“It’s been really fun to just jump into each other’s world,” Keys told Rolling Stone Country backstage, minutes before kicking off the pair’s performance at the Factory soundstage outside of Nashville. “Really, it feels seamless, too. It doesn’t feel like two worlds; it feels like one.”
With its electronic drum tracks and mainstream pop hooks, “80s Mercedes” – the second single from Morris’ debut album Hero – already skews close to Keys’ home base in R&B and pop. Appropriately, the Crossroads performance feels less like a mashup and more like a remix, with Keys’ team adding turntable scratches and beat drops to the mix. Backed by musicians from both artists’ touring bands, the two women share verses, swap harmonies and trade vocal runs, with Keys playing the song’s first half on piano before joining her duet partner on the lip of the stage.
“As a kid growing up, there are multiple genres,” Morris said before the show, “and it is easier for people to label [music by assigning genres] because it’s just comfortable for them. Honestly, I’ve never written music with those parameters, so tonight is a physical representation of no barriers being put on creativity.”
Alicia Keys and Maren Morris’ full episode premieres December 2nd on CMT, rounding out a year that’s also seen CMT Crossroads performances by Jennifer Nettles and Cheap Trick, Luke Bryan and Jason Derulo, Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas, and Charles Kelley and Rob Thomas.