Country music’s youngest superstars don’t always catch a break with the CMA Awards. When the latest slate of nominations was announced, Kane Brown had none, and Luke Combs had a far-from-leading three. But CMT is making up the difference by including these two ascendants as part of their annual “CMT Artists of the Year” slate, set to be broadcast live Oct. 16 from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Dan + Shay, who have gotten more awards love from the CMAs and Grammys, will also be celebrated in the program. The roster of honorees is rounded out by two artists with longer runs as country superstars, Carrie Underwood.
Brown, Combs and Dan + Shay don’t count as freshmen anymore, but being elevated to this status even as figurative sophomore or juniors represents CMT’s clear desire to make a statement by honoring the genre’s youngest or freshest arena headliners.
Last year, a different statement was being made as CMT put up an all-female roster for the honors. Underwood is the only holdover from the 2018 slate, which also included Maren Morris (whom it’s something of a surprise not to see again included in 2019, given her zeitgeist dominance this year), Kelsey Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman and Hillary Scott.
Rhett was last included in an “Artist of the Year” program in 2016. This year’s roster leave aside such oft-honored usual suspects as Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan.
Said Leslie Fram, CMT’s senior VP of music strategy & talent, “From first-time honorees Dan + Shay, Kane Brown and Luke Combs to two-time honoree Thomas Rhett and now five-time honoree Carrie Underwood, this incredible collection of talent coming together at what marks a pivotal time in each of their careers promises to be a night of incredible performances and reflection.”