October 2, 2023

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2021 CMT Music Awards: H.E.R., Chris Stapleton Sing ‘Hold On’

Chris Stapleton was joined by singer-guitarist H.E.R. at the 2021 CMT Music Awards, where the two artists performed the latter’s “Hold On.” It marked H.E.R.’s first time performing at the annual fan-voted event.

H.E.R. led off the first verse and handled the song’s signature guitar riff, while Stapleton chimed in with some lower harmonies. The choruses ramped up in intensity, with a clearly excited Stapleton shouting “whoo!” between his lines. Mid-song, the singers swapped guitar leads until H.E.R. cut loose with a screaming solo. Both H.E.R. and Stapleton finished in perfect harmony, but the whole performance had a touch of the magic that powered Stapleton’s immortal Justin Timberlake collaboration at the CMA Awards in 2015.

A slow-burning ballad released as a single last year, “Hold On” showcases H.E.R.’s nimble guitar work as a centerpiece of its sensual atmosphere. The influences of Prince and D’Angelo are present, but H.E.R.’s performance brings out a sense of conflict about an unsatisfying and potentially harmful relationship. “Don’t wanna keep on/Don’t wanna be so/Dependent on you/Depending on me,” she sings.

“Hold On” was one of two Stapleton performances at the event. Earlier in the show, he performed “Arkansas” from his 2020 album Starting Over.