The special is evolving to ‘reflect what’s happening right now in culture and in the lives of our fans,’ an exec from the country channel said.
The year of the woman is getting a little country.
CMT’s “Artists of the Year” special will for the first time be dedicated to country music’s women, paying tribute during the Oct. 17 show to artists like Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, the country channel announced Tuesday.
“This year, we’re evolving the special to reflect what’s happening right now in culture and in the lives of our fans,” Leslie Fram, CMT’s senior vice president of music and talent, said in a statement. “In this monumental year for women, dedicating one of the biggest nights in the genre to applaud female country artists not only solidifies our commitment, but we hope will spark a much-needed change in the industry.”
Women will also dominate the airwaves that day with a “Women of Country Music” takeover across all CMT platforms, including the CMT Music digital channel and CMT Radio shows. The goal is “to encourage and inspire increased female airplay,” according to a press release.
CMT’s all-female honoree roster came in the wake of last month’s CMA Awards nominations, which featured an all-male slate of entertainer of the year nominees for the second year in a row. The single and song of the year categories also failed to recognize any solo women, as noted by Rolling Stone.
The proportion of “purely female” country songs slid down to 10.4% last year from 13% in 2016, according to the Tennessean. Several women country performers, including Underwood, have spoken out about the gender imbalance and lack of opportunities for women in their industry.
“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 said on the “Women Want to Hear Women” podcast last week. “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?”
And Lambert, in a Redbook interview last year, called the gender disparity in radio airplay “B.S., straight up.” “Carrie Underwood still struggles, and that just blows my mind because she’s got a million hits and she’s Carrie Freakin’ Underwood,” she said. “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.”
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