Photo: Kris ConnorThe CMT Awards have built a reputation as the edgiest of the annual crop of country-music awards shows, with viewers expecting to see crazy skits, jokes, and performers/presenters from genres way out of the country arena. Some fans love the diversity, some hate it--but one country legend has spoken out firmly that she's completely over it.
Naomi Judd reached her breaking point with the show this year when, in her opinion, the CMT Awards did not pay appropriate respects to the late icon George Jones, who died in April. In a terse letter to the Tennessean, she blasted her disapproval: "George Jones is to country music what The Beatles are to pop, the Rolling Stones to rock, Elvis to rockabilly, Mozart to classical and Aretha to soul.
"Yet, the 'Country' Music Television awards show allowed only a 'by the way' mention of Jones’ death and legacy."
Indeed, the two-and-a-half-hour telecast did only permit about a minute of airtime to Jones's memory, consisting of a short eulogy from host Jason Aldean followed by an equally abbreviated live cover of Jones's "The Race Is On" by genre-bending group the Mavericks.
"True country music fans are a loyal bunch and are passionate about our roots and heritage," noted Judd in her letter. "Every year, CMT includes artists of unrelated genres, many of whom some country music fans don’t even know. I suggest the CMT Awards show change its name. Perhaps to 'the Multi-Genre Awards Show, Featuring Artists under 30.'"
The CMT Awards have not only hosted performances by non-country artists (this year, Lenny Kravitz and Nelly took the stage), they've also featured country artists performing non-country songs (such as Keith Urban and Little Big Town's 2013 take on Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain").
Predictably, there's mixed feedback from country fans every year, and it seems to be getting more contentious between the purists and not-so-pure. When Kravitz played a set at the star-studded Country Music Association Fest following the CMT Awards, he was largely ignored by the country audience; a considerable slam for an artist of his general magnitude.
At any rate, Judd isn't afraid to speak out on the matter. "I realize speaking out will cause me to now be forever banned by CMT, but I’m tired of folks messing with my country music," she concluded. "Especially when it involves my dear friend George Jones."
Judd has enjoyed a multi-decade career as part of country's most famous mother-daughter duo the Judds (with daughter Wynonna), having won five Grammy Awards and sold millions of albums worldwide.