For eleven years, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood co-hosted the annual Country Music Association Awards live from Nashville in November. But this year, Underwood will not have her usual sidekick there. Why not?
It’s not for some scandalous reason. When the CMAs announced back in August that Underwood would be returning as host, the release also said that the show would be welcoming Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire as co-hosts, “celebrating legendary women in Country Music throughout the ceremony.”
“It’s an incredible honor to welcome Carrie, Reba, and Dolly to the CMA Awards stage this year,” said CMA CEO Sarah Trahern in a statement. “In addition to awarding the year’s best and brightest in the genre, the 53rd Annual CMA Awards will celebrate the legacy of women within Country Music, and we couldn’t think of a more dynamic group of women to host the show.”
For his part, Paisley was very supportive of the change in emcees this year, writing on Twitter that “as a fan of all three of these amazing women, [he] can’t wait to watch.” Plus, he has his very own special on ABC airing Tuesday, Dec. 3 called “Brad Paisley Thinks He’s Special.”
But it is, in fact, the year of the woman at the CMAs. The 53rd annual awards mark the first time that a woman has been nominated in every category except Male Vocalist of the Year. It’s a big milestone, especially since women do not receive the airplay that men do on country radio stations.
In 2017, according to The Tennessean, just 10.4 percent of the songs that received airplay that year (not including duets with men) were by female artists, a drop of almost three percent from the 2016 numbers. It isn’t just limited to country music, though. According to a USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative titled “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?”, only 22 percent of all performers across the 700 most popular songs of any genre from 2012 to 2018 were female. Furthermore, 2017 and 2017 were especially bad, with females making up less than 17 percent of artists on the top charts.
Underwood has been outspoken about this disparity, telling Elaina Smith of the Women Want to Hear Woman podcast that it’s time for “shutting that door on ‘women don’t want to hear women’ because that’s BS.”
Underwood says that when she was growing up, it seemed like there were a lot more women on the radio than there are today. So what do you tell “all the little girls that are sitting at home saying, ‘I want to be a country music singer.’?”
“I see so many girls out there busting their rear ends,” Underwood continues, “and so many guys out there that it’s some new guy out there has a No. 1, and I’m like, ‘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 not getting the same opportunities.”
To watch Underwood, McEntire, Parton and a slew of other female country superstars from across the decades perform live, tune in to the 2019 CMA Awards live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday (Nov. 13) at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.