2019 Country Music Awards: silently monumental and severely disappointing


CMA Awards [Free use]

Country Music Association (CMA) hosted their 53rd award show this past November 13, 2019. https://cmaworld.app.box.com/s/5cr9snm1ixnrpujkuzw6om4bryprgi9i

Violet Jira, Opinion Editor

Gone, it seems, are the days where successful country music was almost always the product of straight, white men exclusively. Never before has something that used to be so niche felt so mainstream. Country music seems to be everywhere, from yodel boy rising to fame out of the Walmart checkout line to openly gay, black rapper Lil Nas X taking the world by storm with his hit single “Old Town Road.” Because of this, I expected this year’s Country Music Awards to be groundbreaking and star-studded with firsts, and although it was, it somehow managed to not be at all.  

Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, and Dolly Parton hosted the awards show, taking the microphone from Brad Paisley who has hosted the show, alongside Underwood, for the past decade. Why? Because the 2019 CMA’s were dedicated to women in country music. 

The three women stuck to the script that is typical of a CMA opening monologue, keeping their dialogue light-hearted and their humor gently inappropriate. However, it was disappointing that three of the most influential women in country music had nothing to say of substance at an awards night dedicated to women, especially when women in their field are notoriously excluded. 

Though they nodded a hat to women saying that they were up there for all the girls watching at home, clearly it wasn’t enough as most news outlets who chose to cover the trio’s opening monologue led with Carrie Underwood’s joke about Dolly Parton’s ‘rack,’–not with the lackluster nod to women the three gave at the end of their monologue. 

From afar, the night was indeed studded with firsts. Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus were awarded Best Country Music Event for the smash hit song, “Old Town Road (Remix),” making Lil Nas X the first openly LGBTQ+ black artist to receive a CMA. Fiddler Jenee Fleenor took home Musician of the Year, making her not only the first woman to ever be nominated but the first woman to win. Both of these wins were monumental, but neither of them received any stage time at the main televised award ceremony. 

Additionally, Entertainer of the Year–one of the most prestigious awards of the show–was awarded for the third time in four years to Garth Brooks, making this his seventh time winning this award. Nominees were Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban. Fans and viewers were disappointed and with reason. Eric Church had a monumental year, and Carrie Underwood had beaucoups of support, being the only female nominated for the award on a night dedicated to women. 

This disappointment was underscored later in the night when Carrie Underwood delivered a dazzling Michael Jackson themed performance of “Drinking Alone” that blew the roof off of the auditorium. It isn’t like Garth Brooks didn’t deserve the award; he’s one of the most successful country music artist of the decade, but so is Carrie Underwood and just about every other person nominated. It’s like seeing the Patriots at the Super Bowl every year or the Warriors in the NBA finals. Yes, they earned it, but dear God, could we take a moment and honor someone else, please? The Super Bowl can be good, amazing even, without the Patriots on the scoreboard in the same way country music will survive if Carrie Underwood is honored for her musical achievement and given an award she’s just as deserving of as Garth Brooks is. The fact that the night was dedicated to women only added insult to injury. 

The evening was not without its merits. Chris Stapleton and P!nk delivered a powerful performance of “Love Me Anyway.” Luke Combs, who was awarded New Artist of the Year in 2018, shook off his freshman title to be awarded Best Male Vocalist and Best Song for his chart-topping song, “Beautiful Crazy.” Kacey Musgraves also received multiple awards, including Best Female Vocalist and Best Music video for her song “Rainbow.”

This award show was one of the most groundbreaking in history. There were numerous firsts, and yet none of them, as important as they were, were put onto a pedestal that many people felt to be sufficient. Country music is more diverse now than it has ever been, and it is that diversity that people are drawn to. In fact, when I asked my fellow students their thoughts on the CMAs they told me they enjoyed Beyonce’s performance, not realizing that had happened over three years ago. 

If country music ever wants to achieve the popularity of pop and rap music’s most popular songs, they must embrace the diversity that drives those other two genres. Otherwise, it will continue to be defined by its handful of played-out, mainstream hits and never be thought of as what it is: a beautiful, soulful form of musical expression that all people can produce and enjoy.