Academy of Country Music Awards 2020: Predictions & Personal Picks

Voting ended months ago for this year’s ACM Awards, which were intended to be broadcast in the spring.  The awards are being handed out this Wednesday, September 16.  Here are our predictions for most categories, as well as our personal picks.  A full winner’s list will be posted after the show.

Entertainer of the Year

Should Win:

  • Luke Bryan 
  • Eric Church 
  • Luke Combs 
  • Thomas Rhett 
  • Carrie Underwood – ZK, JK, KJC

Will Win:

  • Luke Bryan 
  • Eric Church 
  • Luke Combs – ZK, JK
  • Thomas Rhett 
  • Carrie Underwood – KJC

ZK: Luke Bryan notwithstanding, it’s a completely different field from last year for this award. I’m glad to see Carrie Underwood here, and I’m rooting for her. But I’m not going to underestimate Luke Combs’ meteoric rise either. Eric Church is a dark horse pick, as always. 

JK: What concerns me is that there are two artists, Underwood and Church, who are both wildly under-recognized in this category both here and at the CMAs, and there is one artist, Combs, who has rapidly emerged as a full-on juggernaut within the industry. Because she’s won at the ACMs before, I think Underwood is less likely to triumph here than she will be at the CMAs, though she’d still get my vote. And I just don’t know that Church had the visibility during this ACM cycle to derail Combs.

KJC: Keith Urban and Garth Brooks took home the ACM and CMA, respectively, in 2019.  Neither are nominated.  If voting had been delayed like the show was, I’d predict Luke Combs to take home the trophy.  But I’m thinking that during the pre-pandemic voting period, the CMA’s embarrassing mistake in this category was still weighing on ACM voters’ minds, and they will correctly award the trophy to Carrie Underwood. 

Male Artist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley 
  • Luke Combs – ZK, JK, KJC
  • Thomas Rhett 
  • Chris Stapleton 
  • Keith Urban 

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley 
  • Luke Combs – ZK, JK, KJC
  • Thomas Rhett 
  • Chris Stapleton 
  • Keith Urban 

ZK: On singing ability alone, I’d always go to bat for Chris Stapleton for this award. But it’s a really dry year for this category, and I’m not sure who I’d count as deserving of the award other than Luke Combs. Since Keith Urban won’t be taking home the Entertainer of the Year award this year, maybe they’ll give this to him. 

KJC: I expect a long run of victories in this category for Luke Combs. His star is shining a bit brighter than everyone else’s these days.  

JK: Thanks to “Starting Over,” I’ll be back in Stapleton’s camp for the next awards’ cycle. But I don’t see any reason whatsoever why Combs shouldn’t or won’t win this.

 

Female Artist of the Year

Should Win:

  • Kelsea Ballerini 
  • Miranda Lambert 
  • Maren Morris – KJC
  • Kacey Musgraves – ZK
  • Carrie Underwood – JK

Will Win:

  • Kelsea Ballerini 
  • Miranda Lambert – ZK
  • Maren Morris – JK, KJC
  • Kacey Musgraves 
  • Carrie Underwood 

ZK: With Miranda Lambert’s commercial rebound over the course of the last year, I could see her reclaiming her crown here. Then again, with the surprising Highwomen nomination – and good on you ACMS, even if you often make no sense and awarded Riley freaking’ Green the New Male Artist of the Year award for this year – perhaps it’s Maren Morris’ year for this award. 

KJC:  I’m weary of the repetition in this category at both ceremonies.  Musgraves finally winning in 2019 was a breath of fresh air.  Let’s keep it going.  How about Maren Morris 2020, and then Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde in the years to come? 

JK: Morris will, as ever, remain my “Will Win” pick until she actually does, and this year, she seems like the most obvious choice. I’d go for Underwood based upon what each of these women released during the eligibility period, since the ACMs gave us a more precise way to recognize Morris’ role in The Highwomen.

 

Duo of the Year

Should Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line 
  • Maddie & Tae – ZK, KJC, JK

Will Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Brothers Osborne 
  • Dan + Shay – ZK, JK, KJC
  • Florida Georgia Line 
  • Maddie & Tae

ZK: Had voting taken place after the pandemic, I wouldn’t have counted Maddie & Tae out of this race. As it is, it’s no contest for Dan + Shay. At least Brooks & Dunn temporarily replaced LoCash here? Eh? 

KJC: Another category that’s way too streaky.  Maddie & Tae is overdue for recognition, so I’d like to see them take it home.

JK: No way do Dan+Shay lose this. And I still do not get the appeal. 

 

Group of the Year

Should Win:

  • Lady A
  • Little Big Town 
  • Midland
  • Old Dominion 
  • The Highwomen – ZK, JK, KJC

Will Win:

  • Lady A
  • Little Big Town 
  • Midland
  • Old Dominion – ZK, JK, KJC
  • The Highwomen

ZK: Another category that hasn’t provided much of a contest in quite some time. I love seeing the Highwomen here, though. If I didn’t care about beating Kevin and Jonathan in correct number of predictions – because I’m petty – I’d easily root for them as the dark horse pick. 

KJC: The Highwomen put out the best music, by far.

JK: The chasm between the “should” and “will” win in this category is unfathomable. 

Album of the Year

Should Win:

  • Center Point Road – Thomas Rhett 
      • Produced by Thomas Rhett, Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure, Julian Bunetta, The Stereotypes, and Cleve Wilson
  • GIRL – Maren Morris
      • Produced by busbee, Maren Morris, and Greg Kurstin
  • Heartache Medication – Jon Pardi  – JK
      • Produced by Bart Butler, Ryan Gore, and Jon Pardi
  • What You See Is What You Get – Luke Combs – ZK, KJC
      • Produced by Scott Moffatt
  • Wildcard – Miranda Lambert 
    • Produced by Jay Joyce

Will Win:

  • Center Point Road – Thomas Rhett – JK
      • Produced by Thomas Rhett, Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure, Julian Bunetta, The Stereotypes, and Cleve Wilson
  • GIRL – Maren Morris – ZK, KJC
      • Produced by busbee, Maren Morris, and Greg Kurstin
  • Heartache Medication – Jon Pardi 
      • Produced by Bart Butler, Ryan Gore, and Jon Pardi 
  • What You See Is What You Get – Luke Combs
      • Produced by Scott Moffatt
  • Wildcard – Miranda Lambert 
    • Produced by Jay Joyce

ZK: Meh. Combs’ record is probably my favorite of this bunch, but this is a very weak field. If Maren Morris doesn’t get Female Artist of the Year, she’ll get this one. I won’t be thrilled, but anything is better than Thomas Rhett’s ode to mediocrity. 

KJC: It’s going against every good bit of sense I have to not predict Lambert, who has won this award for her last five studio albums.  If “Bluebird” had hit a bit earlier, I’d assume she was a shoo-in. But it seems like GIRL is “that album” for this cycle, though the more deserving Combs might pull off the win in the end. 

JK: The best of these albums, which I’d say is Pardi’s set, is uneven. The worst of these albums, which is very obviously Rhett’s by many orders of magnitude, is going to win based upon vote-splitting among the other four nominees, which all have various pros and cons in terms of critical clout and commercial stats.

Single Record of the Year

Should Win:

  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton
    • Produced by Scott Hendricks
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion
    • Produced by Shane McAnally and Old Dominion
  • “Rainbow” – Kacey Musgraves – ZK, JK, KJC
    • Produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian, and Kacey Musgraves 
  • “Rumor” – Lee Brice 
    • Produced by Dan Frizsell, Kyle Jacobs, and Jon Stone
  • “What If I Never Get Over You” – Lady A
    • Produced by Dann Huff 

Will Win:

  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton – ZK, JK, KJC
    • Produced by Scott Hendricks
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion
    • Produced by Shane McAnally and Old Dominion
  • “Rainbow” – Kacey Musgraves – 
    • Produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian, and Kacey Musgraves 
  • “Rumor” – Lee Brice 
    • Produced by Dan Frizsell, Kyle Jacobs, and Jon Stone
  • “What If I Never Get Over You” – Lady A
    • Produced by Dann Huff 

ZK: I was just reminded of how “Rainbow” settled for a paltry top 40 chart position peak last year – because country radio gonna country radio – and while I’m rooting for it, I won’t be mad when “God’s Country” wins. It’s too big of a hit, and after those two, nothing else comes close. 

KJC: The ACMs being historically lukewarm toward Blake Shelton makes me think he isn’t quite the slam dunk here that should be expected.  If I’m right, I suspect Musgraves will eke out the win. But I’m hesitating, only because “God’s Country” is the only big hit nominated, and the ACM Single award has always gone to a big hit. 

JK: I never once heard what made “God’s Country” resonate to the extent that it did, but clearly it did resonate with a lot of people and will easily win here. “Rainbow” would be my choice, even though it was only my third-favorite single-or-is-it from Golden Hour.

Song of the Year

Should Win:

  • “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
    • Written by Dan Smyers, Shay Mooney, Justin Bieber, Jessie Jo Dillon, Jason Boyd, and Jordan Reynolds
  • “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” – Ashley McBryde – ZK, JK, KJC
    • Written by Ashley McBryde and Jeremy Bussey
  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton
    • Written by Devin Dawson, Jordan Schmidt, and Michael Hardy
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion 
    • Written by Josh Osborne, Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, and Brad Tursi
  • “Some of It” – Eric Church
    • Written by Eric Church, Jeff Hyde, Clint Daniels, and Bobby Pinson

Will Win:

  • “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
    • Written by Dan Smyers, Shay Mooney, Justin Bieber, Jessie Jo Dillon, Jason Boyd, and Jordan Reynolds
  • “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” – Ashley McBryde – KJC
    • Written by Ashley McBryde and Jeremy Bussey
  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton – ZK
    • Written by Devin Dawson, Jordan Schmidt, and Michael Hardy
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion 
    • Written by Josh Osborne, Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, and Brad Tursi
  • “Some of It” – Eric Church – JK
    • Written by Eric Church, Jeff Hyde, Clint Daniels, and Bobby Pinson

ZK: Wait … “10,000 Hours” for song and not single? I thought this field represented quality? 

Jokes aside, Ashley McBryde’s is the best selection here by far, and if “God’s Country” snags the single award, I predict this will win.

KJC: Taking a bit of a chance here, but the ACMs have only one shot to honor Ashley McBryde, and “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” is the best in the category by a wide margin.  Hey, they gave it to “Tin Man” and radio didn’t play that one, either…

JK: Part of me really hopes Kevin is right about the “Tin Man” precedent. I’m thinking this may be the bone they throw to Church, but “God’s Country” could just as easily take both Single and Song.

 

Video of the Year

Should Win:

  • “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
    • Produced by Christen Pinkston
    • Directed by Patrick Tracy
  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton 
    • Produced by Jamie Amos and Patrick Kennedy
    • Directed by Sophie Muller
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion 
    • Produced by Mason Allen
    • Directed by Mason Allen
  • “Remember You Young” – Thomas Rhett
    • Produced by Dan Atchison
    • Directed by TK McKamy
  • “Sugar Coat” – Little Big Town – JK, ZK
    • Produced by Angie Lorenz, Carlo Glorioso, and Wes Edwards
    • Directed by Alexa Kinigopoulos and Stephen Kinigopoulos

Will Win:

  • 10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
    • Produced by Christen Pinkston
    • Directed by Patrick Tracy
  • “God’s Country” – Blake Shelton 
    • Produced by Jamie Amos and Patrick Kennedy
    • Directed by Sophie Muller
  • “One Man Band” – Old Dominion 
    • Produced by Mason Allen
    • Directed by Mason Allen
  • “Remember You Young” – Thomas Rhett – JK, ZK
    • Produced by Dan Atchison
    • Directed by TK McKamy
  • “Sugar Coat” – Little Big Town
    • Produced by Angie Lorenz, Carlo Glorioso, and Wes Edwards
    • Directed by Alexa Kinigopoulos and Stephen Kinigopoulos

ZK:I don’t have much of an interest in this one, though it is cool to see one of the best tracks off Little Big Town’s latest work in here. 

JK: The most indifferent of whatevers to all of this. I don’t even like the LBT track, but the video at least aims a little higher than the rest.

(Editor’s Note: Since this was written, Thomas Rhett’s “Remember You Young” was announced as the winner of this category)

Music Event of the Year

Should Win:

  • “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber 
    • Produced by Dan Smyers
  • “Dive Bar” – Garth Brooks featuring Blake Shelton 
    • Produced by Garth Brooks 
  • “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – Miranda Lambert featuring Maren Morris, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes, Caylee Hammack, and Elle King – ZK
    • Produced by Jay Joyce 
  • “Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus – JK
    • Produced by Atticus Matthew Ross, YoungKio, and Michael Trent Razor
  • “What Happens In A Small Town” – Brantley Gilbert featuring Lindsay Ell 
    • Produced by Dann Huff 

Will Win:

  • “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber – JK, ZK
    • Produced by Dan Smyers
  • “Dive Bar” – Garth Brooks featuring Blake Shelton 
    • Produced by Garth Brooks 
  • “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – Miranda Lambert featuring Maren Morris, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes, Caylee Hammack, and Elle King
    • Produced by Jay Joyce 
  • “Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
    • Produced by Atticus Matthew Ross, YoungKio, and Michael Trent Reznor
  • “What Happens In A Small Town” – Brantley Gilbert featuring Lindsay Ell 
    • Produced by Dann Huff

ZK: Going down the line: No, absolutely not, maybe kinda-sorta, no and-a-no. 

(Editor’s Note: Since this was written, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” was announced as the winner of this category)

Who do you think should win this year?  Share your personal picks, as well as your predictions, in the comments!

3 Comments

  1. I like this from KJC: “How about Maren Morris 2020, and then Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde in the years to come?” I’d go for it but I’d prefer in the order of BC, AMc & MM.

  2. I still prefer Brandy’s “Your Life is a Record” cd (favorite song – “Pawn Shop”) to Ashley’s “Never Will” (but i guess my favorite song “Stone” never will be a single.

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