Christmas in the Country–2022 Version

Christmas in the Country–2022 Version December 9, 2022

Once again the CMA Country Christmas Special has aired. (Last year’s special reviewed here.) And once again, it was a special that eschews all but the thinnest veneer of tradition and age. This is deeply ironic, given the nature of Country Music as an inherently backwards-looking genre. Also once again it was worth watching, since we should be keeping our eye on what’s going on in Nashville. The contemporary Country Music industry is our window into the world of rural America. I mean, don’t need such a window since I live in rural America, but most of America doesn’t live in rural America, so this is the way you city folk can see what’s happening here.

Carly Pearce and Steven Curtis Chapman during the 2022 “CMA Country Christmas” special filmed at The Steel Mill in Nashville, Tennessee. “CMA Country Christmas” will air on ABC and next day on Hulu. All images: CMA

Here are a few reflections on the show:

  • Once again Carly Pearce was excellent as a host (solo this year) and is clearly aware of what made Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood such excellent hosts of the awards shows.
  • Once again, there was an utter absence of anything resembling gray hair on stage–except! This year they brought in Steven Curtis Chapman, who is older but who isn’t a Country Music artist. Chapman wasn’t the only non-Country act there: Molly Tuttle’s bluegrass band put in an appearance as well.
  • And again, the set list was a mix of classic Christmas music (“O Holy Night”), new music (Dan + Shay’s “Holiday Party”), and garbage (“Holly Jolly Christmas”).
  • Unlike last year, and probably because there was only one host this year, there was more of a personal element. We saw a bit of Carly Pearce’s Christmas experiences (complete with pictures and an appearance by her parents).
  • There was also even more emphasis on blending genres, including jazz, bluegrass, and CCM. Which is exactly what we’re seeing in the broader genre these days.

Again, this is special is a good use of your time and worth keeping an eye on to see what’s happening in Country Music. But I think it’s especially interesting when contrasted with the episode of “Superstar” about Reba McEntire that aired immediately after CMA’s Country Christmas on ABC. By definition this show highlighted an earlier generation of Country Music. In this case, it was interesting to see who they interviewed about Reba. Featured was Dolly Parton (an earlier generation of performer) and Carrie Underwood, Lainey Wilson, and Dierks Bentley. The only person interviewed from the peak of Reba’s own career was Vince Gill, and that was primarily (not exclusively) about being from Oklahoma. I don’t think that was a malicious choice, but it made for a set of interesting perspectives. And it especially made an interesting contrast with the Christmas show full of young folks immediately preceding it…

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO.

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