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Counterpoint: Keep It Country, Awards Shows!

Point Counterpoint The Boot Taste of Country

The CMA Awards are Country Music‘s Biggest Night. The ACM Awards are Country Music‘s Biggest Party. The CMT Music Awards and American Country Countdown Awards honor country music‘s biggest stars based on music videos and album sales / radio airplay, respectively. So what the heck is up with all of the cross-genre collaborations?

Our genre’s awards shows are meant to honor the year’s outstanding achievements in country music — and, unless they were somehow involved in the creation of a song, album, music video or tour in the first place, those achievements are something that other genres’ artists have nothing to do with. And they should have nothing to do with the awards shows themselves, either.

"Our genre’s awards shows are meant to honor the year’s outstanding achievements in country music — achievements that other genres’ artists have nothing to do with."

On those few nights a year when country music is front and center on TV — most especially at the CMA Awards and ACM Awards, which air on major networks — producers should be focused on shining a light on the genre’s best and brightest, not trying to draw viewers in with a big non-country name. Show those viewers who don’t give much thought to country music the other 364 days of the year what they’re missing: Carrie Underwood‘s incredible vocals and sets, Little Big Town‘s stunning harmonies, Eric Church‘s bada–ery. Show them that whether they enjoy pop, rock or R&B, there’s something in country that might appeal to them because it was originally recorded with the Backstreet Boys, produced by Dave Grohl or covered by Nelly. Just don’t show it to them by parading a slew of non-country stars onstage when they don’t need to be there to make the point.

Let’s be honest: More often than not, these cross-genre collaborations feel forced and muddied and … well, they aren’t as good as a performance from the country artist alone would have been (Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake, you’re excused). What business does Fifth Harmony have adding Cam as their sixth member for a single performance — a performance, mind you, that was more their song than hers? Why does Thomas Rhett need Fall Out Boy‘s Patrick Stump harmonizing with him on “Crash and Burn”? Why was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year singing a pop smash rather than a hit of her own?

Conversely, think about when Loretta Lynn surprised the CMA Awards crowd by singing with Kacey Musgraves. When Eric Church performed a George Strait tune with King George himself. When Reba McEntireKelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert slayed at the ACC Awards. Those moments are what country music is all about — collaboration between icons and newcomers, heroes and those who adore them, artists who respect and admire each other — and those moments are what should be created at celebrated at the genre’s awards shows.

"Collaboration between country icons and newcomers, heroes and those who adore them, artists who respect and admire each other should be created at celebrated at the genre’s awards shows."

As the CMA Awards’ 50th anniversary approaches, the Country Music Association has focused on the nostalgia that the ceremony’s golden anniversary evokes. Songwriter Shane McAnally says viewers should expect “a lot of throwback” on the big night, while co-host Carrie Underwood wants the show to ” be big and be beautiful and be elegant.” Although full performance details have yet to be announced, all signs indicate that viewers will be seeing even the biggest of stars honoring those that came before them and shining a spotlight on the killer songs, albums and artists that have made, and continue to make, country music what it is.

Even without a few big non-country names in the performance lineup, the 2016 CMA Awards are shaping up to be a massive event. Retro-leaning promotional clips for the CMA Awards’ Nov. 2 ceremony are chill-inducing. The “Forever Country” project debuted on the charts at No. 1. Brad Paisley is even going to wear a tux!

And nobody seems miss those pop stars.

The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Nov. 20 for another installment.

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