Billy Ray Cyrus made his CMT Awards debut as a completely different person

Let me be clear here — I’ve been a fan of Billy Ray Cyrus since I was a little girl dancing in my driveway as “Achy Breaky Heart” blared out of the boom box I stole from my older brother. I’ve never even minded the man’s mullet.

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But when Cyrus made his debut at the CMT Music Awards tonight, I honestly wasn’t even sure who I was looking at. Is that Ronnie Dunn circa 1994? Al Borland from Home Improvement? The love child of Liza Minelli and Joe Dirt?

He just looks… different. Undeniably so, according to the Twitterverse.

Cyrus has been in the business for quite a while and he hasn’t had a steady stream of gigs lately, so to speak, so it isn’t totally crazy to think he has simply evolved his appearance over time or is trying out a new style.

However, perhaps this makeover is part of some identity branding for his new comedy series on CMT, Still the King, which premieres this Sunday.

Let’s roll with that assumption, eh? Because, to be honest, the alternative — that this new look is just his thing — is a puzzling thought. Besides, the premise of the show is that Cyrus’ character, “Burnin'” Vernon Brown, is a washed-up country singer turned Elvis impersonator.

OK, whew, it’s all starting to make sense now. This new look may just very well be the product of some clever marketing or, heck, maybe Cyrus is just trying to stay in character. Perhaps that carefully sculpted coif is too complicated to redo every episode so he just decided to keep rockin’ it.

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In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Cyrus explained he came up with the character a few years ago following the end of Hannah Montana. “I was on tour playing music down in the South, and I was thinking of reinventing again… do I want to do that?” he said. “Or just be a musician and not reinvent in that direction?”

Then, while walking his dog in Louisiana one day, he came across a dilapidated Pentecostal church and experienced his eureka moment, saying, “It just clicked. There’s your reinvention right there — a dysfunctional Elvis impersonator who lies his way into that church as their preacher.”

Thus, Cyrus’ new look at the CMT Music Awards. But, uh, still. What are your thoughts on Cyrus’ bold new style?

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Check out our slideshow before you go:

CMT awards red carpet
Image: Getty