“I’m still shocked that you’re here,” Cam told Robinson at one point during Tuesday’s (March 6) taping. “I keep looking over like, ‘Smokey Robinson is here!’”
Premiering on CMT on March 28, the all-star collaboration fulfilled a lifelong dream for Cam who was raised on the classic sounds of Motown and Robinson’s iconic songs growing up in California.
“I grew up listening to Motown, and my dad singing Motown to me, me trying to emulate Motown,” she said, “and these are the songs that I think are basically the standard of what good music is.”
After the taping wrapped, Robinson revealed “Diane” made him a forever fan of Cam, and she said watching him rock out to her new single live was the highlight of her night.
“This woman is a great songwriter,” Robinson said of Cam after the show. “She’s a great singer. She’s a great person. That makes it so much easier, and I think we blend better when we feel like that about somebody.”
The two artists first connected on a cold New York City morning before they were scheduled to ride floats in the 91st annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Robinson was already familiar with Cam’s music, and both gravitated toward one another immediately.
“He was like, ‘Those lyrics on ‘Diane,’” Cam recalled, “and I thought, ‘Smokey Robinson is talking about my music? Get out of here.’ There’s an aura about him that is just so magnetic, and I’m sure that’s why he’s so successful and why everyone wants to be around him, but you feel really comfortable immediately when you’re around him.”
The night before their Crossroads taping, the two reconnected to talk music and catch up on stories. Robinson recalled his favorite memories, like watching Marvin Gaye play “What’s Going On” for the first time in Gaye’s living room. Cam filled Robinson in on the current trends in country music, explaining to him that there is a wealth of talented female artists in today’s market, but it’s the male artists who are getting most of the radio airplay.
In the week ending March 10, there are only 12 female-led singles inside the Top 60 on Billboard’s country airplay chart, the highest being the Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line collaboration “Meant to Be” at No. 11.
When asked what women in country music could learn from the women of Motown and the issues they faced in their rise to prominence, Robinson said the movements in popularity between male performers and female performers are always shifting.
“Cam believes there is a lull in the interest in women in country music now,” Robinson said. “It goes back and forth. First it’s the girls, and then it’s the guys, and so on and so forth. It’s been happening like that ever since I’ve been in the music business. The very first group that was signed to Motown was The Miracles. My ex-wife was the girl who in the Miracles group and then it was the guys — the Temptations, the Four Tops.
“And then it was the Supremes. It turned over to the girls, and then it went back. I don’t know why it happens like that. It must be the public. It just happens like that, and it always has ever since I was in the music business.”
Cam said hearing Robinson’s thoughts on the pendulum shifts gave her hope for the future.
“I was telling him how when people get so short-sighted, and they see the lull, they start explaining it to themselves just in this small space,” she said. “People will say, ‘Well, people don’t like buying music from women,’ or ‘Women don’t like listening to music by women.’ And they’re making excuses for this one moment in time when you look at the big picture, people saying those things look pretty stupid.”
To that, Robinson offered a simple solution.
“Or just get a big picture of Beyoncé and put it in their face,” he said.
Cam and Robinson’s CMT Crossroads airs March 28 at 10 p.m. ET.