The initial performance lineup for November’s CMA Awards telecast includes Gabby Barrett and Charlie Puth doing a live duet of her crossover hit “I Hope,” presumably for the first time in the same room, since Puth put together the pop radio remix that features his voice after the pandemic began.
But “in the same room” is the operative term and selling point for this year’s CMAs, with producers revealing Thursday morning that this year’s show on ABC would “bring country music’s biggest stars together safely, in one room, for the first time this year.” That emphasis is meant to distinguish the Country Music Association’s telecast from the glut of other recent country awards shows. The long-delayed ACM Awards in September offered a mixture of live and mostly pre-recorded performances from three different Nashville locales, and this month’s CMT Music Awards followed a similarly spread-out, largely pre-taped path.
The CMAs show on Nov. 11 will emanate entirely from the Music City Center, Nashville’s convention center, instead of its usual home across the street at the Bridgestone Arena. While the change of location had led some to believe that producers would set up shop throughout the massive, multi-block space, the wording of the announcement indicates that all the performers, presenters and winners will pass through the center’s biggest ballroom… sans audience, of course.
Some of the performers have already appeared on the other two big country shows in the last two months, but Thursday’s announcement indicated that, in some cases, at least, the performers who have doubled or tripled up their appearances have saved their biggest recent hits for the CMAs. Maren Morris, for instance, who sang current single “To Hell & Back” acoustically on the CMTs, will perform her country-pop crossover smash “The Bones” on the CMAs. And Ashley McBryde, who sang a lesser known number when she co-hosted the CMT show, will sing her top 10 breakthrough “One Night Standards” on ABC in two weeks.
New songs will factor in, too, as Luke Combs will sing “Cold as You” from the recently released deluxe edition of is sophomore album, and Eric Church will do “Hell of a View,” a single that came out this month from an upcoming albm.
Florida Georgia Line is set to perform the single “Long Live,” and Miranda Lambert — who did do her recent No. 1, “Bluebird,” live from the Bluebird Cafe at the ACMs — is lined up to instead sing “Settling Down” for the CMAs.
Hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker are slated to perform “an emotional tribute”; to whom or what was not revealed. Rucker will also team up with the non-Washington Lady A for his single “Beers & Sunshine.” Thomas Rhett will reteam with McEntire, Lady A’s Hillary Scott and Christian music star Chris Tomlin on their nominated inspirational song, “Be a Light.”
The one retro moment confirmed so far is Rascal Flatts performing the trio’s 2005 smash “Bless the Broken Road” — a farewell one-off performance that will apparently have to do in lieu of the farewell tour the band had planned, then had to cancel, for 2020.
Sarah Trahern, the CMA’s CEO, said that “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.”
While, aside from Puth, this initial rollout of names is short of the pop stars whose names often draw the most attention at the CMAs (or sometimes the most scorn from would-be genre gatekeepers), some of those can likely can be expected in forthcoming announcements, as the show still has plenty of slots left for a performance-heavy three-hour telecast.
The show airs live Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT and tape-delayed for the west coast at 8 PT.