Fans Call Out CMT Music Awards' Shady Explanation For Kelsea Ballerini's Absence

Country singer Kelesa Ballerini was all set to host and perform at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, just one year after her first hosting gig at the show, where she performed and celebrated multiple wins. However, some bad news came to light on April 11, preventing Ballerini from appearing at the CMT Music Awards in person to create that same lightning-in-a-bottle magic she had last year at the award show. People received a statement from the CMT Music Awards only hours before the show that confirmed that co-host Ballerini tested positive for COVID-19. "Fortunately, she is asymptomatic and remains excited to co-host the show (remotely)," the statement announced.

Singer Kane Brown, who previously co-hosted with Ballerini at the 2021 CMT Music Awards, "graciously agreed to step in" and share the stage with co-host actor Anthony Mackie. "They have plenty of surprises in store for tonight's show," the statement concluded. Mackie went on to open the show only alluding to Ballerini's illness, focusing on Brown stepping up his hosting duties. "Just like the NFL has backup QBs, here at the CMT Awards, we have backup KBs," Mackie joked, per Billboard.

While it seems reasonable to keep the show moving beyond Ballerini's COVID-19 diagnosis, some fans aren't buying it and are calling CMT out for their lackluster response.

Kelsea Ballerini caught COVID-19 and fans are concerned

Kelsea Ballerini's physical absence from the CMT Music Awards was definitely noticeable to fans, who speculated about the shady explanation (or lack thereof) of her illness on Twitter. 

One fan noted that "Kelsea Ballerini prob caught Covid" after the hosts zoomed past that detail while opening the show. Even though it was confirmed beforehand, it seemed to journalist Emily Yahr that co-hosts Anthony Mackie and Kane Brown didn't want to dwell on the huge elephant in the room preventing the star from joining them on stage. "Co-host Kelsea Ballerini announced to her 2.7 million Instagram followers this morning that she tested positive for covid so not sure why the #CMTMusicAwards is saying she's not there because she's "under the weather"...not really a secret!" Yahr tweeted

Ballerini and CBS confirmed in an Instagram post that she did indeed catch COVID-19, but her team and CBS found a way to make sure she can still perform her hosting duties. "The incredible CMT team and my team have bought part of the CMT set to my house, to my little bubble, and set it up to where I can still host and perform," Ballerini said. "It is certainly not what we had expected or planned for, but we are doing our damn best ... Let's make some lemonade together out of these very bitter lemons." Way to make it work, Kelsea!

The show still went on for Kelsea Ballerini

COVID-19 or not, the show must go on... remotely!

Even while "under the weather," country-pop singer Kelsea Ballerini brought her own house down with a stellar performance of her brand new single, "Heartfirst," while donning a sparkly green dress complete with a split on the side clean up to her hip. (Alexa, play "Fancy" by Reba McEntire.) Per the New York Post, images of Ballerini's band playing along with her were projected on a curtain hung behind her. Talk about ingenuity!

Following Ballerini's quarantine concert for one, many fans took to Twitter to congratulate the award show host and singer for a job well done. "That should be nominated for performance of the year next year 'Heartfirst' – Kelsea Ballerini (At home COVID Edition)," one Twitter user penned following her incredible performance. Meanwhile, another wrote, "My girl Kelsea Ballerini did amazing tonight! #KelseaBallerini @KelseaBallerini @CMT." 

Fans are curious about all of Kelsea Ballerini's lemon references

Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on.

Shortly after the star-studded event was over, Kelsea Ballerini promptly traded in her fancy award show lewks for a much more casual get-up that included comfy green shorts, a white tee adorned with lemons, and fuzzy slippers. "It's giving....winner adjacent," Ballerini penned in an Instagram post. "Thank you for a night of lemonade @cmt & @cbstv and a HUGE shoutout to everyone who safely made it happen," she concluded along with a photo of herself clutching a tea mug and a container of disinfectant wipes. 

Shortly after, fans flooded the singer's comments section to give her props for a job well done. "I have to know if your neighbors were listening to you perform! It was so good," one user wrote. Meanwhile, another penned, "Please tell me someone dropped McDonald's off at your doorstep after the show. You deserve it!" Still, many other eagle-eyed fans couldn't help but notice how many times Ballerini subtly hinted at the yellow, oval citrus fruit. "Am I overthinking or are you hinting at something with the lemon/lemonade references?" one curious user asked. TBD we suppose...