This year's Country Music Award nominees were announced on Tuesday, and, if a person were to judge the state of country music from the list — dominated by the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, and Taylor Swift — they'd probably think that maybe these women were getting country stations to play their damn songs. But they're not.
Brian Mansfield of USA Today couldn't help but notice that the woman-heavy list isn't exactly representative of who fans of country music hear when they turn on the radio, and in a piece on the CMA nominees, he wonders why. He writes,
Radio playlists [...] are dominated by male singers. Of the format's 20 most-played country acts of 2013, only two, according to Mediabase, are women — Lambert and triple nominee Carrie Underwood.
Mansfield's observation is interesting, for sure, but it seems like the question he's ultimately asking in his piece — What's going on here? — is pretty easy to answer if you're a culture cynic.
Because no one would watch an award show featuring all-male country singer nominees.
Men on award show red carpets are, by and large, boring — tux, tux, tux with bolo tie, Andre 3000, tux. Red carpets aren't a trap laid to capture beautiful men in the wild; they're an excuse to photograph female stars of Hollywood or Nashville or the HellPlanet that rained Ke$ha down upon us all prettied up and gingerly floating around in a pre-show diet induced haze like collectible Barbie dolls. Award show red carpets are photo opportunities. No one's going to watch an award show that just hands out trophies to dude after dude who is secretly balding under his black cowboy hat and secretly sterile inside his tight black Wranglers. There is no Andre 3000 in country music.
This isn't to say that Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert and company aren't compelling performers with some great songs, or that they're not deserving of formal recognition for their achievements (the first time I heard a Kacey Musgraves song I cried. I was overtired and maybe on my period but it was still a moving experience, ok?!). I'm saying that the disparity between radio play and CMA awards is a reflection of a crappy attitude that the mainstream entertainment industry has toward women — they're decorative. Men are serious. Giving women awards is a way for the industry to pay them lip service without actually promoting them as artistic equals to their male counterparts.
Actually, this whole double-bind sounds like it might make a good country song.