The CMA Awards Promise to Bring Top Country Stars Together ‘Safely, All in One Room'

Gabby Barrett
Robby Klein

Gabby Barrett

"All in one room," but "fully safe" and "physically distant." This, we've got to see.

The CMA Awards announced the first batch of performers for their Nov. 11 telecast, including Gabby Barrett teaming with pop star Charlie Puth for their hit remix of “I Hope;” co-host Darius Rucker teaming with Lady A to perform his new single, “Beers & Sunshine;” and Rascal Flatts performing their 2005 classic, “Bless the Broken Road.”

But the most interesting announcement is that the Country Music Association remains committed to its plan to hold the show in a venue, Nashville’s Music City Center. In that, the show will be unlike the recent ACM Awards and CMT Music Awards, which were virtual productions. The CMA is using that as a selling point, saying, in a statement, “The 54th annual CMA Awards will mark the first time the biggest names in country music will come together—safely, all in one room—this year.”

Music City Center is notably smaller than Bridgestone Arena, the CMA Awards’ home from 2006-19. Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer, alluded to that fact in her statement. “Although the show will feel a bit more intimate this year, we look forward to hosting our nominated artists and their guests as we celebrate the best of country music in a fully safe and physically distant environment. It will be an honor to bring the biggest country stars in the world together – in one room – for the first time this year. You won’t want to miss it!”

Lady A, which has been entangled in a bitter public dispute with Anita White, a Black, Seattle-based singer who uses that same stage name, will perform with Rucker, co-host of this year’s CMA Awards (and the biggest Black country star of his generation). The teaming is seen as lending support to the trio which has been on the defensive this year on questions of racial sensitivity.

The CMA teased that co-hosts Reba McEntire and Rucker “will take the stage together for an emotional, groundbreaking tribute performance,” though they didn’t make it clear who it’s a tribute to. (You’ll just have to tune in and find out.)

The CMA was more specific about other performances, noting what songs the performers will sing:

Maren Morris, “The Bones” (single and song of the year nominee)

Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, “I Hope” (single of the year nominee)

Miranda Lambert, “Settling Down” (from Wildcard, album of the year nominee)

Ashley McBryde, “One Night Standards” (from Never Will, album of the year nominee)

Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (from the expanded edition of Combs’ What You See Is What You Get, album of the year nominee)

Thomas Rhett featuring McEntire, Hillary Scott & Chris Tomlin, “Be a Light” (musical event of the year nominee)

Darius Rucker featuring Lady A, “Beers & Sunshine” (Rucker’s current single)

Eric Church, “Hell Of a View” (his current single)

Florida Georgia Line, “Long Live” (their current single)

Rascal Flatts, “Bless the Broken Road” (2005 single and song of the year nominee)

Morris will perform “The Bones” solo, not with Hozier, who joined her for a remix (which is nominated for musical event of the year). But Barrett with perform “I Hope” with Puth, who joined her for a remix. In both cases, the solo versions are the ones competing for single of the year.

The CMA Awards were first broadcast on Nov. 20, 1968, which makes it making it the longest running, annual music awards program on network television. The Grammys debuted in 1971. The Academy of Country Music Awards first aired in 1972. The American Music Awards bowed in 1974.

The CMA Awards have aired on ABC since 2006.

The 54th Annual CMA Awards is a production of the Country Music Association. Robert Deaton is the executive producer, Alan Carter is the director and David Wild is the head writer. Wild is also the long-time writer of the Grammy Awards telecast.

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