Leave it to Garth to do the most Garth-y thing when it comes to the 2018 CMA Awards. Instead of just accepting a performance slot from the CMAs and performing a relevant song like everyone else is expected to do, he once again has used his celebrity status to strong arm an organization to get his way.
During an October 17th press conference when Garth Brooks was announcing his upcoming stadium tour, he let it be known that he probably wasn’t going to be playing the CMA Awards in 2018, despite being the reigning 2-time Entertainer of the Year—a distinction he’s now won a record six times. The reason? Because he wanted to perform a surprise love song from Trisha Yearwood that not only the public hasn’t heard, but nobody has. Garth hasn’t even revealed the name, and wouldn’t even let the CMAs hear it before signing off on Garth performing it for a live national audience.
“I won’t play it for anybody else because it’s a song…about the strength of a woman. And for me, that’s Trisha,” Garth said in the press conference. “So, what I offered to the CMAs was, ‘Let me sing this to her that night. She hasn’t heard it and she won’t hear it until that moment, nobody will. They’ve been very sweet. They kinda came back and said, ‘Hey look, something new that’s a ballad probably doesn’t work for us.’ So, cool. I’ll find some other way for her to hear it. So, right now, we’re just coming to attend … I get to go with the love of my life and my best friend, and we’ll get dressed up and probably go to Taco Bell after.”
So of course now it’s the CMAs that are cast as the villains to the public, not allowing their reigning Entertainer of the Year to perform a love song for his wife, resulting in him not performing at all. Garth’s public pressure from the press conference also caused Garth Nation to swarm, and demand that the Garth performance be allowed. Slow ballads—especially ones unfamiliar to the public—are often deal killers for awards shows, because they’re commonly when the public tunes out.
The situation is very indicative of the 1993 Super Bowl when Garth Brooks was scheduled to perform the National Anthem. It was around the time Garth had released his single “We Shall Be Free” in response to the Rodney King beating, and the Los Angeles riots. Garth had produced a controversial video he wanted to air right before the Super Bowl that showed images of violent acts, the KKK and burning crosses, and other jarring imagery that NBC balked at. When NBC refused, Garth left the stadium, leaving them with no one to sing the Anthem. So they finally had to cave, which also meant moving back kickoff of the entire game to facilitate the playing of Garth’s video.
And of course the CMAs have caved in this instance as well, and Garth will get his moment. And in typical Garth fashion, he’s saying this love song is the greatest thing ever.
“Trisha hasn’t heard it yet, so she’s going to hear it the night of the CMAs for the first time,” Garth explained to Billy Dukes on Tuesday (11-13). “They’ve got her a chair right dead center on the floor, and I’m just coming out with me and the guitar, and here we go. [It’s one of those songs] where you just sit and kind of stare at whatever is playing it and go ‘Did I hear really what I just heard?’ And then you play it again, and you just stare. This thing kills me.”
Garth won’t even reveal who the songwriters are, but he says he’s not one of them. “I make my living doing this, so I should be able to write something for her, I just never could. And now these guys—two guys that are slobs, just regular Joes, write the perfect song for her. So I’m jealous and happy at the same time.”
One thing is for sure, it will set up a lot of interest and intrigue in the moment. Doubtful Garth Brooks will be lip syncing, though he was last year. Wednesday night will prove if Garth’s strong arm tactics were well worth it. Either he could come off like the king of hyperbole who always gets his way if the reception is mild, or he could create the ultimate moment of the 2018 CMAs, proving his persistence was for the positive. After all, should artists get to play what they want if they’ve earned a performance slot? We’ll just have to see.