ACM Awards 2023 Predictions: Who Will Be This Year’s Big Winners?

The 58th annual ACM Awards will stream live via Amazon Prime Video from Frisco, Texas, on Thursday (May 11), guided by megastar co-hosts Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton. This year, nominees ranging from newcomers to Country Music Hall of Fame members are poised take home ACM trophies.

Will leading nominee HARDY — who has seven nods heading into the ceremony — add to his ACM Awards accolades? Could first-time ACM entertainer of the year nominees Kane Brown or Morgan Wallen take home the night’s most coveted trophy? Will six-time ACM nominee Lainey Wilson best her previous year’s wins by taking home the female artist of the year honor? Will Miranda Lambert extend her nine female artist of the year wins? Could The War and Treaty take home their first ACM Awards win for duo of the year?

Here are Billboard’s winners predictions in select categories, from Jessica Nicholson, staff writer, Nashville.

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Kane Brown
Luke Combs
Miranda Lambert
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood
Morgan Wallen

Analysis: Sony Music Nashville artists Kane Brown and Luke Combs, as well as Big Loud’s Morgan Wallen, are among the top contenders in the seven artist-strong pack of nominees this year. Brown led a top-tier headlining tour of NBA arenas and notched his ninth Billboard Country Airplay No. 1, this time with “Thank God,” featuring his wife Katelyn. Brown is the first Black or biracial artist to be nominated in the category since Charley Pride, who earned ACM EOY nominations from 1970-1972. Meanwhile, Combs earns his fourth EOY nomination, and released two albums over the past year, Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old. He also launched his World Tour, including breaking records at AT&T Stadium, Busch Stadium and Gillette Stadium. Wallen also earns his first EOY nomination this year, and is selling out shows internationally on his One Night at a Time world tour. Wallen’s One Thing at a Time album has been entrenched in the penthouse of the Billboard 200 for the past nine weeks. Meanwhile, Wallen’s “Last Night” recently became the first song to top the Hot 100 and Country Airplay charts simultaneously. With this being Combs’ fourth nod in the category, look for him to take home his first win.

Will win: Luke Combs

Female artist of the year

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Ashley McBryde
Carly Pearce
Lainey Wilson

Analysis: Last year, Wilson picked up two ACM Awards wins — new female artist of the year and song of the year (for “Things a Man Oughta Know”). She is poised to up the ante this year, with six nominations overall. Additionally, she launched a recurring role on the hit television series Yellowstone, released her Bell Bottom Country album, headlined her own Country With a Flare tour, and opened for Luke Combs’ world tour. She also earned two top five Country Airplay hits with “Heart Like a Truck” and “Wait in the Truck” (a collab with HARDY). Reigning ACM entertainer of the year Lambert released the album Palomino, earned a top 10 Hot Country Songs hit with “If I Was a Cowboy,” and led a string of dates on her Velvet Rodeo Las Vegas residency. Meanwhile, McBryde and reigning ACM female artist of the year Pearce saw their collaboration “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” top the Country Airplay chart in May 2022; the song was nominated for two ACM Awards last year, and won the music event of the year trophy. In 2022, Ballerini released the album Subject to Change, spearheaded by the top 25 Country Airplay hit “Heartfirst.” Every artist here has notched stellar career milestones, but Wilson’s career is firing on all cylinders.

Will win: Lainey Wilson

Male Artist of the Year

Kane Brown
Luke Combs
Jordan Davis
Chris Stapleton
Morgan Wallen

Analysis: Stapleton is the reigning winner in this category, while Combs previously won this honor in 2020. They are competing against three first-timers in the category: Brown, Davis and Wallen. With Brown and Combs being labelmates, and given Wallen’s stronghold on the sales chart, Wallen could take home the win here.

Will win: Morgan Wallen

Duo of the Year

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

Analysis: Brothers Osborne regained this accolade last year, after Dan+Shay had held the winner’s circle for the previous three years. (Brothers Osborne had taken home the honor for two years before that.) This year, they have competition from Country Music Hall of Famers Brooks & Dunn (who have taken home the win 16 times in their career), as well as Maddie & Tae (who released the two-volume Through the Madness project last year) and husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty, who released their EP Blank Page in November 2022, followed by their full-length project Lover’s Game this year. With their strong following, look for Brothers Osborne to retain their title.

Will win: Brothers Osborne

Group of the Year

Lady A
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Zac Brown Band

Analysis: Old Dominion has taken home this honor the past five consecutive years and have a top 15 Country Airplay hit with “Memory Lane.” Zac Brown Band earned a top 15 Country Airplay hit with “Out in the Middle.” Though all the nominees here had top-notch years, it looks to be a race between Old Dominion and ZBB.

Will win: Old Dominion

Album of the Year

Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville —Ashley McBryde; Producer: John Osborne; Label: Warner Music Nashville

Bell Bottom Country — Lainey Wilson; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Broken Bow Records

Growin’ Up — Luke Combs; Producers: Luke Combs, Chip Matthews, Jonathan Singleton; Label: Columbia Records

Mr. Saturday Night — Jon Pardi; Producers: Jon Pardi, Bart Butler, Ryan Gore; Label: Capitol Records Nashville

Palomino — Miranda Lambert; Producers: Jon Randall, Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Mikey Reaves; Label: Vanner Records/RCA Records Nashville

Analysis: This year’s album race features a slew of chart-toppers in a range of styles, with Lambert’s freewheeling musical travelogue, Wilson’s hippie-country project, Pardi’s ‘90s country-inspired album and Combs’s hit-filled collection all vying for the win. However, voters could lean toward the out-of-the-box ethos of McBryde’s collaborative, Dennis Linde-inspired project.

Will win: McBryde’s Lindeville

Single of the Year

“Heart Like a Truck” — Lainey Wilson; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Broken Bow Records

“Never Wanted To Be That Girl” — Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde; Producers: Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally; Label: Big Machine Records/Warner Music Nashville

“She Had Me at Heads Carolina” — Cole Swindell; Producer: Zach Crowell; Label: Warner Music Nashville

“Thank God” — Kane Brown with Katelyn Brown; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: RCA Nashville

“’Til You Can’t” — Cody Johnson; Producer: Trent Willmon; Label: Warner Music Nashville/CoJo Music

Analysis: Each nomination gained considerable traction on the Country Airplay chart, while “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” earned a Grammy win, Johnson’s “’Til You Can’t” is a previous CMA Award winner, and the Kane/Katelyn collab won big at last month’s CMT Music Awards. In terms of overall commercial success, Swindell’s “Carolina” notched four weeks atop Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and got an extra boost via a remixed version featuring Jo Dee Messina.

Will win: Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina”

Song of the Year

“Sand in My Boots” — Morgan Wallen; Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Josh Osborne, Michael Hardy; Publishers: Relative Music Group; Sony/ATV Accent, Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing

“She Had Me at Heads Carolina” — Cole Swindell; Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Cole Swindell, Jesse Frasure, Mark D. Sanders, Thomas Rhett, Tim Nichols; Publishers: Ashley Gorley Publishing Designee, Be a Light Publishing, Colden Rainey Music, EMI Blackwood Music, Songs of Roc Nation Music, Sony Tree Publishing, Telemitry Rhythm House Music, Universal Music, WC Music, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing

“’Til You Can’t” — Cody Johnson; Songwriters: Ben Stennis, Matt Rogers; Publishers: Anthem Canalco Publishing, Dead Aim Music, The Stennis Mightier Music

“wait in the truck” — HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson; Songwriters: Hunter Phelps, Jordan Schmidt, Michael Hardy, Renee Blair; Publishers: Humerus Publishing Global, Nontypical Music, Pile of Schmidt Songs, Rednecker Music, Relative Music Group, Round Hill Verses Publishing, Sony/ ATV Accent, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, The Money Tree Vibez, WC Music, Who Wants To Buy My Publishing

“You Should Probably Leave” — Chris Stapleton; Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Chris DuBois, Chris Stapleton; Publishers: One77 Songs, Sea Gayle Music, Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing, Spirit Two Nashville, WC Music

Analysis: Songwriter Ashley Gorley co-wrote three of the contenders for this year’s song of the year honor, while Michael Hardy (HARDY) is a contributor to two of this year’s final nominees. Three of these contenders first charted in 2021, thus proving their enduring quality. Lyrically, the songs cover a range of topics including heartbreak (“Sand in My Boots”), making the most of each day (“‘Til You Can’t”), revenge (“wait in the truck”), temptation (“You Should Probably Leave”) and music-fused love (“She Had Me at Heads Carolina”). Given the gritty nature of “wait in the truck” and its addition to country music’s long history of murder ballads, look for it to win here.

Will win: “Wait in the Truck”

Music Event of the Year

“At the End of a Bar” — Chris Young with Mitchell Tenpenny; Producers: Chris DeStefano, Chris Young; Label: RCA Nashville

“She Had Me at Heads Carolina [Remix]” — Cole Swindell & Jo Dee Messina; Producer: Zach Crowell; Label: Warner Music Nashville

“Thank God” — Kane Brown with Katelyn Brown; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: RCA Nashville

“Thinking ’Bout You” — Dustin Lynch featuring MacKenzie Porter; Producer: Zach Crowell; Label: Broken Bow Records

“wait in the truck” — HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson; Producers: Derek Wells, HARDY, Joey Moi, Jordan Schmidt; Label Big Loud Records

Analysis: This year’s category gets competition with the Chris Young/Mitchell Tenpenny collab “At the End of a Bar,” the nostalgic Swindell/Messina musical moment of “She Had Me at Heads Carolina,” the husband-wife duet “Thank God” with Kane and Katelyn Brown, the intense murder ballad “wait in the truck” from HARDY and Wilson, and the Dustin Lynch/MacKenzie Porter duet “Thinking ‘Bout You,” which was a six-week Country Airplay chart-topper in 2021. Look for the stirring “Thank God” to take home the win.

Will win: Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown, “Thank God”