Country pop singer Kelsea Ballerini reflected on her controversial CMT Music Award performance earlier this year, where she brought drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race on stage. The singer recently got candid in her interview with Time about being featured on its 2023 Time 100 Next list, published on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, that recognizes leaders in various fields including music.
The singer addressed myriad topics ranging from her Heartfirst Tour, the recently launched EP, the process behind it, and finally her CMT Awards move and the future of country music.
Speaking about how country music should be accessible to a wider range of artists, the singer said,
“It’s a process, and we’re undoing a way that, specifically, country music has done things forever. It’s making sure that we’re giving a voice to new artists; we’re giving a voice to unsigned artists who represent underrepresented groups in Nashville because they’re not getting a chance to be signed.”
In April, the Subject to Change singer co-hosted the CMT Awards in Austin, Texas, alongside Kane Brown. At the event, she sang the song If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too) from her said album, and she brought up four drag queens from the TV show to perform with her.
The 30-year-old’s bold move drew praise and criticism alike, especially since the controversial move came at a time when there was much discourse in the country music community about bigotry and inclusivity.
Kelsea Ballerini defended her action in her interview and said:
“I am in control of standing in what I believe in—and being a kind, good person who works towards making the world a more heard, safe, and inclusive place in whatever capacity I can do.”
Kelsea Ballerini addresses CMT Music Awards pushback, calls for promoting underrepresented groups in country music
Kelsea Ballerini, hailing from Tennessee, debuted in 2015 with her album The First Time and has since won several awards for her vocals in the country music genre. She was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live this year and boasts three Grammy nominations.
The singer-songwriter has garnered critical acclaim for her music, including for her album Subject to Change and her EP Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, which portrays a person’s emotions during divorce.
Talking about her move to bring drag queens, the Half of My Hometown singer explained that there will always be a “group of people” who disagree. However, she adds that she believes in standing up for her personal beliefs and hopes to always have “good and pure” intentions.
Ballerini also stated that at the time, Tennessee was proposing several anti-drag laws. When she had the opportunity to host and perform at the CMT Awards, she realized:
“That that would be a really good, important, loud, big stage to make that statement on, and CMT was all for it.”
Her song, If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too), explores themes of friendship and standing up for those who are close, making it a perfect statement piece.
When questioned about what changes she wishes to see in the industry, Kelsea Ballerini explained that it was time to undo the age-old ways that country music is made and followed, which include giving a voice to newer artists and those from underrepresented groups such as women, people of color, and those from the LGBTQ+ community.
“I want to hear all the voices we hear on pop radio on country radio,” she adds.
Kelsea Ballerini was last seen at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2023, where she performed her hit song Penthouse. In addition to the emotional performance, the audience was wooed by her quick, mid-song outfit change.