It’s going to be ladies night in Nashville Wednesday as the Country Music Association Awards with Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton joining Carrie Underwood hosting the ABC broadcast that will salute the “legendary women of country.”
That female emphasis, which saw Underwood’s long-time co-host Brad Paisley dropped in favor of Parton and McEntire, came after an outcry about status of women in country music, specifically at country radio.
It's been well-documented that women simply don’t get their songs played as much on country radio as men -- and haven’t for years.
The CMA, which began as a country radio promotion organization, had to acknowledge the protest of those who decried a seemingly systemic exclusion of women from the airwaves.
Chief among the protesters was Miranda Lambert, who appropriately enough will perform her latest single “It All Comes Out in the Wash,” from her excellent new album “Wildcard.”
Last month, the female-dominated Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd’s reaction to the song about washing out everything from a wine stain to a broken heart and its sing-along with nearly every spitfire women’s anthem in Lambert’s show gives the lie to the country programmer notion that women don’t want to listen to songs by other women.
Maren Morris, who opened Lambert’s PBA show, will be on the CMA show as well, performing “Girl” her multi-nominated song.
Morris, who’ll be headlining the next time she comes to the arena, is likely the next country superstar. She’s also shown she can cross over to pop, blurring the lines between genres, which female country singers from Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton to Shania Twain and Taylor Swift have done for decades.
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Also at the show, and she’s hopes on stage, will be Carly Pearce, a nominee for the New Artist of the Year award.
Pearce hasn’t been part of the women in country talk, in part because she’s still just climbing the country ladder, trying to generate enough hits to get mainstream attention.
When that happens — based on her Saturday night Single Barrel show, it will — Pearce will be right in there with Lambert and Morris, among others.
And she’ll be acknowledging her influences as she did in speech and song Saturday, when she covered Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and talked about the ‘90s country women who she wanted to emulate.
That came before a two-acoustic guitar medley that had Pearce, via bits of their songs, grabbing Twain’s brassiness, Faith Hill’s pop twang and The Dixie Chicks spunky melodicism all in LeAnn Rimes’ big, powerful voice.
Pearce, who’s been singing professionally since she was 16 and in Nashville for a decade before she had the hits that made her a “new artist” candidate, is a couple steps away from stardom. But she’s got everything needed to get there — she’s a very good songwriter, a personable performer and terrific vocalist.
Will the female emphasis lead to Underwood, who also brought an all-woman tour to the arena this year, taking the top prize — Entertainer of the Year, for which she’s the only woman nominated? That’s hard to guess.
But I’ll be pulling for her, for Lambert and Morris and especially Pearce to truly make Wednesday the night of women in country.