ABOVE: Faith Fennidy, Madeline Edwards, Mickey Guyton, and Brittney Spencer
The biggest night in country music returned to its longtime home at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last Wednesday.
While last year’s CMA Awards were held sans audience at nearby Music City Center due to COVID-19, this year, the 55th annual awards show was packed with fans and star-studded performances ― notably from Black women.
Mickey Guyton was joined by Brittney Spencer and native Houstonian Madeline Edwards to perform her single “Love My Hair” from her debut album, “Remember Her Name.” The song, a ballad honoring the beauty of Black hair, was inspired by 14-year-old Faith Fennidy, who was dismissed from school in 2018 after being told her braids violated the school dress code.
Fennidy attended the 2021 CMA Awards red carpet as a guest of Guyton’s and introduced the three singers onstage.
“I am proud to say that I inspired the song that you are about to hear by an artist I love,” the teen said. “This next artist created this song to make sure girls like me feel seen and loved. That’s how you turn something very painful into something positive.”
Clad in white Yumi Katsura couture gowns, Spencer, Edwards and Guyton took the stage with beautiful, Black curls in tow, courtesy of hair stylists Naeemah LaFond and Jamie Brice. While Edwards donned voluminous tresses reminiscent of Disco Queen Donna Summer, Spencer and Guyton opted for larger-than-life 4C fros, accented with braids and gold charms.
According to Guyton, intentionality and authenticity were behind every aspect of the performance.
“We have a Black creative director, Jemel [McWilliams], that’s helping with this, along with Black hairstylists,” Guyton said. “The stage is going to be our hair. That is important in a country space. That, to me, is how we’re staying true.”
Apart from that stunning performance, Jennifer Hudson and multi-CMA Award winner Chris Stapleton took viewers to church with a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Hudson was tapped by Franklin to assume the lead role in her biopic “Respect,” and belted out “Night Life” and “You Are My Sunshine” in her CMA Awards debut.
As expected, J.Hud’s voice left the audience speechless. Praise rang across social media following the moving performances from all four women.
One Twitter user wrote, “I don’t know who needs to hear it but Jennifer Hudson just put on the best vocal performance in CMA Awards history.”
Another user tweeted, “Aw, @MickeyGuyton @BrittNicx and @madelinemaking look like the Muses in their white outfits! Beautiful!!!!! loved their performance.”