The phenomenal ACM (Academy of Country Music) Awards 2021, held on 19th April, made quite a stir among the public. Hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton (making history as the first Black woman to host the show), the event opened up with pomp and show and proceeded to some of the best country performances. From Fashion to Live performances, ACM Awards 2021 witnessed top-notch glamour and incredible talent reverberating across the room.
ACM Awards 2021 was one of those award-show nights that never let the viewer down. Despite the lack of audience due to Covid-19, the award show was a success! Just like Golden Globes 2021 and Grammys 2021, the award show thrived on the indulgence of a live virtual audience.
However, as compared to the last year’s award show, it garnered lesser views. As per Nielsen figures, about 6.6 million people watched ACM Awards 2020. This year, it witnessed a record-low audience with under 6.3 million viewers.
This brings us to the question – Is this the first time we have felt that country music is on a decline? Or is it just a myth?
There might be so many reasons behind this viewership drop. So, let’s do something fun together! Let’s go on a musical journey – oops, a country musical journey where we’ll judge the relevancy of country music in today’s time solely based on ACM Awards 2021.
But first, a look into why we had to address this question –
Why country music may be on a decline ?
Everyone has a go-to music genre.
It is said that people with the most versatile taste in music have the most colorful personalities. We cannot deny that. However, even the people with the most versatile music taste have a top genre. That genre is subconsciously determined by the current chart-toppers. Now, I’m not saying it happens every time to every person, but it’s a human tendency to want to be accepted into a social group and for that, one has to keep up with the trends. Music trends are marked by chart-topping music.
The genre of such massive hits is subconsciously adopted by many people and that brings us back to the top genre of a person. A full circle indeed.
Statistics show that in the late 2010s, country music witnessed a 12% decline in country music sales. Pop music was the new dominant genre, ruling the charts and never sliding off. With continued low ratings, experts were ready to believe that it would soon be out of the race. Despite that, the ACM Awards continued successfully with reaching an all-time high of 15.8 million views in 2015. Impressive, isn’t it? But there was still the issue of low radio ratings.
Effect of Lockdown on Country music
Fast forward to the summer of 2020 when Covid-19 first forced us all to our homes, in quarantine. Things changed faster than one could catch on to. People were still adjusting to the new normal when country music started getting better ratings and good sales numbers.
Lockdown did drive the population into finding solace in the arms of all genres of music. Suddenly, it felt as if it was never out of the race. Happy ending, huh?
But no. The drop in viewership of ACM Awards 2021 is hinting at something else entirely. It may be false speculation but all the same, we cannot state anything concrete without completely analyzing it first.
Hence, let’s analyze some of the best performances of the night with an eye of a pop-music enthusiast.
1) Carrie Underwood – My Savior Performance (feat. Cece Winans)
Dressed like a goddess, Carrie Underwood took over the stage with her powerful vocals. She began with ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’, perfectly hitting all the notes, a single spotlight on her. The backdrop was deliberately under minimum exposure. As if it were any less, she was joined by Her Gracefulness Cece Winans. The stage lit up with the resonance of their voices twining back and forth, revealing a church as the set-up – clearly a tribute to Jesus. After the magnificence of ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ simmered to a stop, Carrie Underwood continued solo with another one of her masterpieces ‘How Great Thou Art. She ended the performance with another perfect high note that left the viewers gawking.
2) Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd – Chasing After You
The performance of the couple Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd was absolutely sensual and engaging. They were the epitome of love on stage. Singing together, with a golden setup, sparks flew. Their outfits were like a symbol of elegance and romance. The mere chemistry of them was enough to honey-dip their performance!
3) Alan Jackson – Drive, You Will Always Be My Baby medley
The deep resonance of his voice sounded like a miracle had come to life. He started with the song ‘Drive’ which was a drive (pun totally intended) down his memory lane. The very perfection of storytelling in his song took us to places with him. With the stage settling in heavy yet a calm exposure of lighting, he owned the stage like no other. The second song ‘You will always be my baby’ took the viewers through an emotional rollercoaster for which they were not ready at all. He wrote the song for his daughter for the occasion of her wedding. With pictures of him and his daughter in the background, the performance became all the more emotional.
4) Elle King and Miranda Lambert – Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)
Arriving in an extravagant manner with hot-pink accessories, Elle King and Miranda Lambert entered the stage in style. Their outfits added to the hype because something in them hinted that they were here to rock and would offer nothing less than that. Singing in perfect harmony and dancing along, they filled up the stage with thrumming energy. The drumbeats and the synchrony of their voices held the power of making people dance. It was the kind of performance that could lift anybody’s spirits up and was definitely one of the best of the night.
5) Blake Shelton – Austin
A pretty yet heart-breaking storyline etched into his song ‘Austin’, he sang the whole song beautifully. He made sure the viewer felt every word and understand the emotion and pain behind every lyric. With his usual magic and the stage set in a gloomy blue color, he narrated the whole story in the best way he could – by singing. A terrific performance indeed!
6) Keith Urban – Tumbleweed
Keith Urban is known for his insanely good guitar skills. He is both – a great guitarist and an amazing vocalist. Hence, he showed off his skills in the perfect way he could – with a solo performance. The stage set-up was terrific, and it kept changing along with the beats and the pitch of the music. A highly upbeat song ‘Tumbleweed’, every note did justice to this fiery performance.
It is impossible to predict the future. However, the impression that country music is losing its charm is completely false. Yes, there may have been issues with sales and even some drop in the viewers. But after watching these brilliant performances from ACM Awards 2021, it is definite that as long as such artists remain in the industry, country music can never go out of style.
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