A positive COVID test for country star Kelsea Ballerini has led to a change in plans for tonight’s CMT Music Awards, being broadcast on CBS. The singer will remain as co-host, but participate remotely. Actor Anthony Mackie remains on the hosting duties he was to perform alongside her, but now will be joined at the live ceremony by fill-in host Kane Brown.
In a statement, a CMT rep said said of Ballerini, “Fortunately, she is asymptomatic and remains excited to co-host the show (remotely). Kelsea’s good friend Kane Brown — who co-hosted with her last year — has graciously agreed to step in alongside Anthony Mackie. The three of them have lots of surprises up their sleeves and fans can look forward to an epic show.”
In an Instagram video post, Ballerini admitted she was “devastated” by the diagnosis rendering her a stay-at-home host.
“All right friends, I have some bad news and I have some good news. The bad news is that a couple days ago, I tested positive for COVID, and the CMT Awards are tonight. So unfortunately I cannot be there in person tonight. And I am devastated,” she said. “The good news is I’m feeling a lot better, a lot better. And the incredible CMT family and my team have brought part of the CMT set to my house, to my little bubble, and set it up to where I can still host and perform. It is certainly not what we had expected or planned for, but we are doing our damn best… I’ll still see you tonight on the awards. And let’s make some lemonade together out of these very bitter lemons.”
The three-hour show will take up all three hours of CBS’ prime time tonight starting live at 8 p.m. ET, tape-delayed for the west coast at 5 p.m. PT. It can also be seen live on Paramount Plus.
Having three hosts for the show — albeit with one who won’t be on the premises at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville — effectively repeats the lineup from last year but with Mackie as a plus-one. Mackie, recently seen as the co-lead in the Marvel limited series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” was as a a surprise choice to host a country awards show when he was announced for the role in March, although he did present an award on last year’s telecast.
Performers who have been announced for the sow include Kenny Chesney (who will close the telecast) and the Judds (doing their first televised performance in 20 years). Collaborative performances include Jason Aldean with Bryan Adams, Jimmie Allen with Monica and Little Big Town, Mickey Guyton with Black Pumas, Thomas Rhett with Riley Green, Cole Swindell with Lainey Wilson, Maren Morris with Ryan Hurd, and Carrie Underwood with Keith Urban. Also on the lineup are Ballerini, Brown, Walker Hayes, Cody Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Old Dominion and Carly Pearce. Emerging artists on a side stage, presumably performing in bumper slots, include Breland, Priscilla Block, Caitlyn Smith, Jessie James Decker, Parker McCollum and Elvie Shane.
Although CBS gets the live premiere of the show this year, namesake CMT will have the exclusive on a version of the show that is expanded by 30 minues, “CMT Awards Extended Cut,” airing Friday from 8-11:30 on the cable network.
Presenters slotted for tonight’s show include Kacey Musgraves, Gayle King, Dustin Lynch, LeAnn Rimes, Dennis Quaid, Jordan Davis, Billy Gibbons, Martina McBride, Jimmie Allen, Gabby Barrett, Rob Corrdry, Taylor Lautner, Joel McHale, Carly Pearce, “Queer Eye’s” Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France and Antoni Porowski and Dylan Scott.
The CMT Awards show was originally announced for April 3, but then another CBS show, the Grammys, took over that slot after being delayed from January, and the CMTs were bumped back eight days. The telecast will be based at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, with remote performances from other locations, after long having the much larger Bridgestone Arena as its home turf.
The CMTs differ from the other two major country awards shows, the Academy of Country Music Awards (which were webcast in March on Prime Video) and the Country Music Association wards, in not having a membership organization selecting the honors but being fan-voted, from nominations that are decided upon in-house at CMT.