I don't think I'll ever forget the electricity created when Justin Timberlake joined Chris Stapleton
at the 2015 CMAs.
Beyonce's surprise collaboration
with the Dixie Chicks at last year's show was one of the most talked-about moments in all of music.
This year promises more of the same with what could be a show-stealing collaboration
between Niall Horan and Maren Morris.
Now, more than at any other time in recent memory, the country music is demonstrating its strength through its diversity. The genre is showcasing its ability to bring different worlds together and heal some of the great divides that stem from our toxic political climate, both in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy and beyond.
That's why it was so troubling when, last night, reports surfaced
that the Country Music Association had released media guidelines directing reporters to "refrain from focusing your coverage of the CMA Awards Red Carpet and Backstage Media Center on the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like." Failure to do so would result in having your media credential "reviewed and potentially revoked via security escort."
The guidelines were met with immediate backlash, led by CMA Awards co-host Brad Paisley, who tweeted
, "I'm sure the CMA will do the right thing and rescind these ridiculous and unfair press guidelines. In 3...2...1..."
Brad was right.
To their credit, the CMAs released early this afternoon this statement
: "CMA apologizes for the recently distributed restrictions in the CMA Awards media guidelines, which have since been lifted. The sentiment was not to infringe and was created with the best of intentions to honor and celebrate Country Music."
If anything, this situation at the very least provides a teachable moment. The hasty attempt to control the conversation only ignited focus and attention on the very topics they were trying to avoid being fixated on by the media.
As a long-time media and communications professional, I understand that impulse to want to try and control every facet of the conversation surrounding your event. However, hiding from uncomfortable topics and issues is not a solution. Particularly when you're talking about a format that uses music and lyrics so effectively to address social issues.
Country music isn't just music for rednecks or hillbillies or members of the NRA. It is the soundtrack of American life, in many ways. A beautiful expression of life, love, loss, work, family, faith and community.
At the end of the day, the CMAs recognized their mistake, apologized and took immediate action to correct it.
I think what we'll see on Wednesday night is a celebration of community and openness, of diversity and tolerance. Most of all, I think it'll be a fun night filled with laughter and joy -- something we could all use a lot more of in today's world.