Every single year, the Country Music Association is going to find someone from outside of the country music genre to perform on the CMA Awards. That’s just the way things are. The idea is that you need a superstar that is not country to entice a wider audience to watch the presentation. This happens every single year. Country fans can shake their little fists at the television and curse that idea all they want, but this is never going to change.
It goes without saying that whatever superstar is tapped to fill this role, they will be taking a prominent performance slot away from a more deserving country artist, and often a legend or an independent one. In 2023, some of the biggest artists in the entire country genre such as Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers, and Billy Strings are independent. They’re out there selling out arenas and stadiums. But aside from a Best New Artist nomination for Zach Bryan, they are not contenders for any of the CMAs.
However, taking it as a given that someone from outside of country music must make an appearance at the CMA Awards, we could definitely do worse than Post Malone. Just take last year, for example. We saw Katy Perry perform with Thomas Rhett in a completely forgettable performance on an otherwise very surprisingly traditional country-oriented CMA Awards.
In fact, despite the gripes that the CMAs regularly get from purists, the awards presentation has become progressively more tolerable to downright enjoyable ever since 2015 when Bro-Country was repudiated, and Chris Stapleton had his big breakout moment, facilitated in part by another appearance from a pop star outside of country, Justin Timberlake. An as opposed to hurting ratings for the show, ratings have improved when more traditional country is featured on the CMAs.
Post Malone has proven over the years to be very aware of what’s going on in country, and gravitating toward the more traditional and independent side of the spectrum, wearing the merch of guys like Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, and Billy Strings, and covering the songs of Sturgill Simpson and Brad Paisley during a big pandemic presentation backed by Dwight Yoakam’s band.
However, one problem with Post Malone’s CMA appearance is there’s no plan to collaborate with these kinds of artists. Instead, Post Malone is being partnered with country music’s bad boy Morgan Wallen, and contemporary country’s answer to butt rock, the all-caps HARDY. Granted, despite Morgan Wallen and HARDY very much embodying post Bro-Country’s 2.0 era, both of these guys can and do write, sing, and perform very traditionally-oriented country songs as well.
This is what separates Morgan Wallen and HARDY from the Sam Hunts and Florida Georgia Lines of the world. Take one of Morgan Wallen’s recent singles called “Everything I Love.” It may not be great, but it’s definitely country. Wallen’s catalog has a decent handful of these more classic-sounding country songs, many that are co-written with his frequent collaborator Ernest, who has helped push Wallen more to the traditional country side.
Furthermore, the CMA is saying that Morgan Wallen, HARDY, and Post Malone will be performing a medley of “classic country songs” on the presentation. Medleys tend to be the bane of awards shows since they rarely allow a “moment” to develop from the frenetic pace of coming in and out of choruses. But if they end up landing on a specific song to finish the medley out, it could be good.
Once again, it was Chris Stapleton singing his interpretation of a classic country song in “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake that sent that song and Chris Stapleton into the stratosphere on the CMA Awards. Here eight years later, “Tennessee Whiskey” continues to be one of the most popular songs in the entirety of country music.
These are the kinds of “moments” the CMA Awards can launch. Will Post Malone be a part of one? Is it even possible in the post pandemic world to make such a splash as awards shows have become such background noise in American culture? We’ll have to see. But to have Post Malone on the CMAs as opposed to Nelly or Diplo, or whoever the hell else the CMA could have dredged up is probably a net positive. Ultimately, you just want someone who respects and understand country music. Post Malone has shown that respect and understanding.
Post Malone will probably make a country album at some point in the future, and it will probably be pretty good. Perhaps the CMAs will be a launching pad for that. In fact on Sunday, November 5th, pictures of Post Malone, Ernest, and Morgan Wallen in the studio together were swirling all over the internet. Again, you’d much rather see Post Malone in the studio with Tyler Childers or Billy Strings, but we’ll see what happens.
It goes without saying that we’d rather have a country legend or an independent up-and-comer granted Post Malone’s performance slot on the 2023 CMA Awards. But otherwise, there are reasons to remain cautiously optimistic that Post Malone will contribute something of value to the presentation compared to some other previous CMA guests.
Hell, he’s probably more country than some other face tattooed folks who will perform on the show.
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The 2023 CMAs are scheduled for Wednesday, November 8th on ABC. Stop by Saving Country Music for the annual LIVE blog during the festivities.