For years, there has been controversy in country music over the gap between the representation of male and female artists on the radio. According to a recent study, only 16 percent of the 500 songs on the year-end Billboard Hot Country charts in the past five years were from female artists.
But, at the 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville on Wednesday, the ladies were on full display as some of the biggest female artists in country music joined hosts Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood to open the show with a powerful performance.
The show opened with Parton, McEntire, and Underwood kicking off a medley of some of the biggest hits in country music history. The trio started with Parton’s 1987 hit Those Memories Of You, and then Jennifer Nettles and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman came on stage to honor the first female winner of the CMA Entertainer of the Year award Loretta Lynn (who was in the crowd) with their performance of Lynn’s 1971 hit You’re Looking At Country.
Next up was Maren Morris and her group The Highwomen, which includes Natalie Hemby, Brandi Carlile, and Amanda Shires, and they sang Tammy Wynette’s 1967 classic Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad before the legendary Tanya Tucker took the stage to perform her 1972 hit Delta Dawn.
The performance continued with Gretchen Wilson singing her 2004 hit Redneck Woman, and that transitioned into Crystal Gale taking the stage to sing a portion of one of her biggest hits: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.
Terri Clark and her guitar showed up for Better Things To Do, and then Sara Evans rocked her hit Born To Fly before Martina McBride wrapped up the performance with her anthem Independence Day, and every lady on the stage sang along.
“This year we’re putting the spotlight on our legends, the great ladies of today and the up-and-comers changing the game,” McEntire said during the opening monologue. “And we’re doing it for all the little girls watching tonight dreaming of ruling the world of country music — or maybe just ruling the world.”
The star-studded audience that watched the performance included Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Pink.
“I feel that the female creative spirit, the female energy — it’s really needed right now,” said female vocalist of the year Kacey Musgraves (who performed Rainbow Connection with Willie Nelson). “And so whether it’s me that’s up here or any of the other women in this category, I just think it’s a beautiful thing.”