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.
— CMT (@CMT) June 10, 2021
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.