The People’s Choice Country Awards Were Terrible (except Toby Keith)

Yes, there was actually a country music awards show on Thursday night (9-28). But unless you are a massive Dan + Shay fan or just a glutton for punishment, you probably didn’t even notice or know about it.

In a new partnership between the Grand Ole Opry’s parent company and NBC, the People’s Choice Country Choice People’s Choice Country Awards were birthed. Massive surging country music superstars of staggering relevance such as Lady Antebellum, Chris Young, Hunter Hayes, Dustin Lynch, and Caylee Hammack were trotted out to try and get the American public to pay attention. The geriatric cherry on top was the super exciting supergroup Little Big Town shattering expectations as hosts, despite their last year of mainstream relevance being 2016.

When the landmark performances of the night come from Wynonna and Toby Keith (who actually both did a really good job), you know how much you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Forget about artists like Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers, and Oliver Anthony appearing, who are currently turning the country world upside down and make any mainstream awards event feel incredibly outmoded and out-of-touch. The PCCCPACA Awards couldn’t even convince Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, or any other major country star to show up.

Instead you got Blake Shelton, who felt like he was just trying to work off the final obligations of his NBC contract after The Voice, Kane Brown who looked like he was dressed in a Wrigley’s gum wrapper and featured a keytaur player on stage, and Dan + Shay who performed while sitting on a dollhouse in a moment straight out of The Lawrence Welk Show circa 1965.

You could tell this was all curated by the Opry because it featured a parade of the institution’s worst new members from the last 15 years. Dustin Lynch, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Chris Young, and Lauren Alaina, quite literally constitute the bullpen of Opry buyer’s remorse when it comes to official members, while Blake Shelton is the biggest Opry deadbeat in history for not paying his dues.

They tried to dovetail promotions of the Opry into the presentation. The awards were held at the Opry House itself. But the PCCCPACACA Awards really showcased the worst the Opry has to offer.

Since the awards are fan voted, they’re virtually irrelevant. Lainey Wilson won a couple of times, and she was one of the few bright spots in the lineup. But not even Jelly Roll who won for Male Artist of the Year was in attendance. He was playing a show in Cincinnati that they beamed in via satellite. Of course as soon as he was announced as the winner, he whipped up alligator tears like the worst of Garth Brooks.

Despite a few good songs, Jelly Roll is quickly exposing himself as one of the most phony artists in country, which is saying a lot. His feel-good redemption story and supposed sobriety continues to be undercut by real world accounts.

Hardy’s bad butt rock/white boy rap ode “Truck Bed” was the closest that this awards show got to current relevancy, but it didn’t come even close to being good. Wynonna was a bright spot, but she’s recently adopted penchant for being as nauseatingly braggadocios about her accomplishments as Hank Jr.

Toby Keith really did steal the show in many respects. Looking gaunt after his recent battle with stomach Cancer—and seeming to not care as Blake Shelton serenaded him with the stupid song “Who’s Your Daddy?”—Keith himself took the stage and sang the poignant and perfectly-written “Don’t Let The Old Man In.” It was far and away the highlight of the night.

And of course since Toby Keith was involved, you didn’t have to worry about the PCCCPACAPCAA Awards going “woke.” There was none of the polarizing elements that we saw from the CMT Awards earlier this year. But at least the CMT Awards raised the pulse, even if it was in the wrong direction. People were talking about the CMTs. The PCCCPACAPCAAPCPAP awards felt like a popcorn fart.

This all just feels like a massive misstep by the Opry, which otherwise has been making great strides recently to return to prominence, including offering more debuts to worthy artists, and inducting new members who are worthy as well. But that’s not what this was. This felt like the last dying gasp of mainstream manufactured “country” music flailing to seed a fourth country music awards show when it’s questionable if three is already too much (Hint: it is).

Will the PCCCPACAPCAAPCPAPCRAP awards draw more eyeballs for NBC than whatever it bumped in the Thursday night time slot? Perhaps. But that juice just may not be worth the squeeze. With a lack of star power, a lack of landmark collaborations or performances, it just took on a very infomercial vibe, while failing to appeal to the type of people who perhaps would still watch a country music awards show, which is older folks who want no business with guys like HARDY or Jelly Roll.

Also, the awards themselves looked like the kind of fancy salt and pepper shakers your in-laws have gifted you the last three years in a row. Seriously ….

If the Grand Ole Opry wants to return to television, how about return the Grand Ole Opry to television as opposed to another awards show? People would love to see their favorite artists perform on the Opry. What they don’t want to see is fake artists receiving meaningless awards. There’s already three other opportunities to do that every year. There is only one Grand Ole Opry.

Who actually won? Eh. it doesn’t matter.

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