Some use the dawn of a new year to declare what they will be doing in the next 12 months, but Carrie Underwood has used this turn of the odometer to announce what she won’t. The singer took to social media Monday to tell fans that she won’t return as a co-host of the CMA Awards next November, after a successful 12-year run that began in 2008.
“It’s hard to imagine topping what we have accomplished together,” Underwood wrote on her Instagram account, “so I’ve decided that it’s time to pass the hosting torch (at least for now!) to others that will cherish it and honor it as much as I do. I’ve got so many exciting things coming in the new year and beyond, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for all of us.”
For the first 11 years of her duties, she shared the reins with Brad Paisley, in one of the most secure and longer-lasting hosting situations in modern awards annals. This year, change was in the air, as the CMAs dealt with declining ratings, as virtually all prime-time awards shows have in recent years. Paisley exited and Underwood shared duties with Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, in what was generally seen as a one-off situation for a 2019 show that was largely dedicated to celebrating the women of country music. Besides reinforcing the theme, the Underwood/McEntire/Parton teaming helped give the ABC telecast a 12% boost in viewers from the previous year.
“One of the highlights of 2019 and of my entire career so far was being on stage with the legends that are Reba and Dolly Parton,” Underwood said in her post. “I’m so proud that we could celebrate the incredible female artists that are part of the legacy of country music, past, present and future, and I’m thankful for the huge audiences all over the world that tuned in to see it. It’s hard to believe that it was my 12th year hosting and I will always treasure every show, from the 11 that I was so lucky to do with my partner in crime and friend for life, Brad Paisley, to sharing the stage with two of my all-time heroes. I’m so incredibly grateful to everyone involved with the CMA Awards all these years.”
The Country Music Association weighed in almost immediately with a response, also posted on Instagram: “We love you, Carrie! You’ll always be family to us. Thanks for 12 amazing years hosting the #CMAawards. We look forward to working with you in 2020 and beyond to help spread Country Music to fans around the world!” A spokesperson said there would be no additional comment.
With the uptick in ratings this year, and the very positive reaction to the show among most country fans, Underwood can be said to be exiting on a high note. When Variety spoke with Robert Deaton the day after the CMAs in November, it seemed clear he wanted her back for 2020.
But Deaton also said he would like to have the whole team back — McEntire and Parton included — as he insisted that there didn’t need to be any “year of the woman” theme to bring that trio back for seconds.
“Sitting here where I am today, I would love to have the three of them back, personally,” Deaton said in mid-November. “I think that’s a magical combination, and that magic would not go away for a while. … Right now, today, with these ratings, I absolutely would love to have the three of them back and do this whole thing over again. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Could McEntire and Parton stay on, or McEntire alone? Clues to that may be found when hosting duties are announced for the genre’s other big annual awards telecast, the ACM Awards, to be broadcast from Las Vegas April 5. McEntire has an on-and-off history of co-hosting that show going back to 1986, and came back as a solo host in 2018-19.
The surprise announcement this year that McEntire would be handling duties on the CMAs led to natural speculation that she had traded sides and wouldn’t be back for future ACM hosting gigs — but Deaton insisted that he thinks of the shows as complementary, not rivals, and that there was nothing to rule out Reba alternating both going into the future, unlikely as that might seem.
Underwood is set to release her first book, “Find Your Path,” in March. A 60-city arena tour wrapped up in October. Her most recent album, “Cry Pretty,” came out in September 2018. It won the favorite country album trophy at the most recent American Music Awards, the sixth consecutive time she’s had an album release pick up the prize. She also won the AMA for favorite female country artist.