Kelsea Ballerini, Lee Ann Womack, and Little Big Town are among the country artists taking part in ABC’s upcoming music series Greatest Hits. Each episode of the six-episode series will highlight a five-year period in music, ranging from the 1980s-2000s. The first episode debuts Thursday (June 30) at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
The show is the brainchild of ABC execs and Ken Ehrlich, who also serves as executive producer for the annual Grammy awards.
Ballerini, the hitmaker behind “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs,” and her latest, “Peter Pan,” will co-host the show alongside veteran TV show host Arsenio Hall, known for his days hosting The Arsenio Hall Show. That series ran from 1989 through 1994 and welcomed a variety of artists, including Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.
“I had never worked with her before, though obviously I was aware of her. She is terrific and a hard worker. Man, she comes across great,” Ehrlich tells MusicRow of working with Ballerini.
In addition to Ballerini, fellow country artists Little Big Town and Lee Ann Womack will also appear in various episodes. Womack and Rachel Platten will mix Womack’s signature “I Hope You Dance” with Platten’s “Stand By You.” Meanwhile, Little Big Town will make two appearances on two different shows.
“They love Alicia Keys, so they did ‘Fallin’,’ and they do a great version of ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis,” Ehrlich notes.
While the show’s content covers three decades of hits, the time frame for putting the show together was exceedingly brief. Ehrlich and his team taped performances from 40 artists in less than 20 days. Even with the country star power provided by Little Big Town, Ballerini, and Womack, the brief window for filming nixed the opportunity for more country artists to be involved. Ehrlich hopes for more country artists to appear if Greatest Hits returns for a second installment.
“We did reach out and there were three or four other country acts we wanted on the show, but it was about availability,” Ehrlich says. “We had to do the whole show in basically two-and-a-half weeks and I just couldn’t get them. We had talked about Zac Brown and Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. There were several acts we would have loved to have on the show. They were unavailable, though they’ve all said when it comes around again, they would love to do it.”
The series’ June 30 premiere episode will feature chart-topping songs from 1980-1985, with performances by Pitbull, REO Speedwagon, Ray Parker, Jr., Jason Derulo, Kenny Loggins, Kim Carnes, Rick Springfield and Kool & The Gang. Ehrlich estimates each taping took place before approximately 800 audience members.
“I doubt there was anyone over age 30 in most of the audiences, and they knew the words to every song,” Ehrlich says. “We’ve taken a number of acts who have had great hits in those years and asked them to do those songs, but we’ve surrounded them with a much more contemporary look—sets and lighting. In essence, you are being reintroduced to a lot of music you grew up with, but you are looking at it in a new house.
“You can be 18 years old or 40 years old, and still relate to Boyz II Men or En Vogue, or for that matter, to the current acts we worked with like Miguel or Jason Derulo. This show covers it all.”
Greatest Hits will premiere Thursday, June 30 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
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