Another Decade Where the Men Ruled Country Music

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December 11, 2009

Maybe country radio would’ve played more women this decade if they had sold more records.

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33 Comments

Category: Decade in Review, Miscellaneous Musings

33 Comments so far

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  1. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    The 90s were more or less dominated by Shania, Faith, and the Dixie Chicks. I think it’s perfectly natural that the pendulum swung back towards the men after all of those ladies had peaked. And the two biggest stars at the end of this decade are Taylor and Carrie, so I don’t think women have lost that much ground, at least not permanently. I don’t really care whether the men or women dominate; I’d just like for somebody to have some success with some decent music so this genre get out of the funk it’s been in for the past several years.

  2. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Radio can suck it.

    The fact that Flatts are the only non-female act with entries in the top ten is a bummer, too. I wonder if there’s any keeping them out of the Hall of Fame?

  3. Michael ScarnNo Gravatar says:

    The 90′s were dominated by Garth, Alan, and Tim. Country music lends itself to the male perspective (it’s not your husband who comes back when the record plays backwards), so I think men will always have an inherent advantage in the genre. And I like that. I’d rather hear a guy with a horrible voice sing a cliche song about his favorite honky tonk than a girl (or effeminate man) with a horrible voice sing a cliche song about how all boys are so stupid. I feel like a lot of people agree with that.

    I don’t think the pendulum is swinging “back” at all. It’s just the explosion of one specific market segment that will compulsively buy 7 of the 10 albums listed.

  4. DeniseNo Gravatar says:

    chicken or the egg??

    Maybe the women would’ve sold more records if country radio played more music from the ladies.

  5. Apart from the O Brother soundrack, which had the benefit of the movie, none of the artists with top selling releases had any lack of airplay. Maybe they actively benefitted from the preponderance of male voices on radio because they stood out more.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe Ocasional Hope has a point there.

    Dan, you’re scaring me.:)

    Michael Scarn said: “…so I think men will always have an inherent advantage in the genre. And I like that. I’d rather hear a guy with a horrible voice sing a cliche song about his favorite honky tonk than a girl (or effeminate man) with a horrible voice sing a cliche song about how all boys are so stupid. I feel like a lot of people agree with that.”

    So, Michael, you’re saying that we only have the choice of hearing Rascal Flatts or Taylor Swift on the radio? For the record, I’d choose Taylor Swift then.

    In all seriousness though, I’m not even sure where to begin with your comment. I feel that it’s very shortsighted and generalizes a lot. I don’t have a problem with people preferring male singers to female singers. Up until a year or so ago, that’s how I leaned (I’m more equal now), but to suggest that men should “have an inherent advantage in the genre” is unsettling to me.

  7. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    The topic invites generalizations. Part of it has to do with the ever-changing culture. Back in the 1940s & 1950s the genre was characterized , sometimes correctly, as “endless ballads of booze and broads”. As the culture became more ‘enlightened’ those songs fell out of vogue

    Unfortunately a lot of the feminine output in recent years has engaged in male-bashing. I don’t mind an occasional song of that type but after a while I tune out, as well as do wives and sweethearts of decent guys, a very large portion of the market. When you lose that big a piece of the market, it is no wonder that there was a big drop off during the 00s.

    Loretta Lynn was feisty but with dignity and class – but many of this decade’s female singers were crass and/or violent (compare “Your Squaw Is On The Warpath” or “Fist City” to “Goodbye Earl” or to several of Miranda Lambert’s songs or to the crassness of “The One In THe Middle”

    When the distaff performers get back to more traditional topics they will again get their share of chart action and sales, as already seems to be happening

  8. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I guess, to get back to the original topic, the odd thing is the discrepancy between the top album sales and whose dominating the singles charts. It doesn’t seem that radio is listening to the record buyers. They’re (radio programmers) saying that people want to hear more males on the radio, but album sales of the last decade seem to show otherwise.

    That’s why, I think, Ocasional Hope may have a point.

  9. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve never understood the characterization of songs that the women released as being man-bashing, and I think it’s a stretch to use “The One in the Middle”, which wasn’t even a hit, as an example of women getting crass. Funny how Trace Adkins gets a free pass on that one.

    It reminds me of K.T. Oslin’s story about having trouble getting radio airplay for “Younger Men.” A radio deejay said he wouldn’t play it because it was offensive to his male listeners. She asked, “Do you play ‘Don’t the Girls all get Prettier at Closing Time’?” He said yes. She asked, “Don’t you think that song might be offensive to your female listeners?”

    He hung up on her.

    It’s always been the male listeners who are the shrinking violets whose delicate egos must be protected from those male-bashing women. Amazing how women could listen to “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” and “Papa Loved Mama” , two big hits about men killing their wives for cheating, without a fuss. But have a woman retaliate for violence done against her (“Goodbye Earl”, “Independence Day”)? Prepare the fainting couches!

  10. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    The best — or worst, depending on your perspective — example of a man-bashing song that I can think of is “Men” by the Forrester Sisters. It’s the song they’re best remembered for, which is unfortunate because it is atypical of what they usually sang about. Everybody thought the song was funny, but one can only imagine the outcry if any man had released a song suggesting that “you just can’t shoot” women.

    “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” and “Papa Loved Mama” and “Goodbye Earl” is that the people committing the murders were apprehended and punished in the first two songs. The first two are also stories about crimes of passion, as opposed to premeditated murder in the case of “Goodbye Earl.” There is even a degree of remorse implied in “The Cold Hard Facts of Life”. “Goodbye Earl”, on the other hand, seems to be a celebration of a premeditated murder.

    I don’t recall anyone complaining about “Independence Day” being a man-bashing song; the objections to it were more to do with violence in general. It’s very similar to “Papa Loved Mama”, in fact.

  11. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” and “Papa Loved Mama” and “Goodbye Earl” is that the people committing the murders were apprehended and punished in the first two songs.

    That should have read:

    “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” and “Papa Loved Mama” are different from “Goodbye Earl” in that the people committing the murders were apprehended and punished in the first two songs …

  12. Michael ScarnNo Gravatar says:

    Leeann – If you’d choose Swift over Flatts, I’d agree with you. But that’s not the choice I outlined. I think country music is slanted towards men because the worst male singers’ songs are usually more palatable than the worst female singers’. It’s not the gender difference, it’s the song choice.

    That’s why, when you say “Rascal Flatts” or “Jimmy Wayne”, it doesn’t matter that they’re men, it matters that they never fail to pick idiotic, cliche songs about stupid boys. But since the majority of those types of songs are resorted to by the bottom of the female vocalist barrel, I generalize. I do not include Flatts in the “honky tonk” group, I include them (with Swift) in the “stupid boy” group.

    -To conclude-
    I never said men “should” have an advantage. I said that’s how it is. I think country listeners would rather hear the forlorn cowboy with a flat voice than the vengeful teen with a flat voice. When the cowboy is a woman and the teenager songs are all sung by men, I’d hope country radio plays all women all the time, and I’d say that the women hold an advantage in the genre. Purely because of song choice and the character each gender would play, not because of any sexism at all.

  13. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    I think that radio back in 1993 was hesitant on playing “Independence Day” not just because of the violence, but because it was about an woman who decided she had enough abuse and decided to burn down the house with her husband inside.

    With “Papa Loved Mama” the Dad kills his wife because she had an affair; and yes cheating is bad, but the Dad was not protecting anyone by killing her, he was just doing it out of spite and jealousy.

    Now, if you look at “Independence Day”, the mother in the story is a victim who has been abused for years by her husband and the reason she killed him was to protect her daughter from the Dad.

  14. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I should note that were I a DJ, I would not have voulntarily played either “Papa Loves Mama” or “Independence Day” both because of the level of violence and because I though both performances were artistic failures. I’ve never heard a version of “Papa Loves Mama” that I liked although I’ve heard versions of “Independence Day” minus the over-the-top “shrieking diva” performance, that I have liked

  15. CaseyNo Gravatar says:

    I like how several of the artist pictures on the Billboard site are incorrect. They’re so respectful to that Country & Western music, aren’t they?

    It’s interesting to see Toby Keith pop-up so much–I forgot how popular his music has been. And clearly George Strait’s biggest singles were all from his “The Road Less Traveled” album…even though Billboard lists them as being from “50 Numbers Ones”. Grr.

    Cyndi Thomson! “What I Really Meant to Say”! Woo!

  16. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Michael,
    You didn’t use the word “Should”, which is why I didn’t put it in quotes. But you did say:

    “…so I think men will always have an inherent advantage in the genre. And I like that.”

    Which implies that you think it’s fine…or that it even should be that way. Maybe I overstated with “should”, but saying “and I like that” expresses approval.

  17. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I think that radio back in 1993 was hesitant on playing “Independence Day” not just because of the violence, but because it was about an woman who decided she had enough abuse and decided to burn down the house with her husband inside.

    “Independence Day” was on Martina’s 1993 album but it didn’t become a single until 1994. Shortly after it was released but before it had gotten a lot of airplay, OJ Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend were found murdered. I think the unfortunate timing had a lot to do with radio’s reluctance to play it.

    I’ve never heard a version of “Papa Loves Mama” that I liked although I’ve heard versions of “Independence Day” minus the over-the-top “shrieking diva” performance, that I have liked …

    “Papa Loved Mama” is not a very good song and probably would not have been a hit for any other artist. Garth’s star power carried it to the top of the charts.

  18. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I like how several of the artist pictures on the Billboard site are incorrect. They’re so respectful to that Country & Western music, aren’t they?

    The entire Billboard website is a horrible mess. Very user unfriendly.

  19. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Radio can suck it.

    ditto, Dan.

    It’s so wierd how females are the top sellers, but are so rejected by radio. Its frustrating too!

  20. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    @Paul: In your opinion, is violence or abuse ever an acceptable topic for a country song, even if the subject is handled with care?

  21. Stephen (Mainstream)No Gravatar says:

    I know I’m not Paul, but I’d like to answer that yes, it is. Honestly I’d prefer the song about violence to be kind of raw as well because I see this genre as a means to express the realities of life. A good modern example is Reba’s “Maggie Creek Road.” Although the song is a tad ambiguous and lets listeners decide what went down twenty years ago to the mother in the story, and what the mother does to the boy who tried to rape her daughter, the song explicitly spells out what could happen. What I would give to have that released…

  22. KNo Gravatar says:

    Great topic.

    I generally think females have better voices and more interesting material. I think the mix of ladies with killer voices, songwriting and performing skills, and ladies with creative juices that have no end is awesome in country music right now.

    Country will gain more multi-talented artists in the next few decades, and I won’t be surprised if most of them are females.

    I can’t say that I think females will ever have the advantage in the industry, but I think that’s more the fault of radio and records execs, not the artists themselves. Country music is geared towards the female audience, so I can see how it would be harder for them to break through. I

    Interesting points about violence and gender bias here. I think there is somewhat of a double-standered in society in general. If a woman seeks revenge of a cheating man, she’s often commended. When a male seeks revenge, he’s labeled an ***.

    It’s the same with songs, too. Garth’s video for “The Thunder Roles” was banned from video networks, yet Reba’s “Fancy.” and “Does He Love You” was given no objection. Trace Adkins can get away with vulgur songs and videos like “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” and “Hot Mama” yet females can’t get away with that before being labeled a ****.

    I find it interesting how most males in country music gush over females in their songs, but many females have revenge songs or make them out to be cheating scumbags.

  23. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I generally think females have better voices and more interesting material. I think the mix of ladies with killer voices, songwriting and performing skills, and ladies with creative juices that have no end is awesome in country music right now.

    So who are all these females with killer voices and interesting material?

  24. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    So who are all these females with killer voices and interesting material?

    I’d be happy to find that combination from either gender these days in country music.

  25. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I’d be happy to find that combination from either gender these days in country music.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ll listen to males or females as long as their making good music. The lack of great music is the real problem with country radio these days, not the sex of the singers.

  26. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    The good thing is country radio is less of an obstacle to good music getting out there than it’s ever been.

  27. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Agreed.

  28. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Blake – I am not wild about violence in songs, but I’d much rather it be incidental to the plot (as in “El Paso” or “Miller’s Cave”) , threatened or promised rather than delivered (“Fist City” or “You Ain’t Woman Enough”) or perhaps comic in context.

    Needless to say, I don’t much care for the blood guts and gore that modern movies too graphically display. I’d much rather have the bloodshed be off-screen or intimated

  29. JCHNo Gravatar says:

    I’m glad that I lost my faith in country radio at the ripe old age of sixteen. It actually prevented me from expressing any form of shock/horror/disappointment in relation to anything regarding the statistics of the medium itself.

  30. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    “Maybe country radio would’ve played more women this decade if they had sold more records.”

    Say what you want about country radio’s gender bias, but it played the hell out of all of the albums by women in the top 10.

    I think too that at least 7 of the top 10 albums benefited from crossover success – an almost exclusively female phenomenon when it comes to country artists.

    And, of course, none of the above applies at all to “O Brother”.

  31. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    The women WERE the big sellers in the 00s. The Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift hold down 7 of the Top Ten albums (the other slots going to O Brother… and two Rascal Flatts albums). Gretchen Wilson even comes in at #11. Yet there’s only one song in the Top 20 by a female (Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” at #14. I’m not sure what the reason is for the discrepency. Maybe some crossover backlash?

  32. KNo Gravatar says:

    “I’d be happy to find that combination from either gender these days in country music.”

    I guess I meant that the individual talents of women in country tend to be stronger than the men, if that makes sense.

    Examples? Lambert (strong singer and songwriter)
    Underwood (one of the best singers in any genre)
    Swift (One of the most creative writers in country)

    I never totally agreed with the gender bias argument. How far can you really go
    with that before putting blame on the artist?

    I do think men had an impactg on the 200′s more so than the women. But Shania, Taylor Carrie, and the Chicks did well.

  33. KSNo Gravatar says:

    “Maybe country radio would’ve played more women this decade if they had sold more records.”

    You’re joking? That’s the opposite of how it works. Radio sells records. Many men were handed top 5 singles yet sold far LESS than some women who didn’t chart top 10. Take Chuck Wicks, Jason Michael Carroll, Bucky Covington and nearly all new male artists who made top 5 vs. Miranda Lambert and Kellie Pickler. Miranda and Kellie outsold them all by a long shot long before they had a top 10, proving they are better and deserved more airplay but radio didn’t give it to them because they play 80% males regardless of sales. In fact radio program directors have said they ignore sales. Your sentence should state “More women would have sold more records if country radio played their songs more.” They only give 2 women, Carrie and Taylor, as much airplay as the men and both are also played on pop radio so that’s why they sell more. If more women were played more on country and pop radio they would sell a lot more records. Reba has a #1 now but country radio couldn’t give her and Taylor a top 5 at the same time so Taylor didn’t make it for the first time in over 2 years. When was the last time you saw 2 or 3 solo females in the top 5 at the same time?

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