Over the last year, there has been much discussion as to why female country stars are having a difficult time re-claiming their spots in the thrones of the genre. Most recently, crossover sensation, Sheryl Crow, even took to Twitter to express her disdain regarding the evident snubbing of today’s female vocalists.
Would someone please play a woman on the radio? Any woman. Doesn’t have to be me but if I hear one more bro country song I’m gonna vomit!
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) March 28, 2014
Historically speaking, artists such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire, to name a few, have been at the forefront of country music. However, as the years have passed and the music industry has progressed, there has been a startlingly obvious turn in the tides that has cast country’s ladies aside, while the men are making waves on the album charts, as well as consuming radio waves. The question is “has the caliber of country music’s female musicians declined, causing this male dominance, otherwise known as ‘bro country?’” And the answer is a definitive NO! In fact, in this particular writer’s opinion, the female talent as of late is at a level that has never been reached before in country music, and it is a shock and a travesty that these ladies aren’t receiving their overdue accolades. Rather than continuing to restate the obvious, which is the fact that the men have been given ownership of country music, let’s evaluate why the reemergence of the female artist should be (and hopefully is) near.
Let me preface this article by stating that I love country music, whether it is sung by a male, female, duo, trio, group, or goat. But, I struggle with what seems like a constant battle for females to be heard in a genre cluttered with beer drinking, party anthem singing, good (okay, amazing) looking males. You can certainly catch me at a Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean show, raising a drink, kicking one back, and singing at the top of my lungs, but my heart doesn’t get much more content than it is when listening to a vulnerable, soulful song sung by a powerful female. Which is why I long for the days of yore, when I could turn on the radio and hear Faith, Martina, LeAnn, Trisha, Patty, Terri, Deana, Jo Dee, Sara, and a bevy of other ladies of notoriety, proportionately interspersed in the playlists.
What is most intriguing (and disturbing) about the onset of the brotherly love is that there is still a whole faction of wildly talented females out there (including those named above who are still writing, recording, and touring), but this class is screaming to be heard. Today, we have Taylor, Carrie, Miranda, Jennifer, Kacey, Cassadee, Danielle, Brandy, Lucy, Jamie Lynn, and many more who have made ripples, but most are not given the opportunities to flourish like their male counterparts. Many of these ladies have received top honors, including, but not limited to, Entertainer of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. Recently, Cassadee Pope was the only female chosen for CRS New Faces, and she was also the first female since Taylor Swift (2006) to have her debut single certified platinum. Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Jennifer Nettles headlined hugely successful, sell-out tours. Kacey Musgraves, Danielle Bradbery, and Brandy Clark headed out on large tours as opening acts. Lucy Hale and Jamie Lynn Spears are on “ones to watch” lists across the board. With just this select handful of dynamitic vocalists, it is anticipatory that the bridge between bro-nation and a land where all artists are created equal will soon be gapped. So we can hope.
To further plead my position, some of Nashville’s finest, who previously topped the charts, led nominations, received awards, and were honored with RIAA certification plaques are now working to reemerge in the genre that they helped build. Recently, Deana Carter and Jo Dee Messina released new albums, each returning from a notable hiatus (though neither ever actually stopped working on her music). Deana and Jo Dee, Grammy nominees, I might add, both parted ways from their respective record labels, became independent artists, and have gotten their hands dirty for the love of country music and their fans. Despite both artists laboring over and churning out highly acclaimed albums, radio has barely given either a fighting chance to be heard. Additionally, Sara Evans just released a catchy new single and strong album under Sony, while Martina McBride is next in line for what is sure to be the release of another spectacular record. It has to be a matter of time before the powers that be recognize the value that these iconic artists lend to this genre and become willing to pay homage to those whose footprints are solidly engrained in the road that led to today’s country music.
They say “what comes up must come down,” and while I am not expecting the rise of the male country artist to suddenly plummet, I have to believe that, at some point, the surge will hit its altitude and the ladies will begin to ascend at a more rapid rate. Looking at the class of women discussed above, it is simply impossible to fathom that superlative winners do not exist in the pack. The music being written, recorded, and performed by these artists is some of the best the genre has to offer today. If there was ever a group and ever a time to light up the industry in a blaze of glory, it is this multi-talented, multi-faceted sample of female entertainers, and the time is now.