Country superstar Wynonna Judd could have used a dose of her own advice while taking the stage at the CMA Awards on November 8, 2023. Just before causing concern over an uncharacteristically stilted performance, which she has since blamed on nerves, Judd made her debut as the Mega Mentor on season 24 of “The Voice” repeatedly encouraging contestants during the November 6th and 7th episodes to push through their fears.
“I’m here to just remind you that your best is good enough,” she told one group of contestants, urging them not to let performance anxiety take hold when they take the stage.
Judd, 59, opened the 57th Annual CMA Awards with a surprise performance, teaming up with current hitmaker Jelly Roll on his song, “Need a Favor.” But Judd appeared so unsteady, gripping his jacket and barely moving, that Twitter blew up with comments from concerned fans about her unusual behavior, per the Los Angeles Times.
After the duet, Judd seemed happy with the performance and unaware that her delivery had sparked concern. But hours after the awards show, after seeing all the headlines and comments, Judd blamed her rigidity on nerves.
“I could cry right now,” Judd said in an Instagram video after the show. ““I got out there and I was so nervous that I just held on for dear life. And that’s the bottom line.”
But many fans said that Judd’s explanation doesn’t make sense given her decades of experience and the tools she’s shared over the years — including on “The Voice” — for calming her own self-doubt.
Here’s what you need to know:
Wynonna Judd Offered Tips for Handling Nerves to ‘The Voice’ Contestants
During her time mentoring “The Voice” contestants chosen by celebrity coaches John Legend, Reba McEntire, Niall Horan and Gwen Stefani, Judd shared what she’s learned during her 40 years in the music business.
Though the Knock Out Rounds were filmed in September, according to entertainment site MJS Big Blog, the episodes didn’t air until this week. In addition to offering advice on notes and stage presence as the contestants rehearsed, Judd also provided guidance for not letting nerves get the best of them.
“I would just say, ‘Let it go and be free,'” she told Team Legend as they practiced their songs. “The longest trip is from the head to the heart at times. Get out of your head and into your heart today.”
As she listened to contestant Mara Justine, Judd said that the teen’s singing “was a little strained at times.” Judd passed along a trick from her own life coach, sharing that she sometimes tells her to move her body “and just breathe” to help her loosen up.
As she and Legend coached contestant Caleb Sasser, they encouraged him to connect more with his audience. As Legend advised him to find someone in the audience to lock eyes with, Judd agreed, but it’s a strategy she seemed unable to do on the CMAs.
Judd also addressed the issue of performance anxiety while advising Stefani’s team.
She told contestant Azán Hysn, “I feel you so deeply because the insecurity part I’ve wrestled with my entire life and it gets in the way…Your gift is so powerful, let it shine.”
Fans Question Wynonna Judd’s Explanation for Her Unusual CMA Awards Performance
Judd insisted on Instagram that her uncharacteristically rigid performance at the CMAs was just due to a case of nerves. But many fans expressed doubt about her explanation, especially in the comment section of her Instagram video.
One person wrote, “Nervous? Come on. You sang all over the world jelly roll made you nervous?”
Another fan commented, “I love you but girl something other than nerves going on tonite … I’ve never seen you nervous when you have performed live!!”
Someone else wrote, “Nervous? No. You have performed THOUSANDS OF TIMES in your career. That doesn’t make sense. You are insanely confident of your talent and should be. This is very strange. All of it.”
Some fans were simply relieved to know Judd was alright after the performance, including one who wrote, “Glad you’re ok. You look beautiful and you sounded perfect! I love that Jelly Roll stayed in place and supported you. He understood the assignment.. BRAVO 👏🏼”
Some of Judd’s music industry peers also left supportive comments about her performance.
The country group Little Big Town wrote, “It was heaven!!! 👏👏👏”
Singer Carnie Wilson shared, “Love you so much. There are days when nothing comes out of my throat- I lose control of my diaphragm, my tummy muscles and it’s a horrible feeling for me. Truth be told – you are ALWAYS perfect to me❤️”
Immediately after her performance, Judd seemed blissfully unaware of the concern growing on social media about her delivery. In the press room after the duet, according to People, she told reporters how much she loved doing it.
“I don’t know how many more of these moments I have left, but I can tell you — that was definitely top 10 for me,” she said.
Judd was also at ease and jovial when she chatted with Billboard reporter Lyndsey Haven, for instance.
“How’s it’s going?” Haven asked her after she got backstage.
Judd laughed, “It’s going really fast! I’m just trying to keep up. Oh my gosh, that was quite a kick in the pants!”
She then explained how Jelly Roll convinced her to open the awards show with him. When he called to ask if she would perform with him, she turned him down because of a tour date in Texas, she said. But when he offered to send a private jet to take her back and forth so as not to miss her concert, she couldn’t resist the invitation.
Judd has had a trying past year. She spent many years of her celebrated career touring and recording as one-half of The Judds with her mom, Naomi, who died by suicide in April 2022. Her death occurred one day before The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and five months before they were to begin their final concert tour together, according to American Songwriter.
In her CMAs interview with Billboard, Judd told Haven that she’s working on turning her “pain into purpose,” touring solo but performing the songs she and her mom sang together.
Meanwhile, an album called “A Tribute to the Judds” was released in August, featuring the duo’s biggest hits sung by stars including Jelly Roll, Stefani, McEntire, Blake Shelton, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton and more.