Lainey Wilson just won the ACM Award for Entertainer of the Year, and in doing so, she joins Taylor Swift in a very select group of country women.

The "Hang Tight Honey" singer went back-to-back at separate awards shows. Keith Urban was the last country artist to win a CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year consecutively, but the last woman to take both was Swift in 2011 (Shania Twain and the Chicks did it a decade prior).

Talent is a given during this conversation. She wouldn't be nominated if she lacked it, and her show-opening performance served a reminder of how strong the 31-year-old is on stage.

Picture of attachment-Lainey Wilson Backstage ACM Awards
John Shearer, Getty Images for ACM

Wilson, Urban and Swift all have something else in common. It's the singular quality that's proving to be a difference maker.

  • Wilson also closed her ACM Triple Crown, an honor given to anyone who wins New Artist, Male/Female Artist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year during a career.
  • She's the first artist to win ACM EOY the first year nominated since Thomas Rhett in 2020.
  • Lifetime, she has 10 ACM Awards.

Related: 2024 ACM Awards Red Carpet Pictures: See Country's Best Dressed

When Wilson won the CMA for Entertainer of the Year last November, we used this space to explain that she just flat out-worked the competition. That's still true; keep in mind that ACM voters were asked to consider calendar year 2023 when voting.

Fellow EOY nominee Jelly Roll lauded his labelmate's work ethic. "I pride myself on being a really hard worker," he told ToC last November. "This is what I say to people: I do the stuff that other people in this town won't do, Lainey Wilson does the stuff that I won't do. She is willing. She is working."

Just last week, Luke Combs praised her as a hustler, adding:

"She's everything she claims to be, which I think there are so many people that aren't that. She's an elite songwriter. That's the thing that I think people may not know, is that she's just an all-around insane talent, and definitely deserves everything that's come her way."

Combs, Jelly Roll and the other four nominees in the category work hard, too. What gives Wilson an edge is her accessibility.

Swift granted hundreds of interviews in 2010 and 2011, and when Urban went back-to-back six years ago, he was everywhere. Radio stations especially felt the love. An accounting of who did and didn't do award show radio row is always included in this post-show explainer. This year, Wilson, Jelly Roll and Cody Johnson made the rounds.

People — actual human beings — vote for these awards, and it's human nature to choose who you like, perhaps because you know him/her a bit better. Artists like Zach Bryan have opted to put their weight into digital streaming platforms and non-country podcasts and have become very successful doing it. It's a trend that's becoming a norm for artists at major labels, and it's hard to ignore the upside. Streaming numbers are tangible, and often lead to concert ticket sales.

However, if you want to know why your favorite artist is consistently snubbed at awards shows, ask if he/she/they have reached out to radio with regularity.

Full disclosure: Taste of Country is owned by Townsquare Media, owner of a very large number of radio stations. An understandable counterpoint to this essay is that we're inflating our own importance.

That's fair, but objectively, there are exponentially more country radio stations (i.e. potential voters) than DSPs. So, if these awards are your priority, it makes sense to go where the people are. When you do, you'll probably find Lainey Wilson waiting for you.

2024 ACM Awards Live Performances

The 2024 ACM Awards was highlighted by memorable performances from Lainey Wilson, Jason Aldean and Chris Stapleton who brought pop superstar Dua Lipa on stage to perform a song from his Album of the Year, Higher. Here is a look at some of the best images from the night's performances.

Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

2024 ACM Awards Red Carpet — See Country Music's Best, Worst and Boldest Dressed

See country music's best dressed, worst dressed and boldest from the 2024 ACM Awards red carpet. The 2024 ACM Awards were on Thursday (May 16) in Frisco, Texas.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes