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CMT Ditches Awards at Artists of the Year Special in Wake of Vegas Shooting
“I never want to back myself into a corner,” says Aldean, photographed Aug. 22, 2016 at Urban Cowboy in NashvilleThe country music-themed network is working with nonprofit Musicians on Call as it looks to celebrate healing instead of awards.
CMT is rethinking its Oct. 18 upcoming Artists of the Year special.
The Viacom-owned cable network will drop handing out awards at the eighth annual special and instead turn the event into a night of what it calls hope and healing through the power of music. Jason Aldean — who was on stage during the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — was among those set to be honored at the Nashville event.
Instead, honorees including Aldean, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan will be featured as part of the musical event that will unite artists from various genres for a mix of collaborations and performances. No formal award presentations or speeches will be given; instead, honorees will offer heartfelt messages directly to fans. CMT has also turned to the entertainment community to share similar messages of hope and healing.
Grammy nominee Andra Day and Grammy winners Little Big Town will open the night with a performance of "Rise Up." Day, Little Big Town and Lee Ann Womack will also perform Day's latest collaboration, "Stand Up for Something" with Common.
"Given the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the raging California wildfires and the mass shootings in Las Vegas, we feel a commitment to our fans to address all of the tragedies not in one somber and solemn moment or segment, but rather devote the entire evening to uplifting the fans through high-spirited music,” CMT GM Frank Tanki said. “Both 'Rise Up' and 'Stand Up for Something' are inspirational anthems that perfectly sum the message for the evening. The special has always been a place where artists from different genres can stand side-by-side, and now more than ever, we want to showcase the power of unity and resilience through music.”
Additional performers will be announced. The Artists of the Year special airs live from Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m.
Outside of the special, CMT is working with nonprofit Musicians on Call, who is sending artists to perform bedside to survivors of the Las Vegas shootings as well as the first responders and hospital staff recovering from the tragedy as well. CMT made a cash donation to Musicians on Call as well as working with performers — including Nashville star Charles Esten — to participate. The cabler is also showcasing Musicians on Call's mission on various platforms. CMT was also the first cable network to sign up for the Hand in Hand Hurricane benefit special. On a bigger scale, corporate parent Viacom is encouraging New York-based employees to support the FDNY and NYPD's efforts to collect items and make cash donations to support relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting took place at the Route 91 Harvest music festival that featured a lineup of country music performers including Aldean. At least 58 people were killed and 500 others were injured when a gunman fired on the outdoor country music festival from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.
This article was originally published in The Hollywood Reporter.