Odds and Picks for the 2020 American Country Music Awards

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55th ACM Awards
Traditionally held in April, this year’s ACMs have been pushed back to September 16th due to the pandemic.

The change in dates does not alter the eligibility period. Thus, the show will award winners based on their work from January 1, 2019-December 31, 2019. Keeping the eligibility period as is may mean some of the work being recognized is close to two years old.

According to the CEO of the ACMs, Damon Whiteside, “The artists earned it and should be given the trophy. If we changed anything, it would be undermining the integrity of our awards.”

After a very eventful start to 2020, can any of us really recall country music in 2019? Don’t worry. I will walk you down memory lane while providing the odds and my picks for betting on the ACM Awards in 2020.

Album of the Year: Wildcard by Miranda Lambert

Album Odds
Maren Morris Girl +200
Miranda Lambert Wildcard +225
Thomas Rhett Center Point Road +275
Luke Combs What You See Is What You Get +400
Jon Pardi Heartache Medication +500 

There was tough competition in this category. Contenders like Maren Morris won a CMA (the other country music award show) for her album Girl. This made Morris the favored artist for Album of the Year. Another contender to watch is Luke Combs. Combs’ What You See Is What You Get debuted on the Top 200 Billboards at number one across all genres.

Only three albums can truly be considered country music: Miranda Lambert’s Wildcard, Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get, and Jon Pardi’s Heartache Medication. Rhett and Morris produced highly pop-oriented albums. The last time a more pop-oriented album won was back in 2011 when Taylor Swift accepted her last ACM as a country music artist.

Lambert has a history of winning Album of the Year ACM. Except for her debut album Kerosene, the Queen of Country has collected 5 ACMs back to back. With Wildcard, Lambert could keep her winning streak alive. While Combs’ album is considerably well done, country music honors its veterans. Not only has Lambert been in the business for over 20 years, but she has delivered multiple #1 albums. With that tenure and talent, country music critics will always give her a nod of respect and recognition.

Don’t forget, Lambert holds 34 ACMs to her name. She is a favorite in country music. I put my money on Lambert. If I wanted to take a chance on a bigger payout, I would pick Luke Combs as the black horse. All other bets are for the birds.

Song of the Year: 10,000 Hours by Dan+Shay and Justin Bieber

Song Odds
10,000 Hours +225
God’s Country +300
Girl Goin Nowhere +300
One Man Band +330
Some of it +350

While country music is trying to protect some of its musical roots, the genre has shifted in the last few years by collaborating with pop artists. Country music’s survival strategy is smart. It provides more streaming and airplay across a wider audience, garnering more fans. More fans equal more sales.

Perhaps the biggest crossover is Taylor Swift. Swift divorced country music almost a decade ago. The split was the start of more consistent pop and country collaborations. With 10,000 Hours, country music captures both Bieber fans (possibly new country music fans) and current Dan+Shay fans. The song debuted on US Billboard’s Hot 100 at #4. The song had 33.3 million streams in its first week of tracking along with 53,000 downloads in the first week.

If I were to pick a more “traditional” country song for this category, I would pick Blake Shelton’s God’s Country. Stats show Shelton’s release only received 1,198 spins on country radio the first week. In July, the song received about 8,500 spins. The lower airplay is likely attributed to the song’s country feel, which pigeonholes it to country radio.

I strongly want to pick a more country-oriented song to win, but the trends all point to a more progressive sound and approach. Trends aside, no other nominated song has the performance record of 10,000 Hours. No one wants to admit they are going to vote for Bieber, but here it is. Pick Dan+Shay and Bieber to win.

Entertainer of the Year: Carrie Underwood

Entertainer Odds
Carrie Underwood +225
Luke Bryan +275
Thomas Rhett +300
Luke Combs +350
Eric Church +350

I could name all the great things Carrie Underwood accomplished in 2019 that earns her this award. She did a lot, to her credit. However, I will spare you the stats. I picked Underwood for one simple reason. She is a woman. The ACMs have come under fire the last two years for the lack of female representation in the Entertainer of the Year category. Some say the system is broken. Historically, the ACMs have favored males for Entertainer of the Year. Country royalty, Reba McIntire, was not shy in sharing her opinion on the gender bias when asked her thoughts by CBS This Morning.

According to the Academy of Country Music, the nominees of this award are evaluated based on the following:

“The factors to be considered include, but are not limited to, success at radio, sales of pre-recorded music, success of music videos, vocal performances, live concert ticket sales, artistic merit, appearances on television, appearances in films, songwriting, success in digital media, and contributions to the country music industry.”

The ACMs bought themselves some grace by including a female nominee this year. Ironically, if the ACMs want to prove the system is not rigged, they may need to let a female take home the award, even if a male truly wins the award. The good news is that Underwood heavily promoted her Cry Pretty album. Whether they give her the award to make a statement, Underwood has the credentials and results to justify the win.

It would be a nice, easy win for both parties. Award Underwood what she rightfully earned, and the ACMs get to silence the masses about a rigged system. From a PR standpoint, it would be smart for the ACMs to give the award to Underwood. Here is $ 100 to the ACMs publicists being smart cookies and giving into women everywhere roaring for equal representation.

Female Artist of the Year: Maren Morris

Artist Odds
Carrie Underwood +225
Maren Morris +275
Kacey Musgraves +300
Kelsea Ballerini +350
Miranda Lambert +350

It probably seems odd that I picked Underwood for Entertainer of the Year but not for Female Artist of the Year. Well, a win in one category is not indicative of success in another category. Underwood has been nominated for both awards in the same year before. In 2010, she won Entertainer of the Year, but she did not win Female Artist of the Year.

Since Morris received a CMA for her album Girl, it would be only natural she walks away with at least one ACM award. Looking at her work over the last year, Morris is another country artist that has found success collaborating with musicians from other genres. Her collaboration with Zedd a couple of years ago made her a dance pop sensation to an international audience.

Since then, Morris has garnered more popularity. Her song Girl was nominated by MTV Music Awards for Best Power Anthem. She is currently nominated for three iHeartRadio Music Awards for her work on The Bones and Girl. Even her collaboration with Hozier on The Bones is nominated for Best Remix.

When it comes down to it, female artist of the year is not just about vocal ability. It is about how you reached the masses with your music. Just remember, more fans equal more money. Morris is positioned well to take this award home. Put your money on her.

Male Artist of the Year: Thomas Rhett

Artist Odds
Thomas Rhett +225
Luke Combs +275
Keith Urban +300
Chris Stapleton +330
Dierks Bentley +350

If you have not figured it out by now, aside from Album of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, the rest of my votes go to the crossover attempts made by country artists. Thomas Rhett is no exception. Rhett was born into country music. His dad, Rhett Atkins, is very well known in the country circle as a singer and songwriter.

Thomas Rhett has earned his own seat at the table, though. As he continues to make music, Rhett has added in more pop sounds that are reminiscent of Justin Timberlake. Rhett has been nominated A LOT. His win to nomination ratio is not great. However, this could be the year he gets a nod for his ability to crossover.

Rhett has collaborated across genres with the likes of Diplo, creating much more exposure for himself. His competition has stayed mainly in the country swim lane. Rhett is the most marketable to a non-country audience. As country music continues its quest to stay relevant, the genre needs to promote artists like Rhett.

With the social unrest present in the country, the continued cross-genre collaboration is necessary to prevent critics from calling country music homogenous. Rhett for the win.

Best Bets for the 2020 ACM Awards

  • Album of the Year: Wildcard by Miranda Lambert
  • Entertainer of the Year: Carrie Underwood
  • Song of the Year: 10,000 Hours by Dan+Shay and Justin Bieber
  • Female Artist of the Year: Maren Morris
  • Male Artist of the Year: Thomas Rhett

In conclusion, it is all about the underlying social issues and country music’s need for survival.

You have my thoughts. Now go make the bets at the top entertainment betting sites.