An award show to see – country music and its revelations

Kane Brown performs Leave You Alone at the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards on March 7, 2022 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.John Locher/Associated Press

Television ratings are infallible. Among the other indisputable facts they communicate is the declining popularity of award shows. There are reasons for this: too many award shows, too much publicity during broadcasts and the splitting of the public into factions. The big top of the rewards for everyone no longer exists.

So why, you might well ask, is CBS airing a three-hour music awards show Monday night? (You don’t have to ask, I’m just doing this stuff on your behalf.) Because it involves country music, which is why.

Now I have no problem with country music. I could, if you want, stop and recite the lyrics to most Hank Williams songs. But you probably wouldn’t like me to pass, so let’s get to the state of country music today.

It’s not what it used to be, and that’s a very good thing. Time was, country music awards were evenly split between two camps: the hats and the hatless. Bitterness abounded. No, seriously, it did. Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Alan Jackson were referred to as “hats”. On the other side, Travis Tritt made the famous observation, “I don’t think you should wear a hat unless you know how to ride a horse.” And he didn’t pronounce it “hoss”. He then elaborated on his point by stating that he couldn’t even find a hat to fit and cover his voluminous hair.

ouchy. There were few women involved in this conflict, as you may have understood. Then things got pretty quiet, around the time Shania Twain emerged from her mansion in Switzerland, got up in a skin-tight jumpsuit and vampire makeup to star in her immortal toe-tapping video. , I’ll do well. Exhilarating days, my friends, truly exhilarating days. CBC TV even aired a prime-time special called Shania Twain: catch up. Heady days, but simpler times, dropping the “g” in everything but “go” and “getcha”.

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Anyway: CMT prices (Monday, CBS, 8 p.m.) promises to be a good night of weirdness and, mark it now, priceless insight into the cultural vibe of the United States. The show is basically giving out awards for music videos made for Country Music Television (CMT). Yes, images and iconography galore.

Country music is now so elastic and open that it includes everything; Hurtful songs, hobo songs, mountain music, urban music, touches of rhythm and blues, hip-hop, dub beats, rap and lots of joy, rage and pain for inclusion. If you want to know how America is faring in its convoluted culture wars, you can find plenty of clues here.

Hosted by singer Kelsea Ballerini and movie star Anthony Mackie, the show is the only fully fan-voted country music awards show. The most nominated artist is Kane Brown, a biracial guy from Tennessee who throws everything into the mix of countries he performs, from hip-hop references to the occasional Spanish lyrics. He’s typical of what’s happening, part of a wave that includes Blanco Brown’s often extraordinarily flexible music. In fact, if you want to see why Joe Biden became the first Democrat in 28 years to win Georgia in a presidential election, watch Blanco Brown’s videos and listen to the odd mix of country, hip-hop and rap he concocted in Atlanta. .

Among those performing are Black Pumas, a “psychedelic soul” band from Austin, Texas, who cross the country performing with black country singer Mickey Guyton, whose sound is infused with R&B. According to a statement from CMT, Black Pumas wanted to do this musical collusion because “With the political climate, our management and CMT came together and decided that the collaboration was something the public needed to hear.”

There will be a lot of collaborations on the show. Jason Aldean with Bryan Adams, Jimmie Allen with Monica and Little Big Town, Walker Hayes with Thomas Rhett and Riley Green, to start. Additionally, Wynonna and Naomi Judd will reunite and perform for the first time in years.

The CMT Awards likely won’t be a hit event in terms of TV viewership, but CBS is making the show for a complicated set of reasons regarding both ratings and cultural relevance, and its core audience as a network. It might be worth your time. So come back to me and we’ll go honky tonkin’, yeah, honky tonkin’, ‘in this town.

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Toya J. Bell