Predicting The Winners Of The 55th Annual CMA Awards

Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton are posing for a picture

Sigh…here we go again.

It’s time for the CMA Awards again, that annual celebration of the best that country music has to offer…

(I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing).

But seriously, for some reason the industry seems to put a lot of stock into these awards, despite the fact that they generally mean nothing and most artists who deserve them will never get a second look from the people who get to vote on this stuff. (We talked about some of those artists yesterday, so make sure to check that out too).

Obviously, we know that the CMA Awards (or any awards show, for that matter) are a terrible representation when it comes to who’s actually making the best music: I mean, Florida Georgia Line is nominated and Tyler Childers isn’t, so that should really tell you all you need to know.

And don’t even get me started on the performers.

Last year we were “treated” to a performance from Justin Bieber, and the year before that we got Halsey with Lady A.

Sure, I get it, you want to “expand the genre.” But how about expanding it to more country folks – like Cody Jinks, Morgan Wade, Charles Wesley Godwin – before you start inviting pop stars because you think it’ll make more people tune in? (Hint: Look at the ratings. It never works).

But we’re nothing if not team players here at Whiskey Riff (again, I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing) so the least we can do is give the awards their due.

So here are our predictions for the HIGHLY COVETED CMA Awards tonight, and some thoughts on the awards that were already given out:


“Chasing After You” – Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris
“Famous Friends” – Chris Young with Kane Brown
“Gone” – Dierks Bentley
“Half of my Hometown” – Kelsea Ballerini (featuring Kenny Chesney)
“Younger Me” – Brothers Osborne

Does anybody watch music videos anymore? Other than YouTube, I don’t even know where I’d go to see a music video these days. I assume they’re probably on CMT for like a half hour a day between episodes of The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and reruns of Last Man Standing, but I honestly have no idea.

Should Have Won: “Younger Me” – Brothers Osborne
Actual Winner: “Half of my Hometown”


Jenee Fleenor, Fiddle
Paul Franklin, Steel Guitar
Aaron Sterling, Drums
Ilya Toshinskiy, Banjo
Derek Wells, Guitar

I actually like this category because it’s the one time a year that the Nashville music industry pretends to still care about fiddle and steel – although in a few years, don’t be surprised when the nominees are just the five guys who produced the trap beats on the latest Kane Brown album.

Should Win: Jenee Fleenor
Prediction: Jenee Fleenor


“Buy Dirt” – Jordan Davis and Luke Bryan
“Chasing After You” – Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris
“Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” – Elle King & Miranda Lambert
“Famous Friends” – Chris Young with Kane Brown
“Half of my Hometown” – Kelsea Ballerini (featuring Kenny Chesney)

Every year there’s that one song that voters just seem to love and it takes home all the awards no matter what it’s up against. Looks like this year it’s going to be “Half of my Hometown,” since it’s already won Musical Event of the Year and Music Video of the Year.

And sure, it’s fine, there’s nothing terrible about it. But does it deserve ALL of the awards? Probably not.

Should Have Won: “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” – Elle King & Miranda Lambert
Actual Winner: “Half of my Hometown”


Brooks & Dunn
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

I get that there aren’t very many vocal duos in country music but come on…this is the third year in a row that we’ve had the exact same 5 nominees.

Florida Georgia Line hasn’t been relevant in years – I mean, the only time they’re in the news now is when Georgia unfollows Florida on social media. Why not throw Muscadine Bloodline in there and change things up? (I think we all know the answer to that question…)

Dan + Shay have won this one the last two years, so I expect them to take home the trophy again this year, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

Should Win: Brooks & Dunn
Prediction: Dan + Shay


Lady A
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Zac Brown Band

Again, there are at least three groups here that haven’t been relevant since before COVID (except for that time Lady A stole a black blues singer’s name in an attempt to be culturally sensitive).

At least Midland deserves to be in this one, and Zac Brown Band seems to have come back to their senses after a rough couple of years.

Should Win: Midland
Prediction: Old Dominion


Jimmie Allen
Ingrid Andress
Gabby Barrett
Mickey Guyton

Ok, seriously, what the fuck? THREE of these artists were nominated for New Artist of the Year last year. I don’t know if the CMAs know what the word “New” means, but…these artists aren’t new anymore.

And this has been a GREAT year for new artists. Randall King, Lainey Wilson, Hailey Whitters, Dillon Carmichael…there are a ton of new artists you could have nominated, and instead you throw up three of the same folks that were nominated last year? Do better.

Should Win: Write-in for Lainey Wilson
Prediction: Gabby Barrett


Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton

I actually don’t have a ton of beef with these nominees. Should guys like Tyler Childers or Cody Johnson been included over Thomas Rhett? Abso-fucking-lutely. But it’s hard to argue that Dierks, Church, Luke or Stapleton don’t deserve this one.

Should Win: Eric Church
Prediction: Luke Combs


Gabby Barrett
Miranda Lambert
Ashley McBryde
Maren Morris
Carly Pearce

Again, there are some ladies on here who definitely deserve this award.

Should somebody like Lainey Wilson have made the list? Definitely. But would I also be happy to see Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde or Miranda Lambert take home the trophy? For sure.

Unfortunately, I could also see all three of them losing – and that would be a damn shame.

Should Win: Carly Pearce
Prediction: Gabby Barrett


“Forever After All” – Songwriters: Luke Combs, Drew Parker, Robert Williford
“The Good Ones” – Songwriters: Gabby Barrett, Zach Kale, Emily Landis, Jim McCormick
“Hell Of A View” – Songwriters: Casey Beathard, Eric Church, Monty Criswell
“One Night Standards” – Songwriters: Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally, Ashley McBryde
“Starting Over” – Songwriters: Mike Henderson, Chris Stapleton

Are these all great songs? Absolutely. But are they reeeeally the five best songs of the past year? Probably not.

But none of these songs are horribly offensive, and I would be fine with four of the five taking home the trophy.

And hell, at this point I guess I should just be thankful that “Drinking Beer, Talking God, Amen” or one of the 20 different versions of “Fancy Like” aren’t nominated.

Should Win: “One Night Standards”
Prediction: “Starting Over”


29 – Carly Pearce
Dangerous: The Double Album – Morgan Wallen
Heart – Eric Church
Skeletons – Brothers Osborne
Starting Over – Chris Stapleton

This is going to be one of the most-anticipated categories of the night, because it’s the only nomination for Morgan Wallen after he was banned from being nominated for individual awards (and attending or participating in the ceremony). If folks are voting on merit alone, Morgan’s has most successful album in all of music this year, but more probably goes into that.

So will voters snub him because of his controversy, or will he bat 1.000 and take home every trophy he’s eligible for (so, this one)? We’ll see…

Should Win: 29 – Carly Pearce
Prediction: Starting Over – Chris Stapleton


“Famous Friends” – Chris Young with Kane Brown
“The Good Ones” – Gabby Barrett
“Hell Of A View” – Eric Church
“One Night Standards” – Ashley McBryde
“Starting Over” – Chris Stapleton

I know there’s technically a difference in Song of the Year and Single of the Year, but…is there really (other than who the award goes to?)

Here’s an idea: Eliminate one of these categories altogether, if we’re going to nominate basically the same songs for both anyway, and let a guy like Koe Wetzel come out and rock everybody’s faces off for the time you’re wasting presenting the same award twice.

I actually think we’re on to something here. CMAs, feel free to hit me up for more great ideas on how to turn this sinking ship around.

Should Win: “One Night Standards”
Prediction: “Starting Over”


Eric Church
Luke Combs
Miranda Lambert
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood

Here we go, the biggest award of the night. And I know, you’re probably expecting me to use this space to argue for Eric Church winning Entertainer of the Year.

Well you’re damn right that’s what I’m going to do. Not only did he put out a TRIPLE ALBUM this past year, but he’s been a leader in the industry when it comes to getting back out on the road and speaking up for the concert industry and the importance of live music.

The criteria for the award states that voters should take into account “not only recorded performance, but also the in-person performance, public acceptance, leadership, and overall contribution to Country Music.”

It’s time for Chief to run this one back, because he’s the clear winner here.

Should Win: Eric Church
Prediction: Eric Church

Well there you have it folks. Now I guess we’ll have to tune in to the awards tonight to see how our predictions hold up.

And as always, make sure you’re following us on Twitter, because I can guarantee the action over there is going to be way more entertaining than the actual awards.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock