Country Music Assn. Awards Battles Through Its Troubles, Honors Eric Church, Maren Morris, Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs

This year’s County Music Association Awards at times resembled a classic tune from the genre. There were troubles, people leaving, and much fightin’ and feudin’ going on.

Still, the 54th edition of the awards went on as scheduled, emanating from the Music City Center in Nashville with co-hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker.

Eric Church won the coveted Entertainer of the Year honors, while The Bones by Maren Morris was Single of the Year. Album of the Year was What You See Is What You Get by Luke Combs. Song of the Year went to The Bones songwriters: Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins, and Laura Veltz. Morgan Wallen was New Artist of the Year.

The biggest battle was whether the show would manage to field a lineup of stars. Today, Rascal Flatts and Lady A dropped out of the show, citing COVID-19 fears. They join Lee Brice and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard on the sidelines, the latter after testing positive for the coronavirus.

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The CMAs also faced potential problems when they declared in a social media post that the show would be “a no-drama zone,” which some took to mean that artists weren’t allowed to voice their politcal views. The CMA quickly reversed that decision, saying it would  “welcome every artist’s right to express themselves.”

Earlier this week, CMA co-host Darius Rucker complained that he still felt like a fish out of water in the genre, despite much success. Rucker, a black man who was presenting an award to country legend Charley Pride, an African American pioneer, told of visiting a radio station and being warned that listeners wouldn’t like his race, an eye-opening experience for him.

Topping the annus horribilis for the CMAs was the Associated Press decision today not to cover the CMA because of questions of access. The country’s largest newswire, the AP decided that restrictions on its dissemination of still photography and screen captures of the show were a bridge too far.

The AP will not write about, take images of, or shoot video of the show, it said to its members. The decision leaves coverage of the show contingent upon watching the broadcast on ABC.

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