This year’s Academy of Country Music Awards nominations had some glaring omissions and controversial inclusions (more on that below). With the show coming soon on March 7, let’s take a look at the artist categories and predict who will win.
Entertainer of the Year
Every year there’s hope that the biggest award of the night will finally go to a woman, and every year we are disappointed it hasn’t. Carrie Underwood won in 2020, but it was a tie with a male artist, Thomas Rhett. And before that you’d have to go back to 2012 to find a female winner — Taylor Swift — and that was when this category was decided by fans and not the academy. With no clear front-runner here, I’ll predict (yet again) an Underwood win, although there’s a good chance it just goes to one of the three men: Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, or Luke Combs; Stapleton actually has never won this category before despite numerous wins in other races, so perhaps this could be his year. Underwood is in a good position though, being the only artist here to have won before.
Male Artist of the Year
This is a category that will be largely decided by on how much voters want to go for Morgan Wallen. That said, part of me thinks that, even though he was let back in this year, voters might be a little apprehensive to award him, especially in this category where he is competing against big names. A win here would also be a win just for Wallen himself, which is harder to defend than a win for his album or songs, which have other contributing writers and producers. As such, I could see voters swaying towards Thomas Rhett or Chris Stapleton, both previous winners. Rhett has beaten Stapleton three out of the last four times they’ve competed together here, so he is probably the safer bet, especially with Rhett’s Album of the Year nomination for “Country Again: Side A.”
Female Artist of the Year
This award will likely be a victory for Carly Pearce. Her success these past couple of years has been undeniable, and it’s clear that the industry loves her since she’s not only nominated in three more categories here, but also won the CMA for this same category last fall. She lost the Female Artist ACM to Maren Morris last year, but with very little new material from Morris in 2021, it would be baffling to award her yet again here. There’s always a possibility for a Miranda Lambert upset as well since she has won a record nine times, but voters might want to go for some newer blood.
Duo of the Year
This category will be, like last year, a face-off between Brothers Osborne and Dan and Shay. Last year I thought that voters might go for Brothers Osborne due to support for their newest album “Skeletons” as well as personal support for TJ Osborne after he came out as gay. However, Dan and Shay ended up winning, which might just indicate that voters will go for them as long as they’re the bestselling duo in the business (spoiler alert, they were in 2021). I will go for the “Glad You Exist” singers, but with hope that perhaps voters can shake things up and go for Brothers Osborne, especially after their historic CMA win in this same category last November.
Group of the Year
Will we get an Old Dominion five-peat here? Chances are it will happen, especially considering none of the other nominees had particularly standout years in their careers in 2021. This category is a bit weak, which can always open the door for a surprise win, but with the success of their song “I Was on a Boat That Day” (a top-10 country radio hit), it seems increasingly likely that this will be yet another victory for the boys of Old Dominion.
New Female Artist of the Year
Lainey Wilson is my bet here. Her hit “Things a Man Oughta Know” is nominated for Song of the Year, showing support for her outside of this category. Besides that, she and Tenille Arts are the only nominees with big country radio hits this past year. If not one of those two, I would predict Caitlyn Smith, especially since she has written songs for a lot of popular artists in the past decade and could have a lot of industry support for that reason.
New Male Artist of the Year
This should be an easy win for Walker Hayes. While everyone else in this category has also found success on country radio, Hayes’s “Fancy Like” was the biggest country hit of 2021, and he has been working for many years now with no proper recognition. He and Hardy are also the only nominees with other ACM nominations, which is typically a good sign for support, though Hardy’s other noms were last year. Still, oftentimes ACM voters reward an artist here on their second try, so watch out for a Hardy or Parker McCollum upset.
Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify music chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?