CMA nominations: Not so ‘Swift’?

Brooks & Dunn have a nifty hit single out now called “Put a Girl in it,” and I only wish the country music industry would take that advice more often. I thought about it as the nominees for the 42nd annual CMA Awards were announced today. Country insiders often bemoan the fact that female artists seem to generally have a tougher time of it at radio than male artists do, or that they at least seem to have fewer slots open to them. That is perennially reflected in the nominations for the CMAs’ highly coveted Entertainer of the Year prize. How long has it been since a woman was even nominated in the category? Here’s a clue: The last female nominee was the then-superstar/now-pariah Dixie Chicks! (You can find a historical list of nominees dating back to 1967 here.) So I was stunned and amazed today when into this reliably vagina-free zone walked Sugarland, who would initially seem, on the face of it, to be half-ineligible. It is no secret by now that the duo are an EW-Approved ™ Country Act (their biggest fan, Whitney Pastorek, found new ways to advocate Sugarland in this very space just yesterday), and thus no surprise that we would endorse this encouraging development on all sorts of levels. Go, “Stay"…etc.

Yet you know I wouldn’t be posting if I hadn’t found some reason to carp, and so here we go: Where is Taylor Swift? If you are an average reader or fan, you are echoing me at this moment and saying, “Yeah, where is Taylor Swift?” If you are in any way connected with the country music industry, you are saying, “Willman, we knew you were an imbecile, but must you so flagrantly trumpet your complete and utter ignorance of the way the world works?” So let me assure you that I had every understanding going in that Swift’s chances of picking up an Entertainer of the Year nomination were roughly less than zero. The category really doesn’t have anything to do with who had a particularly artistic year; it’s largely an ongoing Career Achievement award for performers who are still active superstars. You have to “earn” your way into the category through years of headlining amphitheaters and arenas — I get that, even if I don’t agree with it. And yet, year after year, when Kenny Chesney wins the award (as he will again this time), he comes back to the press room afterward and talks about how good it feels to get the trophy that the industry bestows upon the guy who has been the best or most visible ambassador of country music to the outside world. If that’s really the standard, then, with all due respect to Chesney’s unparalleled live drawing power, wasn’t Swift undeniably country’s Ambassador of the Year in 2008?

Brooks & Dunn have a nifty hit single out now called “Put a Girl in it,” and I only wish the country music industry would take that advice more often.

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