CMA Fest reaches finale highlighted by new stars, classic vibes and a bright future
The 49th Country Music Association (CMA) Festival opened three days ago in a bold attempt to declare country music open again as a community experience. The event also wanted to celebrate how the genre had finally adapted to match the social evolution of post-COVID America.
It took 72 hours for the genre to hit the ground running and get used to its main business goals again, which were drinking a beer, riding a scooter, waving a flag and worshiping the sturdy old cross.
Here are five artist performances that define how, in one day, CMA Fest 2022 showcased how country music can evolve.
Blanco Brown’s unprecedented dance party
Blanco Brown does not perform “country music”. Instead, he empathetically interprets essential American classics with the unique ability to make Sam Cooke and George Jones feel connected by the way their catalogs are universally loved.
He opened his CMA Fest set with “A Change Is Gonna Come,” blending into “Tennessee Whiskey.” Following him with the trap country ballad “Georgia Power” goes even further.
Dressed in a combination of classic Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros jerseys from the mid-’80s, he gives off the vibe of a “cool pre-teen prayer camp counselor DJing the camp dance party” more than a “soulful hip-hop artist”.
It’s the first set in CMA Fest history to take 60 seconds to seamlessly blend the sounds of hip-hop legends Fatman Scoop (via a snippet of his club familiar track “Be Faithful”), Chubb Rock (via his 1990 rap classic “Treat Em Right” and Kid-N-Play (via their kick-step dance with his DJ, DJ Brab).
As the DJ dropped Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line” and followed it up with “9 to 5,” the crowd felt at home. Then Brown’s DJ played Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” and the chemistry happened. First, the crowd stopped. Then they got excited. A packed crowd sang Outkast’s single “Hey Ya” in 2003.
He then burst into his anthemic 2021 single “Nobody’s More Country.”
He found no disagreement as the crowd cheered twice while sweating more and more profusely.
Blend Brown’s artistic intentions of prioritizing “purpose over prosperity” with a peak-hour hip-hop DJ’s desire to play the hottest 90 seconds of a track. The 45-minute, 18-song set he led on the Riverside stage at CMA Fest was stunning, unprecedented, and fun.
Lady A delivers a rousing performance
Hillary Scott’s famed lead vocals kicked off Lady A’s 2014 single ‘Bartender’ at the start of their concert at Nissan Stadium. On Sunday, the crowd – unlike the other three nights – arrived ready for an evening of dancing and singing. Scott’s sultry and soulful performance put the lower bowl and the very packed ground levels of the venue at their feet.
Lady A wrote her new single “Summer State of Mind” just a few months ago. They told The Tennessean that they wanted to jump on viral popularity by releasing it without an album. “You are the ice, I am the Yeti”, they sang.
Two months ago, Charles Kelley appeared at BRELAND’s “Breland and Friends” event at the Ryman Auditorium. During their mini-set, their duet on Lady A’s signature power-pop ballad “Need You Now” was an unlikely, almost show-stealer. On the fourth night at Nissan Stadium, the tandem took over the duo, but BRELAND joined Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood on stage.
In exclusive news, Lady A noted that they have planned a collaboration with BRELAND for an album which BRELAND says will arrive “in the fall”, they told The Tennessean in a newsroom interview.
Hillary Scott has been there as a top singer in Nashville for two decades. Hearing his work – alongside the stellar working horn section – on tracks like reggae-tinged “Champagne”, “You Look Good” and the previously mentioned “Need You Now” really highlighted the breadth of his talent.
It was one of the most excellent outings of the weekend as a performance from start to finish.
BRELAND’s evolution from star to superstar is complete
BRELAND is ubiquitous in country music today because he is a humble servant of a song’s desire to serve the needs of the listener more than satisfy their own artistic desires.
Moreover, his genre-independent “cross country” musical movement fully represents the needs of the rabid country music fanbase in the recording studios in a way as pure as the energy of rock and roll colliding with the standards in the 1950s. This combination produces surprisingly connective music that never fails to inspire joy in the country music fan base.
“You can’t cheat the grind,” BRELAND noted in a pre-show chat with The Tennessean. The 26-year-old’s growth into a country star involved singing R&B songs on TikTok, having unexpected success, and then spending 2020 working with artists such as Dierks Bentley and HARDY, Keith Urban and disco legend Nile Rodgers, and more.
However, this weekend he showed a new level of tireless dedication.
BRELAND performed at Spotify House, made appearances for festival announcer Busch Beer, sweated it out in a bustling set on the banks of the River Cumberland and made several appearances around the festival, as well as on its main stage consecutive nights.
The young singer/songwriter/producer’s happiness about his moment is infectious. On Saturday afternoon, he was hopping on the Riverfront stage singing “Praise The Lord”, his new single. Singing with Lady A on Sunday night, her harmonization with Hillary Scott was perfect.
If there was a “most valuable player” for CMA Fest 2022, saying BRELAND would undermine Darius Rucker’s triumphant victory lap, Wynonna Judd’s Friday night appearance, Carrie Underwood, Blanco Brown citing highlights the favorites in hip-hop culture, ERNEST, Elle King, and many other highlights.
However, by not cheating, BRELAND made it through the dense humidity and the impressive collection of high profile talent to complete its evolution from star to superstar on the weekend where country music, in its entirety, returned to its surroundings. commercial.
Dierks Bentley Celebrates Country Music Legacy
Released in 2003, the bluegrass banjos and rock guitar riffs of “What Was I Thinking” echoed throughout Nissan Stadium welcomed Dierks Bentley to the stage for the final headliner of the 49th CMA Fest weekend.
Bentley, the host of the August 3 CMA Fest ABC special, then noted that he was driving the 28-year-old truck he owned when he arrived in Nashville in 1994 at Nissan Stadium to play at the festival. This joke logically led to a fiery, crowd-assisted “I Hold On”.
Bentley’s professional, sweat-soaked styles highlighted something remarkable about the evolving aesthetic of the country music industry. However, it will take a blue-collar effort mixed with a solid musicality for country music to become an indicator of pop culture.
The end of his set included a duet cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down To Georgia” with co-host of the TV event Elle King, followed by their new duet “Worth A Shot”. Then, following a successful marriage proposal by two Bentley fans in the front row, he launched into his 2012 rocker, “5-1-5-0”, to close the evening. The moments felt like the “greatest hits” of country music, as a genre, the way its diehards should remember them better than a Bentley set that may have been gone too long.
Dierks Bentley has nearly 20 #1 country radio singles that feature percussion and all manner of guitar and guitar-style instrumentation. Notably, at a time when country music has graciously embraced all sonic and social inspirations, it’s remarkable to hear the genre celebrate its hard rock core on its most famous commercial stage.
Yet, as much as country music welcomes difference, it will honor the best of what it was and is before it embraces and evolves into what it is to become.