2014 CMA Awards Analysis — Let’s Hear It for the Girls
Country Music's Biggest Night, the 2014 CMA Awards, recognized something more than the year's top country artists, songs and videos this year: It recognized the re-emerging voice of women in country, and perhaps even a longing for more substance in the music.
In some ways, the message was subtle. After all, New Artist of the Year did not go to Brandy Clark (the only female nominee), Luke Bryan beat out Miranda Lambert (again, the only woman in the bunch) for Entertainer of the Year, and there was a pretty much even split between male and female winners -- but Kacey Musgraves' 'Follow Your Arrow' taking home Song of the Year early on in the evening was a good sign of things to come.
"Real life," in this case, means lyrics that allude to same-sex relationships and marijuana use -- both of which have been taboo subjects in country music. In fact, Musgraves' performance of the gold-certified tune was censored at the 2013 CMA Awards; the line “If the straight and narrow gets a little too straight / Roll up a joint -- or don’t” was silenced to those watching on TV.
Only 14 women have won a Song of the Year Award.
However, as Musgraves pointed out in the CMA press room this year, many a country legend -- she mentioned, among others, Hank Williams and her duet partner that evening, Loretta Lynn -- and many a famous country song were built on lyrics like those.
"If you go back in time to the people who founded this genre ... they were singing about things that impacted every single person in real life," the 26-year-old said (quote via Rolling Stone Country). I'm nothing new. I'm just carrying on the tradition of telling the truth."
And while it's not Entertainer of the Year, Song of the Year is still a pretty massive honor ... one that only 14 women have received.
"When I came off stage, Vince Gill grabbed me and said, 'You just won the biggest award you can ever win. I know, I've won them all, and this one means the most to me,'" says Clark, who served as a co-writer on the song, along with Shane McAnally. "That about sums it up!"
Of course, Lambert was the woman everyone was talking about that night. The songstress picked up four of her nine possible awards, including Single, Album and Female Vocalist of the Year. With this year's Female Vocalist win, her fifth consecutive one, Lambert now holds the record for the most victories in that category; she previously shared the record, at four, with Martina McBride, who was also nominated this year, and Reba McEntire.
"Every time I'm around [McEntire], I try just to shut up and listen because I know that I can learn from everything she says, every move she makes," Lambert says. "Because she's one of the people who paved the way for me to be standing here right now. I'm very thankful to have even gotten to know her a little bit."
The 30-year-old now has a total of 11 CMA Awards, the most of any female act. Her nine nods were the most of any artist this year.
Vince Gill said, 'You just won the biggest award you can ever win' ... That about sums it up!
In the CMA press room, Lambert noted that "everything goes through phases ... girls were on top, and then guys took over," but the results at the 2014 CMA Awards are a good sign that this cycle of so-called "bro-country" is making room for the ladies.
"I definitely feel like girls do have a lot to say. If you're married, you know that," Lambert says (quote via CMT). "But I feel like Kacey won Song of the Year, and girls were represented really well tonight.
"I know that country music appreciates women, and I have to say they always have," she adds. "And so it's about to come back to the forefront."
Irving Waugh Award of Excellence winner Vince Gill, who's certainly been around country music long enough to know a thing or two, agrees with Lambert's theory.
"There still have been periods of time in country music’s history where it was very one-sided," he says. "You go back to the ’50s, and Kitty Wells was a lone ranger. And then along comes Dolly [Parton] and Loretta and Patsy Cline, and it blows up a little more.”
The charts are still highly male dominated, but there is some hope. Lambert and Carrie Underwood's 'Somethin' Bad' recently went platinum, and newcomers Maddie & Tae, who made a splash (not to mention a statement about the current role of women in country music) with their hit 'Girl in a Country Song,' became the first female duo in seven years to land in the Top 10 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart. (We won't even mention Taylor Swift's success with '1989.')
Country music appreciates women, and I have to say they always have. And so it's about to come back to the forefront.
“We want to look good for these boys, but that’s not all we have to offer," says Maddie Marlow. "We’re just giving the girls a voice."
It's not as though an all-out gender war is about to break out, pitting country star against country star. The women of country support each other -- but the men are rooting for them too (see Chase Rice's tweet commending 'Girl in a Country Song,' among other examples), as Lambert was quick to point out during the CMAs.
"We're all a family. We're all doing this together," she told the press room. "I really love my job, and I love music, and I love country music."