by Alison Bonaguro
It’s time, finally, to give this unprecedented year a proper send off. The kind where we started looking for the silver linings in the cloudy year, and we realized that even though this year looked different, CMT did our very best to make it sound the same. By finding new — and most importantly, safe — ways to bring you the country music that brings you comfort just when you need it most.
Here are our top ten CMT moments from 2020.
1. CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit For MusiCares
After we lost Kenny Rogers in March, it was a bittersweet honor to put together a show full of tributes and songs from the country legend’s superstar friends like Dolly Parton, Lady Antebellum, Lionel Richie, Michael McDonald, Randy Houser, Rascal Flatts, Vince Gill, Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Jennifer Nettles and more filming their parts from their own homes. Best of all, the show helped raise money for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund created to provide funds to help the thousands of music creators and industry professionals who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. (Read more about the special hosted by Rita Wilson here.)
2. Kelsea Ballerini & Halsey CMT Crossroads
Back in March, before the Covid-19 pandemic turned our worlds completely upside down, CMT Crossroads did what CMT Crossroads does best. We put pop star Halsey and country singer Kelsea Ballerini on stage together to talk about their genuine and mutual appreciation for each other’s music and to sing those songs on stage. They performed each other’s hit songs, obviously, but there were others too. Like their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” (Revisit some of the other highlights of the special here.)
3. Off the Road with Kane Brown
Just because he wasn’t on the road after the pandemic hit doesn’t mean Kane Brown wasn’t on. He kept himself, his band and his team busy with Zoom songwriting sessions, fixing up his man cave at home, making his “Worship You” video, getting new tattoos (from an artist who makes house calls), and basically basking in the glow of fatherhood spending time with his new baby girl Kingsley Rose. (Find out more about Brown’s entire quarantine life here.)
4. Pardi Time with Jon Pardi
In CMT’s brand new digital series Pardi Time, Jon Pardi — whose sense of humor comes just as naturally as his singing — let us in on his quarantine, his life at home, his attempts at camping in the rain, and even his wedding to his fiancé Summer. One of the best episodes was when all of Mr. & Mrs. Pardi’s country artist friends gave the newlyweds some solid advice on their marriage. (Read all about their storybook November wedding details here.)
5. Feed the Front Line LIVE
This one was a no-brainer. There have been thousands of front line workers throughout the pandemic, and one of the best ways to let them all know how grateful we were for their service was to bring together country stars for a Feed the Front Line Live special. Tim McGraw’s daughter Maggie McGraw is the vice president of Feed the Front Line’s Nashville chapter, and she worked with CMT to align all the stars. (Read more on her efforts here.) The special was a hearty one, packed with at-home performances from Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sheryl Crow and many more. To date, Feed the Front Line has raised over $750,000 and delivered close to 50,000 meals to front line workers.
6. Off the Road with Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina told us that she has been on stage singing for about ten years, and then just “bam.” March came in like a lion, bringing Covid-19 with it, and it forced us to all stay home. But Alaina was happy to report in CMT’s Off the Road series that she dug deep and found other ways to connect with her friends and fans. Whether it was volunteering or virtually live streaming, she made lemonade out of this year’s abundant supply of lemons. Especially with her Laurentine video series where she’s been showcasing new music from home.
7. Honky Tonk Hoops
At 6’3″, Lee Brice is no stranger to competitive sports. But can he shoot hoops for 60 seconds while he’s answering country music and other trivia? Watch for yourself to see how Brice performed and what fun facts he shared. (Who knew he liked Bruno Mars?) We also played a few rounds with Mickey Guyton, Jimmie Allen, Matt Stell, CAM and more.
8. CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special
Even though the honky-tonks were closed for months, tour buses were still parked, and concert venues were empty, country music did not go silent. And CMT found a way to use the music to do the most good for the Americans who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe and keep us going. Health care workers, innovators, educators, food providers, delivery drivers, sanitation and utility workers, our armed forces, first responders, and now, the brilliant scientists creating the Covid-19 vaccines. Some of the show’s brightest highlights were Luke Combs’ “Six Feet Apart,” Brothers Osborne’s “Make It a Good One,” Brandi Carlile’s “Most of All,” Florida Georgia Line’s “U.S. Stronger,” Lady Antebellum’s “Champagne Night,” Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird,” and Thomas Rhett’s “Be a Light.”
9. CMT Music Awards’ outdoor performances around Nashville
How do you make an annual awards show in the middle of a pandemic? Very carefully. Which is exactly what CMT did when the decision was made that the CMT Music Awards show must go on. But just differently. So the musicians were in masks, the fans were socially distanced, and the venues were anything but typical. We had stages along the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville, by the Estate at Cherokee Dock, at the Bicentennial Mall, and inside the beautifully illuminated Ruskin Cave an hour west of Nashville. (You can relive all of the outstanding performances here.)
10. CMT’s Next Women Of Country Goes Live with Caylee Hammack
Country’s breakout queen Caylee Hammack was the hostess of CMT’s Next Women Of Country Goes Live series this year, and as expected, she brought her A-game every time. Hammack was joined by guests like Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes, Lindsay Ell, Cassadee Pope, Sara Evans, Whitney Duncan, Mickey Guyton, Danielle Bradbury, CAM, Erin Enderlin, Julie Roberts, Kree Harrison and more.
Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.