The “Blown Away” singer says female country singers are ‘not getting the same opportunities’ as men
Carrie Underwood is blown away by the lack of female country songs on the radio.
The 35-year-old “Blown Away” singer, who rose to fame as the winner of the fourth season of “American Idol,” says women in her industry face major barriers when it comes to having their songs heard.
“Even when I was growing up, I wished there was more women on the radio, and I had a lot more than there are today,” Underwood told Elaina Smith on the Women Want to Hear Women podcast Monday. “I think about all the little girls that are sitting at home saying, ‘I want to be a country music singer.’ What do you tell them, you know? What do you do? How do you look at them and say, ‘Well, just work hard, sweetie, and you can do it’ when that’s probably not the case right now?”
There are currently only five female artists listed on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart this week out of the top 50 — Underwood’s “Cry Pretty” being one of them. And the percentage of country songs sung by women, not including duets with men, has decreased from an already low 13% to 10.4% in the last year, according to the Tennessean. And Underwood says its male gatekeepers in the industry that are preventing women from being heard, and rising up in the ranks to achieve their full potential.
“I see so many girls out there busting their rear ends and so many guys out there where some new guy has a No. 1 and I’m like, ‘Well, good for you, that’s great, but who are you? What’s happening?’ And then these strong women who are super talented that totally deserve it are not getting the same opportunities. But how to change it? I don’t know. How do we change it?” she said.
Underwood joins a slew of female country artists who have taken on the gender disparity and sexisim in the industry. Fellow songstress Miranda Lambert talked about the issue in an interview with Redbook last year, noting that there were far too many male country songs played on the radio compared to female-fronted anthems.
“It’s B.S., straight up,” she told the magazine adding: “Carrie Underwood still struggles, and that just blows my mind because she’s got a million hits and she’s Carrie Freakin’ Underwood. I tell them at the radio stations, ‘Just play [a woman]; it doesn’t have to be me. Then we all win.’ I’ll fight for it until I can’t no more.”
Women have a tough time being taken seriously in the genre that has been long criticized for featuring lyrics that objectify women. A 2016 study by Texas University researchers analyzed 750 top country songs from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s and found that they primarily portrayed women as objects, for example, focusing on their appearance in tight and revealing clothing, and hardly spoke about being empowered and taking on non-traditional roles.
And it’s not getting much better. Radio consultant Keith Hill’s sexist comments about female country singers led to #Tomatogate in 2015, when he advised radio stations not to play songs by women: “Trust me,” he said. “I play great female records, and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”
The tone deaf comments sparked outrage and galvanized women in country music to clapback. Singer-songwriter Angaleena Presley responded at CMT’s Next Women in Country event: “I’m not a tomato. I’m a hard-working, sophisticated woman. My mama didn’t burn her bra for nothing. I’m here to stay.”
Underwood is working to cast a bigger spotlight on women in her industry by taking them out on the road for her forthcoming Cry Pretty Tour 360. The music fest kicks off in May 2019, and features openers Maddie & Tae and Runaway June. Underwood told Smith she hopes doing so will help flip the script on having more women perform.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved