2016 ACM Awards Nominees, Preview, & Predictions


NOTE: This story has been updated with the later-announced Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year nominees (see bottom).

Monday morning (2-1), the nominees for the 51st Annual Academy of Country Music, or ACM Awards were revealed via CBS The Morning and ETOnline.com. The 2016 ACM awards will occur on April 3rd at the MGM Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas, and will be broadcast on CBS. Dierks Bentley, who will help host the event with Luke Bryan, also helped reveal the nominees Monday morning.

Eric Church and Chris Stapleton lead all nominees with five each. And for the first time in a while, the ACM’s have broken down the New Artist categories by Male, Female, and Duo/Group. For some dumb reason, nominees for Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year were not disclosed, and we were only teased that they would be revealed “in the coming weeks.” So there’s that.

Major takeaways from the nominations are that it sets up to be another stellar day for Chris Stapleton, Eric Church could have a big night, and some newcomers like Maddie & Tae could also be big winners. Also interesting to note that there’s no country legends represented anywhere in the nominations (unless you want to consider Garth one), not even for Video or Vocal Event where they usually stash them. Blake Shelton got snubbed completely, and Joey + Rory were surprised with a nomination.

Find knee-jerk reactions and predictions below.

Entertainer of the Year

Shake your little fists, but this is Luke’s to lose.

” Jason Aldean
” Garth Brooks
” Luke Bryan – Winner
” Eric Church
” Miranda Lambert


Album of the Year

Chris Young? Please. Someone’s label is hustling behind-the-scenes. Very cool to see Eric Church’s “Mr. Misundersood” get some love after being generally overlooked by much of the industry. It has an outside chance, but once again it appears Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt will be pitted against each other. And with the lack of the industry willing to get behind Sam Hunt at the CMA’s for his un-contryness, Chris stands to be considered the front-runner here in a field full of newer and 2nd tier talent. No females?

I’m Comin’ Over Chris Young
Producers: Corey Crowder, Chris Young
Record Label: RCA Records

Montevallo Sam Hunt
Producers: Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally
Record Label: MCA Nashville

Mr. Misunderstood Eric Church
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: EMI Records Nashville

Tangled Up Thomas Rhett
Producers: Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure, Chris DeStefano, Joe London
Record Label: The Valory Music Co.

Traveller Chris Stapleton – Winner
Producers: Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton
Record Label: Mercury Records


Female Vocalist of the Year

This is Miranda Lambert’s to lose, mostly because she hasn’t lost in the better part of a decade. But Carrie Underwood had a very strong year this year. Maybe 2016 is when Miranda gets dethroned. At some point there has to be a push to stop handing this over to Miranda year after year. The others have no chance.

” Kelsea Ballerini
” Jana Kramer
” Miranda Lambert – Winner
” Kacey Musgraves
” Carrie Underwood – Potential Winner


Male Vocalist of the Year

Very interesting field here. Mark Dierks and Brett Eldredge out of the picture immediately. If it’s like the CMA’s and voters just can’t help themselves and vote for who they actually think deserves it, Chris Stapleton is a shoe-in. But a push by labels could see Eric Church or Jason Aldean rise up. NOTE: No Blake Shelton.

” Jason Aldean – Potential Winner
” Dierks Bentley
” Eric Church – Potential Winner
” Brett Eldredge
” Chris Stapleton – Winner


Vocal Duo of the Year

Very cool to see Joey + Rory here. Don’t leave it out of the realm of possibility that a sympathy vote may push them over the top. Remember it was the ACM’s who rewarded Joey + Rory with trophies for Vocal Duo in the past. But taking the possibility of a sympathy vote out, it’s down to two who both happen to be Big Machine artists. Normally you’d say it’s Florida Georgia Line’s to lose, but Maddie & Tae could rear up to snatch it with the move to girl power, and the blacksliding of Florida Georgia Line recently. This one will be very interesting.

” Brothers Osborne
” Dan + Shay
” Florida Georgia Line – Potential Winner
” Joey + Rory – Potential Winner
” Maddie & Tae – Potential Winner


Vocal Group of the Year

Little Big Town. Everyone else stay home. Especially Old Dominion because they’re awful. You see a nomination field like this and it really puts into perspective how far country music has fallen.

” Eli Young Band
” Little Big Town – WINNER
” Old Dominion
” Rascal Flatts
” Zac Brown Band


Single Record of the Year

Hypothetically this is supposed to be the big blockbuster commercial success, while Song of the Year (which hasn’t been announced yet) is supposed to be for the critical darlings. But I’m not sure if anyone’s adhering to that anymore. These two awards need some scene control. That said, “Burning House” and “Girl Crush” are your front runners, with Thomas Rhett as a dark horse. “Girl Crush” has been so incredibly decorated, there may be a push to give it to “Burning House,” which also enjoys a large amount of consensus.

” “Burning House” Cam – Potential Winner
Producers: Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, Camaron Ochs
Record Labels: Arista Nashville, RCA Records, Kravenworks

” “Buy Me A Boat” Chris Janson
Producers: Brent Anderson, Chris DuBois, Chris Janson
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

” “Die A Happy Man” Thomas Rhett
Producers: Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure
Record Label: The Valory Music Co.

” “Girl Crush” Little Big Town – Potential Winner
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

” “I’m Comin’ Over” Chris Young
Producers: Corey Crowder, Chris Young
Record Label: RCA Nashville

” “Take Your Time” Sam Hunt
Producers: Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally
Record Label: MCA Nashville


Vocal Event of the Year

This is always a throwaway category, though it’s also the excuse the ACM’s and CMA’s use to nominate legends for something. But this has got to be the most godawful selections of collaborations assembled. It’s almost like they were purposefully looking for the worst collaborations. It’s like when a high school class nominates the nerd for Most Popular. Yay for Grace Potter, but beyond that I hope the world dies before any of these songs win anything. “Hangover Tonight” was the coffin nail in Gary Allan’s career for crying out loud.

” “Hangover Tonight” Gary Allan Featuring Chris Stapleton
Producers: Gary Allan, Greg Droman
Record Label: MCA Nashville

” “Home Alone Tonight” Luke Bryan Featuring Karen Fairchild
Producers: Jeff Stevens, Jody Stevens
Record Label: Capitol Nashville

” “Raise ‘Em Up” Keith Urban Featuring Eric Church
Producers: Nathan Chapman, Keith Urban
Record Labels: Hit Red Records, Capitol Nashville

” “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” Miranda Lambert Featuring Little Big Town
Producers: Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay, Glenn Worf
Record Label: RCA Nashville

” “Wild Child” Kenny Chesney With Grace Potter
Producers: Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney
Record Labels: Blue Chair Records, Columbia Nashville


New Male Vocalist of the Year

Chris Stapleton’s your front runner, but Thomas Rhett could give him some stiff competition. Since the ACM’s are more horse traded than even the CMA’s, if folks think Stapleton will win some of the big awards, they might want to leave this one for Rhett.

” Brett Eldredge
” Chris Janson
” Thomas Rhett – Potential Winner
” Chase Rice
” Chris Stapleton – Potential Winner


New Female Vocalist of the Year

Why are there only four artists in this category ACM’s? All the effort to emphasize young female artists, and this is the sole category to get short changed? Think outside the box people. Kelsea wins it running away.

Kelsea Ballerini – Winner
” Cam
” Mickey Guyton
” RaeLynn


New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

Maddie & Tae will take this. Notice there’s not a lot of Big Machine Records represented here. That will give Big Machine a lot of leverage to walk away with the few categories they are contending in. Brothers Osborne as a Dark Horse.

” A Thousand Horses
” Brothers Osborne
” Maddie & Tae – Winner
” Old Dominion
” Parmalee


Video of the Year

A surprisingly strong field that could break either way. “Riser” would get the sentimental vote. “Mr. Misunderstood,” and “Burning House” will get the critical vote. I don’t even remember the video for “Girl Crush” but with the hype behind that song, it has to be considered a contender. And Kacey turned heads with her hot dress and campy production. We’ll see.

” “Biscuits” Kacey Musgraves
Director: Mark Klasfeld
Producer: Nicole Acacio

” “Burning House” Cam
Director: Trey Fanjoy
Producer: Trent Hardville

” “Girl Crush” Little Big Town
Directors: Karla Welch, Matthew Welch
Producer: Amanda Prunesti

” “Mr. Misunderstood” Eric Church
Directors: Reid Long, John Peets
Producer: Megan Smith

” “Riser” Dierks Bentley
Director: Wes Edwards
Producer: Jennifer Rothlein

Song of the Year

Since “Girl Crush” has been winning virtually everything it’s been nominated for, it has to be a frontrunner choice even though by April it will feel even more old hat than it does now. “Burning House” would not be a bad choice either, though it may be a little to early to be giving Cam Song of the Year accolades. Chris Stapleton is not a serious contender here, and “Raise ‘Em Up” is laughable. “She Don’t Love You” should win, but it would have to come from behind to do it.

” Burning House Cam
Songwriters: Jeffrey Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, Cam
Publishers: Marvelous Oaks Records (ASCAP), Creative Pulse Music (BMI), One Year Yesterday Publishing (BMI), Sony/ATV Songs LLC (BMI), These Are Pulse Songs (BMI), Way Above Music (BMI)

” Girl Crush Little Big Town – WINNER
Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose
Publishers: HillarodyRathbone Music (ASCAP), Hoodie Songs (BMI), Songs of Crazy Girl Music (BMI), Songs of Universal Inc (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)

” Nobody To Blame Chris Stapleton
Songwriters: Chris Stapleton, Barry Bales, Ronnie Bowman
Publishers: House of Sea Gayle Music (ASCAP), WB Music Corp (ASCAP), Quackhead Music (BMI), RayLynn Publishing (BMI)

” Raise ‘Em Up Keith Urban Featuring Eric Church
Songwriters: Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, Jeffrey Steele
Publishers: Jeffrey Steele Music (BMI), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), TomDouglasMusic (BMI), Sony/ATV Harmony (ASCAP), Texa Rae Music (ASCAP)

” She Don’t Love You Eric Paslay
Songwriters: Eric Paslay, Jennifer Wayne
Publishers: Five Stone Publishing (ASCAP), Spirit Two Nashville (ASCAP), Songwriters of Platinum Pen Publishing (BMI)

Songwriter of the Year

So now we’re going to start nominating these “producers as songwriters” for awards now, huh Ross Cooperman? This is Shane McAnally’s to lose.

Rodney Clawson
Ross Copperman
Ashley Gorley
Shane McAnally – WINNER
Josh Osborne