I still remember going to some of my first guitar lessons, when my teacher would prompt me to hand over my worn blue iPod mini so he could scroll through my catalog and help me choose a good song to learn. He couldn’t believe how many female artists I had to choose from. He found it a rarity. It never struck me as odd, but now I’m beginning to understand where he was coming from. Because day after day, I can’t help but hopelessly look at the country charts and wonder, where have all the ladies gone?
When I first discovered country music, I was captivated by its honesty, its culture, its originality, and the tough power of its female stars. Blowing things up with kerosene, embracing their sexuality, getting back at a cheating ex, and owning their small town roots. These were women I could look up to, women who encouraged me to strive for more.
But year after year, I’ve felt a growing distaste for my once-favored radio stations – to the point that I don’t even know what they’re playing anymore. Or maybe I do. It’s this guy, and that guy, and those guys (names unnecessary). Soon enough, apparently it’s going to be some BTS-knockoff group of these guys. Saving Country Music really summed it up in their post, so I can digress.
People just don’t give female artists the credit they deserve.
Hell, even Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert can’t break through the airwaves anymore. (Carrie is slowly making her way towards the Top 10 as we speak, though at a much slower rate than she has in the past.)
Though this example I’m about to share dates back to New Years’ Eve, not much has changed in these first few weeks of 2019. But on that day in particular, I found myself hearing country radio everywhere I went. Down in Atlanta, they play it at the gas stations, in the restaurants, and, in my case, in the car rides and kitchen, too. But here’s the thing: not once – not one time over hours of listening – did I hear one female voice that did not belong to an accompanying pop star.
I heard old hits by Kenny Chesney, new hits by guys I’ve never heard of, and the same songs I’ve been hearing for the entirety of 2018 that, frankly, I’ve heard enough of. (“If it’s meant to beeeee, it’ll beeee, it’ll beeeeeee, baby if it’s meant to be”? Good LORD stawp it already.)
It’s not that the female artists I still love aren’t releasing new music. In fact, it’s the opposite. Go on Spotify and you can find plenty of new women releasing new songs of all varieties. Some of it’s great; some desires a little more attention. A lot of it is already a response to the discrepencies across the genre. It’s just that no one cares to play it, no one cares to fight for it. No one – apparently – even notices that they aren’t hearing it.
When I commented on it to those around me, they had to stop and think, but quickly realized that yes, it had sounded like we were just listening to one continuous loop of “That’s So Country: Male Pride”. Even on the New Years’ TV specials, you had Kelsea Ballerini (with the Chainsmokers), Lauren Alaina (with Kane Brown), and Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean.
Brandi Carlile is one of the most-nominated contenders at the Grammys this year. Women have something to say. They have something quality to contribute. But she’s not on country radio. Even if her music is more “country” than most of the #1 songs on the charts this year.
Women are fierce. They have a lot to say and they know how to say it well. What better vehicle could you have for the force of country music? But no. No, country radio doesn’t want them.
I’m sharing this because it makes me sad. In fact, it makes me angry. It annoys me. It makes me start to loathe the songs I do hear. And it needs to change.
But what are we supposed to do? It’s easy to flip to another station…Lightning 100 here in Nashville has a wide range of artists they play, some of whom are a better reflection of the country genre than many artists signed to country labels, anyways. But giving up isn’t the answer. Because giving up means we’re not fighting for those women who are signing deals on Music Row and not getting any attention for their efforts. It means we’re just turning away. And it’s not that those artists aren’t there – it’s just that they need to be heard.
We can’t give up because then we’re saying that it’s okay for things to be the way they are. It’s okay if men dominate the charts. It’s okay if the only females we hear on our country radio stations are pop artists who already get plenty of fanfare on their own stations. And it’s not okay. It’s just not. We shouldn’t have to be mad at our radios. Plus, getting angry alone won’t solve anything. What a silly thing to have to worry about. But alas, if we don’t worry, if we don’t press for change, then nothing can happen. We’ll be allowing the status quo. We’ll be saying it’s alright. So we have to do something…but what?
There’s not a whole lot of use in calling radio stations because their playlists are cultivated by a much higher power, a power made up of men who still believe that women only want to hear men on the radio because they’d like to daydream about dating them.
I feel like one of the best things we can do is give these women some power in the statistics – play the shit out of their music on the airwaves that we can control. So I’ve crafted a little playlist with some of my current faves by female artists playing country (or country-adjacent) music right now. I hope you find something new to enjoy and discover their EPs, their albums, and their back catalogs. I hope that we can, little by little, send a powerful message to the number-counters that we do want to hear what these women have to say.
Get the full playlist here : Girl, Please
If you feel impassioned about the issue, I highly recommend following these accounts on Instagram. They always provide some extra angst to the issue and get me riled up in defense, while also giving some much-needed backbone to this argument: