Less than a month away from its airdate, CMA Awards producers have put an end to the speculation among country fans about who would host the 2021 show by announcing Luke Bryan would take over duties for the show, to be broadcast live Nov. 10 on ABC.
This marks the third year in a row that the network and the Country Music Association have changed up the hosting approach, after Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood had an 11-year run, from 2008 to 2018. Two years ago, Underwood returned to co-host with Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton, and last year McEntire came back to share the stage with Darius Rucker. Earlier this month. McEntire told Billboard she was not coming back “to my knowledge.”
For the CMA and ABC, putting Bryan in the role is a virtually no-risk gambit, as the singer not only remains one of the most reliable ticket-sellers in the industry but is already a household face even to non-country-loving America as a judge for four seasons on the same network’s “American Idol.” He’s booked for a fifth season on “Idol” beginning some time in 2022, early promo for which on the CMAs would seem to be almost a certainty.
Bryan has a wealth of experience in a country awards hosting role… just not with the CMAs. Bryan co-hosted a rival broadcast, the Academy of Country Music Awards, for five years in 2013-2017, the first three of those with Blake Shelton and the last two with Darius Rucker. This year’s CMAs will mark Bryan’s first time as the solo host of an awards show, however.
The 55th annual ceremony will be broadcast Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, with a limited live audience on hand, after reverting to a cabaret-like format limited to nominees and their guests during the pandemic last year.
“Being asked to host the CMA Awards was definitely something I put a lot of thought into before answering,” Bryan said in a statement. “The pressure that comes along with that can be overwhelming, but knowing I get to help honor and celebrate so many of my friends, I knew it was something I couldn’t turn down. I mean, growing up in Georgia, I remember watching Vince Gill, Reba, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, to name a few. They were so good. And then becoming a part of this amazing country music family and sitting on the front row while Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Darius Rucker took the reins, all of these artists are heroes and friends, and I am honored to have my name included in this group. I’m looking forward to making it fun and memorable and using this platform to continue to make country music shine.”
Bryan is not holding it against the CMAs that he has not been nominated for several years, although he was previously a two-time entertainer of the year winner in back-to-back in 2014-2015. Ironically, he was named entertainer of the year this year at the ACMs.
Said the CMAs’ CEO, Sarah Trahern, “His fun and playful energy is something television viewers have welcomed into their homes week after week as a judge on ‘American Idol,’ and I know he has something exciting up his sleeve for the CMA Awards. We cannot wait to bring music fans a magical night of performances and truly some of the most special moments our show has ever delivered, in just a few weeks.”
No performers or presenters for the show have yet been announced.
Voting among CMA members closes Oct. 27.
Although the hosting has been rotational these last three years, the creative team continues to remain much the same, with Robert Deaton returning as executive producer and Alan Carter and David Wild back as director and head writer, respectively.