Somehow, the most controversial aspect of last week’s Country Music Association Awards had nothing to do with politics.
During the trophy ceremony on Wednesday at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, many viewers suspected that country legend Garth Brooks was lip-syncing as he performed his latest single, “Ask Me How I Know.” At one point, he held the microphone away from his face and his vocal track kept going.
After the show, Brooks didn’t make any excuses. He explained to reporters that with a run of 12 concerts in 10 days, his voice was shot. “We decided to lip-sync it because my voice was just not there, and we wanted to represent country music the best we can,” he said.
Some people understood. Others thought it was a pretty lame move, especially considering Brooks was awarded entertainer of the year, the most prestigious prize of the night. As viewers debated his decision to lip-sync, Brooks’s fellow country singers started to weigh in.
“I keep a lot of my opinions to myself and respect anyone making music but as a person who tries to put on the best and most honest show I can night after night . . . this truly offends me,” singer-songwriter Anderson East tweeted. “I was told country music is three chords and the truth.”
I keep a lot of my opinions to myself and respect anyone making music but as a person who tries to put on the best and most honest show I can night after night… this truly offends me. I was told country music is three chords and the truth. https://t.co/jucvh4xmpy
— Anderson East (@Andersoneast) November 10, 2017
Things escalated further when Miranda Lambert, one of the genre’s biggest stars, who has been dating East for two years, commented on East’s Instagram page, where he posted an image of his tweet. “High Five on this babe,” she wrote. “If you can’t sing then don’t. It’s better to be honest than to pretend. I think it’s bull s‑‑‑. My favorite performances in the show were live live. The truth.”
As if that wasn’t enough drama, Lambert’s ex-husband, “The Voice” star Blake Shelton, jumped into the mix to defend Brooks:
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) November 10, 2017
Then country star Randy Travis’s Twitter account weighed in on the controversy, posting two messages in support of the singer. One posted Sunday night seemed to take a jab at East and Lambert with the “our family in music” comment:
— Randy Travis (@randytravis) November 11, 2017
— Randy Travis (@randytravis) November 13, 2017
CMA viewers are the type to take lip-syncing quite seriously, considering country music is supposed to be the most authentic format. Rascal Flatts got similar backlash at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards when lead singer Gary LeVox lost his voice, and the trio decided to perform anyway. The lip-syncing was obvious, and ironic considering the same show made fun of Britney Spears for not singing live.
But as the debate continues, Brooks appears unfazed. He will return to the Bridgestone Arena in December on his concert tour. Monday morning, he added a sixth date at the arena. The first five shows sold out.