Mickey Guyton Debuts Haunting, Just-Written ‘What Are You Gonna Tell Her’ During CRS 2020 [WATCH]
Mickey Guyton drew a standing ovation from a crowd of music industry insiders at Universal Music Group's annual Country Radio Seminar luncheon and showcase on Thursday (Feb. 20). A number of the label's artists performed their latest singles or debuted new tunes, but a highlight of the program was Guyton's "What Are You Gonna Tell Her," a chilling reflection on the injustice of marginalization.
Backed by a simple piano line, Guyton let her song's message do the talking. "She thinks love is love / And if you work hard, that's enough / Skin's just skin and it doesn't matter," she sang. "And her friend's older brother's gonna keep his hands to himself / And somebody's gonna believe her when she tells ...
"But what are you gonna tell her when she's wrong?" Guyton continued in the song's chorus. "Will you just shrug and say it's been that way all along?"
It was a poignant and timely statement in a time in which the conversation surrounding who gets played -- and who doesn't -- on country radio is louder than ever. Despite the preponderance of data, history and road-tested artist experiences that debunk the myth that country fans don't want to hear female voices on the radio, women -- especially black women such as Guyton -- still struggle to make their voices heard on the platform.
Per a viral Twitter thread from January, there has been at least one recorded instance of a radio station playing two songs by female artists back to back. Still, by and large, most radio programmers and executives -- and thus, the bulk of Guyton's audience during her performance on Thursday -- play more male artists than female artists, by a wide margin.
That dynamic added a degree of irony to Guyton's performance, and to the standing ovation she received afterwards. Even so, "What Are You Going to Tell Her" was a powerful, transcendent moment for many -- including Guyton, who was misty-eyed as she accepted her applause, and one of the song's co-writers, Victoria Banks, who was watching from her set.
"I'm still shaking," Banks tweeted after the fact, explaining that the song was brand new. "We wrote this three weeks ago from the gut. Today I watched [Guyton] bring the Ryman full of radio execs to their feet with it. God bless her for being brave enough."
Later that same evening, at another showcase full of CRS attendees, Ashley McBryde encountered that same divide between an in-the-room standing ovation and a weak showing on the radio. Warner Music Nashville CEO John Esposito spoke to that effect during McBryde's performance, too, imploring radio execs to take the enthusiasm they'd showed for her live show home with them and translate it into radio spins.
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