the upper echelon of the Hot 100. Johnson had a solid year and just earned another chart-topper with “The Painter,” while three-time ACM male artist of the year winner Stapleton should never be counted out as a serious awards contender. Still, Jelly Roll notched three No. 1 Country Airplay hits last year, including the four-week chart-topper “Need a Favor,” while leading a headlining tour and becoming a seemingly ubiquitous media presence over the past year. Winner: Jelly Roll

Duo of the Year

Brooks & Dunn 

Brothers Osborne 

Dan + Shay 

Maddie & Tae 

The War and Treaty

Newman: Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne have traded off winning this award for the last several years and there’s no reason to think they’d stop now, despite the warranted rising acclaim for The War & Treaty, who continue to build their following. The slight edge goes to Dan + Shay, who rose back to the top of the charts with “Save Me the Trouble,” headlined a sold-out arena tour and joined The Voice. Winner: Dan + Shay

Nicholson: Since 2017, Brothers Osborne has taken home the gold here four times, while Dan+Shay have thrice earned the trophy in this category. While The War and Treaty saw their career continue to rise over the past year thanks to high-profile performances and their collaboration with Zach Bryan on “Hey Driver,” look for Dan+Shay to take the lead here. Dan +Shay nearly broke up, only to experience a career renaissance by earning a couple of top 5 Country Airplay hits over the past year and expanding their audience through their work on The Voice. Winner: Dan+Shay

Group of the Year

Flatland Cavalry

Lady A 

Little Big Town 

Old Dominion 

Zac Brown Band

Newman: In an era where labels are more focused on developing solo artists than groups, Old Dominion is going for its seventh group of the year trophy, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t succeed as they continue their deserved dominance in this category.  Winner: Old Dominion

Nicholson: Coming off of the success of their 2023 album Memory Lane, with the title track and their Megan Moroney collaboration “Can’t Break Up Now” both heating up Country Airplay chart over the past year, the group seems poised to once again take home the trophy here. However, it is nice to see some newcomers represented in the category, with the inclusion of Texas group Flatland Cavalry. Winner: Old Dominion

Album of the Year

[Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]

Gettin’ Old– Luke Combs; Producer: Chip Matthews, Jonathan Singleton, Luke Combs; Record Company-Label: River House Artists / Columbia Nashville

Higher– Chris Stapleton; Producer: Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Morgane Stapleton; Record Company-Label: Mercury Nashville

Leather – Cody Johnson; Producers: Trent Willmon; Record Company-Label: CoJo Music LLC / Warner Music Nashville LLC

One Thing at a Time– Morgan Wallen; Producers: Joey Moi, Cameron Montgomery, Charlie Handsome, Jacob Durrett; Record Company-Label: Big Loud Records / Republic Records / Mercury Records

Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good)– Kelsea Ballerini; Producers: Kelsea Ballerini, Alysa Vanderheym; Record Company-Label: Black River Entertainment

Newman: Five very worthy entries, all showcasing artists at different stages in their careers. Stapleton tends to be a lock in this category for good reason, and can never be discounted. But this year Wallen has the tailwind, given One Thing at a Time’s record-breaking status as the country album with the most weeks spent at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200, its singles’ dominance at radio and the lift the set has given country music — in addition to being chock-full of catchy songs.  Winner: One Thing at a Time

Nicholson: Each finalist here issued an award-worthy project. In terms of pure consumption and fan devotion, Wallen’s presence in this category with One Thing at a Time is undeniable, though some ACM Awards voters could be turned off due to some of Wallen’s recent non-musical activities. Ballerini, Johnson and Combs have also put out some of the strongest projects of their careers, while Stapleton is deservedly a mainstay in this category. Winner: Higher

Single of the Year

[Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]

“Burn It Down” – Parker McCollum; Producer: Jon Randall; Record Company-Label: MCA Nashville

“Fast Car” – Luke Combs; Producers: Luke Combs, Chip Matthews, Jonathan Singleton; Record Company-Label: River House Artists / Columbia Nashville

“Last Night” – Morgan Wallen; Producer: Joey Moi, Charlie Handsome; Record Company-Label: Big Loud Records / Republic Records / Mercury Records

“Need a Favor” – Jelly Roll; Producer: Austin Nivarel; Record Company-Label: Stoney Creek Records / BMG Nashville

“Next Thing You Know” – Jordan Davis; Producer: Paul DiGiovanni; Record Company-Label: MCA Nashville

Newman: Is there a truer line than “I only talk to God when I need a favor?” In an extremely competitive category, all five of these songs were well-produced and well-sung, but the marriage of the message and Jelly Roll’s urgent vocal delivery provided the strongest gut punch. Winner: “Need a Favor”

Nicholson: With “Fast Car” and “Last Night” pulling such strong showings over the past year and going head-to-head in this category, either could pull off the win here. “Next Thing You Know” and “Burn It Down” are also both excellent. But Jelly Roll’s emotional plea and four weeks at No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart is the top contender to bring in the trophy. Winner: “Need a Favor”

Song of the Year

[Awarded to Songwriter(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]

“Fast Car” – Luke Combs; Songwriters: Tracy Chapman; Publishers: Purple Rabbit

“Heart Like a Truck” – Lainey Wilson; Songwriters: Dallas Wilson, Lainey Wilson, Trannie Anderson; Publishers: Sony / ATV Countryside; Songs of Riser House; Songs of Wild Cat Well Music

“Next Thing You Know” – Jordan Davis; Songwriters: Chase McGill, Greylan James, Jordan Davis, Josh Osborne; Publishers: Family Farm Songs; Hold On Can I Get A Number 1 Music; Songs of Universal Inc.

“The Painter” – Cody Johnson; Songwriters: Benjy Davis, Kat Higgins, Ryan Larkins; Publishers: Big Music Machine; BMG Platinum Songs US; Nashblonde Music; Pompano Run Music; Songs for Ellie May; Sony / ATV Tree Publishing; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Group; Well That Was Awkward Music

“Tennessee Orange” – Megan Moroney; Songwriters: Ben Williams, David Fanning, Megan Moroney, Paul Jenkins; Publishers: 33 Creative; Bone Bone Creative; Sony / ATV Tree Publishing

Newman: All five songs were milestone recordings for the artists who performed them, and it’s a little hard to pick a 36-year-cover as the winner — but “Fast Car” checks all the boxes of what a truly great country song should do. All these years later, it still hits in the feels with its emotional tale of wanting a better life and all the stalled dreams in the world can’t make it happen. Plus, Combs’ delivery rings beautifully poignant.  Winner: “Fast Car”

Nicholson: Each of these contenders has made a strong showing on Billboard’s country charts. But while the songs from Wilson, Davis, Johnson and Moroney each offer up distinct takes on love and romance, Combs’s version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” highlighted the enduring power of Chapman’s poetic-yet-unfiltered storytelling, and her signature song of aspirations and dreams dashed by poverty and alcoholism. Winner: “Fast Car”

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