For the first time ever, the CMT Artists of the Year gala and concert will celebrate the biggest voices of country music’s past, present and future, and those dynamic and influential performers are women.
CMT will premiere a night of all-star musical tributes celebrating their ongoing list of musical contributions and achievements in a 90-minute concert special airing live from Nashville on Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. ET.
This marks Underwood’s fourth CMT Artists of the Year honor and Lambert’s third. Ballerini was an honoree in 2016, while Fairchild and Schlapman were lauded the previous year with Little Big Town. Morris is a first-time honoree.
As in past years, the invitation-only event will feature surprise musical pairings and guests that will be announced at a later date. This is also one of the only televised events in the genre that honors female singers in groups who have been the fabric of mainstream country music within the last decade.
“This year, we’re evolving the special to reflect what’s happening right now in culture and in the lives of our fans,” said Leslie Fram, CMT’s Senior Vice President of Music & Talent. “In this monumental year for women, dedicating one of the biggest nights in the genre to applaud female country artists not only solidifies our commitment, but we hope will spark a much-needed change in the industry.”
Additionally, on Oct. 17 CMT will stage an all-female artist takeover across its platforms, including music hours on CMT, the 24-7 digital channel CMT Music and CMT Radio’s widely-syndicated shows CMT Radio LIVE and CMT After Midnite to encourage and inspire increased female airplay on show day.
The latest CMT news adds to a long history of the network’s staunch support of women in music. In 2013, it started the CMT Next Women of Country campaign to spotlight rising trailblazers in the music industry. In its five-year history, the program has served as a launching pad for several alums, including Grammy winners Morris and Kacey Musgraves. The franchise expanded to include multiple female-headlining tours helmed by Sara Evans, Jennifer Nettles, and Ballerini and Jana Kramer.
Previous CMT Artists of the Year performances have included Adele and Darius Rucker performing Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now;” Meghan Trainor, Jill Scott and Ballerini honoring Shania Twain with a medley of her biggest hits; Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Chris Stapleton in a moving Tom Petty tribute with “I Won’t Back Down;” Adam Lambert and Leona Lewis paying tribute to Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush;” and Maroon 5 covering Taylor Swift’s “Mine.” The show has featured appearances by Ellen DeGeneres, Matthew McConaughey, Selena Gomez, Billy Bob Thornton, Roger Clemens, Morgan Freeman, the cast of Nashville and more.