19th Annual Country Music Critics Poll Results

Nashville Scene has published its 19th Annual Country Music Critics Poll.  The results skewed heavily in the direction of Country Universe favorites, with the rankings dominated by Kacey Musgraves, Pistol Annies, and Ashley McBryde.

Of the 98 country music critics polled for this year’s list, three are Country Universe writers:  Kevin John Coyne, Sam Gazdziak, and Jonathan Keefe.  In addition, Gazdziak submitted comments, two of which were showcased in the newsweekly:

Qualifications for a woman to be played on the radio: 1) Must not be too country or too pop. 2) Must not say or tweet anything controversial or political. 3)  Must personally visit every country station in the nation and put up with clumsy flirting attempts by creepy morning-show DJs. 4) Must not release a single at the same time that any other female singer is releasing a single. 5) Must be blond. Qualifications for a man to be played on the radio: 1) Must have a penis. 2) Must have a pulse. 3) Pulse is optional. —Sam Gazdziak

I don’t know how to fix radio when it’s pretty clear that radio doesn’t think it’s broken. But if you are involved in radio and believe with your heart that the reason women aren’t played on country radio is because they aren’t making enough good music, please leave radio immediately. Harsh, but fair. If you can listen to singles from Maddie & Tae, Runaway June, Maggie Rose, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Pistol Annies, etc., and still say, “Yeah, but that Mitchell Tenpenny song is so much better,” then you’re in the wrong profession. —Sam Gazdziak

I’m on board with Sam’s diagnosis and proposed cure for country radio’s ailments. How about you?


  1. I am not sure that sexism is the only problem with country radio. I think ageism is at least as big a problem. Older artists continue to have problems getting airplay. Some of the best music of Gorge Strait’s career occurred during the last five years, but you never heard it on radio

    The quality of the music is also a problem – there is a lot of garbage getting airplay, mostly by male artists, but also some a significant amount by female artists. Plus a lot of it shows very little country influence at all

  2. I think another element involved in this lack of women on country radio is that female artists, both singers and/or songwriters alike, tend to sing or write about things that cut close to the heart of the common person, to the heart of the human experience. This is what great music, country and otherwise, used to be about; but ever since Bro-Country reared its ugly women-objectifying head in 2012-2013, that has all but disappeared from country radio, and it has also led to a lot of really great female artists not being able to get all but the barest minimum of airplay, and not always with their best stuff.

  3. Great comments by Sam.
    I’m happy to see the current crop of country ladies doing so well but have to admit that the 90’s country ladies are still my favorites.

  4. There is some great music being made by female artists (I quite liked the new Pistol Annies album) but by what standard (real or imagined) is Kasey Musgraves’ “High Horse” country ? I could hear the song fitting into an 80s pop station format along with Rick Astley and Katrina & The Waves

  5. Yes, Sir, Jason!

    As for older people getting radio play, I agree that it’s also a problem, but you’ll still hear more older artists than you’ll hear women on top forty. For instance, your example of George Strait had 2 number one songs when he was 59.

  6. True but George is now 66 (he is one month younger than I am), both of those #1s were somewhat fudged and virtually nothing since then has gotten the airplay it deserved

  7. Were those two Number ones fudged? I only remember the campaign for the third single to go Number one so that he could have his 60th number one while he was 60.

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