51st Annual CMA Awards Lifts Media Restrictions

'CMT Hot 20 Countdown' Previews 2017 Telecast Nov. 4-5

Country music's biggest night, the 51st annual CMA Awards, is just days away. And it's shaping up to be a night to remember.

First, the organization caught some heat after it added a new rule in its press guidelines for reporters covering the red carpet and the backstage media center. In the 15-page manual sent to reporters on Thursday (Nov. 2), one of the first paragraphs stipulated that if any member of the press asked about the mass shooting at Las Vegas' Route 91 Harvest music festival, gun rights, political affiliations "or topics of the like," their credential "will be reviewed and potentially revoked via a security escort."

Over the next 24 hours, country artists including the show's co-host, Brad Paisley, took to social media to express their disappointment over the CMA's press guidelines.

Female vocalist of the year nominee Maren Morris tweeted, "Country music has always been about the truth. Out of respect for the Las Vegas victims, let's keep it that way."

On Friday (Nov. 3), the CMA sent an apology to press covering the show and lifted the restriction. The apology included new media guidelines without the controversial paragraph.

Traditionally, hosts Paisley and Carrie Underwood have made light of big issues in country music and America in their opening monologue. But it's unclear whether they will address award show regulations in their 2017 script. Viewers will just have to wait and see when the event airs live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday (Nov. 8).

The night will include collaborations by Paisley and Kane Brown; Tim McGraw and Faith Hill; Kelsea Ballerini and Reba McEntire; Niall Horan and Maren Morris; and Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts. The first performance of the show will be a live collaboration by Keith Urban, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker.

Underwood, Garth Brooks, Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, P!nk, Chris Stapleton and Thomas Rhett will also perform solo sets.

The presenters are Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Dustin Lynch, Brett Young, Trisha Yearwood, iHeartRadio's Bobby Bones, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, Karlie Kloss, Lea Michele, Michelle Monaghan, Tyler Perry, Jason Ritter, Joanna Garcia Swisher, Ruby Rose and Brittany Snow.

CMT's Hot 20 Countdown will air a special preview of Wednesday's show featuring an interview with the night's lead nominee, Lambert. She is a 12-time CMA award winner, and she heads to the event with five nominations, including a nods for female vocalist and album of the year for The Weight of These Wings.

"It's huge," Lambert said of country music's biggest night. "I'm just thankful my name is a part of it still. And I'm excited about it, too. It's fun. It's like a reunion at the CMAs."

The entertainer of the year nominees are Brooks, Bryan, Church, Stapleton and Urban. Brooks told Hot 20 that a sixth win in the category would mean sharing the honor with those who mean the most to him.

"Let's take Garth Brooks out of it and put the band and crew in there," he said. "Do they deserve it? Hell yes, they deserve it. Everybody's gonna say their band and crew works the hardest. I'm not gonna say they work harder than anybody else, but there's nobody that works harder than these guys.

"These guys work 24-7. So do they deserve entertainer of the year? You bet your ass! And I'd be happy to stand here and say that all day."

Hot 20 also interviewed Billboard's Tom Roland on the CMA's 2017 snubs and surprises.

"The ones that were most obvious were Blake [Shelton] is nowhere to be found," he said, "Jason Aldean, nowhere to be found. The other one that surprised me was in the [musical event] category. Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys -- really great song, great record, great performance, and did well commercially -- but not anywhere to be found."

But the big question on everyone's mind is: Will Taylor Swift come to the show? She's nominated for song of the year as the sole songwriter of Little Big Town's "Better Man," and her new album Reputation arrives Friday (Nov. 10).

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if Taylor showed up," Roland said. "She's still loved in the city. She has left the door [open] that she would be happy to come back at some point. I would almost be surprised if she didn't show up because it would be a good thing to keep her foot in the door."

An all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 4-5) at 9 a.m. ET.

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