Opinion: CMT Awards Feature Dierks, Chris, Carrie, Darius and…The Backstreet Boys? (WHY?)

By Tom Mailey

The CMT Music Awards are on tonight.

The show is hosted by Little Big Town and they are one of several acts premiering  new music…LBT’s song is called Summer Fever, Florida Georgia Line will do their new song Simple…it’ll be Sam Hunt’s first nationally televised performance of his new one, Downtown’s Dead, and also premiering new music tonight: Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley Kelly Clarkson and…?

The Backstreet Boys.

I’m not making that up.

Yep. The 90s boy band has a new song called Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. I checked it out on YouTube, to see if it’s maybe got a country tinge to it. Nope. It’s straight up R&B. And as R&B goes, it’s good. Really good.

It’s just. Not. Country.

If I can get on my soapbox a moment: I like the CMT Awards—it’s a truer representation of who’s popular in country music because the voting is fan-based. It’s also looser and more fun than other country awards shows. But, I don’t understand why they feel the need to bring in artists from other genres when that 5 minutes of stage time could go to another country act. Maybe an up-and-comer? Or another female artist…since women performers are still being under-represented in our format right now.

I get that for many viewers–and, heck, many of the artists–the Backstreet Boys is an act they grew up with-and, in the case of acts like Sam Hunt, Chris Lane and others–were musically influenced by. I get that producers want to pull in viewers who maybe wouldn’t normally tune into a country show. And I get that I’m probably taking their appearance way too seriously. But it still kinda grinds me that there are people in Nashville who seem to think country music on its own still isn’t a big enough draw for televised events. And it’s not a new notion. Country awards shows have been pulling in artists from other genres forever and sometimes it works (Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton) and sometimes it doesn’t (Nick Jonas and Kelsea Ballerini). But this sense that these shows need augmenting from outside the format is an unnecessary insecurity. I’d even apply that to Kelly Clarkson’s scheduled performance tonight. I love Kelly. But she’s premiering her version of the Guess Who (and, later, Lenny Kravitz) classic, American Woman. Again, couldn’t that time be better spent on another country artist? heck…CMA Fest has a special stage set up this year for 90s artists. Why not take that spot and bring in Colin Raye, Little Texas, Terri Clark or others and have them do a medley of their hits? To me, a country awards show should celebrate ALL things country. Not just some, or most.

I know. Nobody asked me…I’m Cranky-Old Get-Off-My-Lawn Guy…the ratings will be huge and my opinion is worth about as much as a $3 bill. And, heck, maybe there will be some kind of context tonight that will frame their performance so that it makes sense.

But still.

Regardless, it’s still a great show, and a great showcase for (mostly) today’s biggest country stars. And yes, I’ll still watch and enjoy when it airs tonight at 8 on CMT. I’m not that old and cranky yet.

Plus, I don’t have a lawn to yell at any kids to get off of.

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