When the CMA Awards released a first rollout of performers Thursday morning for the upcoming Nov. 10 telecast, it consisted largely of country music arena headliners like Eric Church and Dan + Shay, but also embedded within the list is what looks like a concentrated attempt to recognize some of the non-bros of the genre, including a spotlight number that will showcase the rising tide of a too-long-invisible contingent, Nashville’s women of color.
Mickey Guyton is a familiar presence on almost any country awards show in recent times — she co-hosted the rival ACM Awards earlier this year — but for a CMAs performance of a yet-unnamed song from her new album, “Remember My Name,” she’ll be joined by Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards. With those two standing out as the least two widely known names on the roster, it would appear to be a case of paying it forward for Guyton, who’s determined not to be the end-all and be-all of representation in a genre that still has a long way to go in congratulating itself.
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Guyton and Spencer were among those named on last year’s telecast by Maren Morris in her acceptance speech for female artist of the year, when she said, “There are so many amazing Black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre, and I know they’re going to come after me, they’ve come before me, but you’ve made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you.”
Morris had a one-word response to the news of this trio teaming up for the CMAs: “Finally,” she wrote, in a comment posted as a reaction to Edwards’ and Guyton’s Instagram announcement of the matchup.
Also of note, if a more obvious teaming, is a duet between Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde, of “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a single from Pearce’s new album. Underscoring how rare female duets are in commercial country music, the song’s most-added status at country radio the week it came out was the first time that had happened for a song featuring two women performers since Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson claimed the honor in 2007 with “Because Of You.”
The CMA lineup also includes a performance by the most highly charting Black performer to come along in country in the past few years, Jimmie Allen, the best new artist nominee and current “Dancing With The Stars” contestant who’ll be performing “Freedom Was A Highway.”
Brothers Osborne are on the bill for an unspecified single from the sibling duo’s most recent album, described only as a “deeply personal” track, but, continuing the representation thread, it would not be a surprise if it turned out to be “Younger Me,” a song that singer TJ Osborne has said was prompted by his coming out earlier this year as gay.
Not everything on the show will be as culturally loaded, of course. Among the superstar entrees, Blake Shelton has been announced as singing “Come Back as a Country Boy,” Church will be doing “Heart on Fire” and Dan + Shay are set to perform “I Should Probably Go to Bed.”
More performers will be announced along the way to the telecast, which airs live on the east coast and tape-delayed on the west at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 on ABC.
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