Monday, 8 May 2017

Maren Morris & Jana Kramer put Country’s gender disparity back on the scrutiny map

Comments by Jana Kramer and Maren Morris cause Tomatogate to sprout again

Jana Kramer got people talking with an apparently well-meaning (if factually faulty) April 19 tweet in which she wrote:

A subsequent article on disputed her facts, pointing out that one of the two most recent No.1s prior to Kramer’s post was actually from another woman, Lauren Alaina.
RaeLynn’sLove Triangle,” which dropped in August 2016, peaked at No. 26 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart before being removed from the chart last month. The song was currently still on the Mediabase chart at No.28. According to Nielsen Music, “Love Triangle” has sold 153,088 units as of April 19.
On both the Billboard Country Airplay and Mediabase charts, the past two No.1 songs were Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled” and Jason Aldean’s “Any Ol’ Barstool.”
According to Nielsen, “Any Ol’ Barstool”—released in December 2016—had sold 147,892 units as of April 19, which is 5,196 units less than “Love Triangle.” Jana was correct in this instance.
However, “Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled”—released in July 2016—has sold 203,524 units as of April 19, which is 50,436 units more than “Love Triangle.” Jana was incorrect in this instance.

“Road Less Traveled” (Lauren Alaina): 203,524 units sold
“Love Triangle” (RaeLynn): 153,088 units sold
“Any Ol’ Barstool” (Jason Aldean): 147,892 units sold
Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” which has been No.1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for the last 10 weeks. According to Nielsen, “Body Like a Back Road” has sold 730,723 units as of April 19, which is 577,635 more units than “Love Triangle.”

A week later, actress Lena Dunham’s LennyLetter site posted an article penned by Maren Morris, who targeted what she views as limitations of the subject matter female country artists can cover in songs they hope will become hits, saying they have to be “down the middle and noncontroversial.”

Jana Kramer’s Billboard Country Airplay peak positions include:
Jana Kramer Single "Love" #32 Billboard Airplay Peak

2012: "Why Ya Wanna" #3
2012: "Whiskey" #25     
2015: "I Got the Boy" #6 Platinum
2016: "Circles" #55 peak

Janas management announced all of her shows for May and June have been cancelled, no reason given and that Jana is believed to have parted ways with Warner Music Nashville.

Maren Morris’s Billboard Country single peak positions include:
2016: "My Church" (released January 19, 2016) #5 Hot Country Songs, #9 Country Airplay RIAA: Platinum US Sales: 943,000 (at April 17, 2017)
The song won the award for Best Country Solo Performance and was nominated for Best Country Song at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards
2016: "80s Mercedes" (released June 27, 2016) #11 Hot Country Songs, #12 Country Airplay; RIAA: Gold US Sales: 236,000 (at Jan 23, 2017)
2017: "I Could Use a Love Song" (released March 27, 2017) #33 Hot Country Songs, #35 Country Airplay; US Sales 28,000 (at April 17, 2017)          

Maren’s "My Church" has become something of an anthem in the UK and was the featured songs at the Country To Country 2016 Festival in London.
One wonders why the Airplay monitored radio programmers did not add and play the track enough to at least make her last two singles top 5 if not take it to the top.

Compare Maren's singles to these #1 Billboard Country Airplay Singles in 2016.
Were they really so much better?!!:

Backroad Song - Granger Smith
Break On Me - Keith Urban
We Went - Randy Houser
I Like The Sound Of That - Rascal Flatts
Confession - Florida Georgia Line
Came Here To Forget - Blake Shelton
T-Shirt - Thomas Rhett
Huntin', Fishin' & Lovin' Every Day - Luke Bryan
Wasted Time - Keith Urban
Lights Came On - Jason Aldean
Record Year - Eric Church
Fix - Chris Lane
Head Over Boots - Jon Pardi
From The Ground Up - Dan + Shay
Make You Miss Me - Sam Hunt
American Country Love Song - Jake Owen
You Look Like I Need A Drink - Justin Moore
It Don't Hurt Like It Used To - Billy Currington
I Know Somebody - LoCash
Move - Luke Bryan
Middle Of A Memory - Cole Swindell
A Little More Summertime - Jason Aldean

Kelsea Ballerini and Carrie Underwood were the only Female Solo artists to land a #1 on Billboard Country Airplay Singles during 2016
March 05, 2016: Dibs - Kelsea Ballerini (Black River) 34 week climb to #1
March 26, 2016: Heartbeat - Carrie Underwood (Arista) 16 weeks climb to #1
July 30, 2016: Church Bells - Carrie Underwood (Arista) 16 weeks climb to #1
September 24, 2016: Peter Pan - Kelsea Ballerini (Black River) 26 weeks climb to #1

So far in 2017 just one female solo artist, Lauren Alaina, has landed a No.1
2017 #1s
April 22, 2017: Road Less Traveled - Lauren Alaina (Mercury) 34 weeks climb to #1

Solo Female #1s in 2017 include: “Wanna Be That Song” (Brett Eldredge), “Blue Ain't Your Color” (Keith Urban), “A Guy With A Girl” (Blake Shelton) , “Star Of The Show” (Thomas Rhett), “Seein' Red” (Dustin Lynch), “Dirt On My Boots” (Jon Pardi), “Fast” (Luke Bryan), “Any Ol' Barstool” (Jason Aldean) and “Body Like A Back Road” (Sam Hunt).

Sheryl Crow who has just released a new ROCK album titled Be Myself told Rollingstone in January 2017:  "I want to have an experience detached from anything in commerce," singer-songwriter says of moving away from country sound”  - taking her career in a radically different direction following the release of her debut country LP, Feels Like Home. Despite a relentless touring schedule and promotional campaign, the album didn't make much of an impression with country fans and no single placed higher than Number 72 on the Hot 100. "It was still a great experience and I learned a lot," said Crow. In April she told USA Today: “The country market is a lot different than I thought it would be,” she admitted. “This is not to slag country but their songs now are totally sexist. I’d fooled myself into thinking that my roots and my knowledge of country music were why I should be at country radio. And I was wrong.”

This past year was one of the most exhilarating and surprising of my life. My debut album went number one, I won my first Country Music Award, I played SNL, and I won a Grammy (OK, I'll stop sounding like a braggy douche now), all while being in a landscape where the girls in my format were referred to as "the tomatoes of a salad," meaning just an "accessory" and "don't overdo it by playing too many of them at your station." 

In 2017. Hard to believe, right?..I write about sex and the self-inflicting pain of being the asshole at the end of a long relationship, being young and drunk with your girlfriends, or just having a meaningless but fun (and sometimes necessary) fling. Things that don't always make me look like a puritan saint, but they're unflinchingly honest, and I couldn't write it down on paper or sing it unless I went through it personally.

Life. Life is what I write about at the end of it all. The frustration I've had with the perspective of women in country music (who, until recently, were severely lacking in numbers) is that you either have to sing about being scorned by a lover or sing about thinking a boy is cute and wanting him to notice you. That's about as edgy as you can get.
Maren Morris at the Grammys 2017
On top having to make songs that are down the middle and noncontroversial, there are the aesthetic pressures for a woman to be pretty and sexy but not sexual or have desires beyond winning a guy's affections. Don't be mistaken, I really do love where I am 99 percent of the time, but the other percent is me hitting a wall in certain interviews where the interviewer just wants to talk about some outfit I wore or my haircut.
I'm about to start writing for my sophomore album, which is exciting and extremely daunting because there's the looming aspect of the proverbial "sophomore slump." How can I build off the success of my last album but also reinvent my sound enough to keep myself intrigued creatively, along with keeping my fans, and, well, reinvigorating my genre? I've grown into the woman I am even more after stacking a decade's worth of bucket-list moments into one year. From a number one album and a sold-out tour to watching my first two singles die in the top ten, those experiences will all come out in the wash. I know that whatever songs do fall out in the writing room (and I just hope they're f**cking good), they will be the purest reflection of myself. A banjo or fiddle doesn't make a country song, it's the core-cutting truth that does, and I intend to explore it one day or beer at a time.

Despite those initiatives, the top 30 on the current Billboard Country Airplay chart (dated May 13, 2017) includes just five females:
one solo (Kelsea Ballerini) and three in duets with men (Maren Morris #18 "Craving You" with Thomas Rhett; Carrie Underwood #13 The Fighter with Keith Urban and Faith Hill #23 Speak To A Girl with Tim McGraw) and Lady Antebellum (a trio with one female member Hilliary Scott #17 You Look Good).
When the Academy of Country Music Awards nominees were announced in February, the industry was able to scrape together only four qualifying nominees in the New Female category on the second-round ballot.
By contrast, there were 13 qualifying New Male Vocalists vying for five spots.

10% of the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (dated May 13, 2017) are FEMALE SOLO singles
#3 YEAH BOY (Black River) Kelsea Ballerini
#35 I COULD USE A LOVE SONG (Columbia Nashville) Maren Morris
#38 TIN MAN (Vanner/RCA Nashville) Miranda Lambert
#40 EVERY LITTLE THING (Big Machine) Carly Pearce
#41 BACK TO GOD (Rockin’ R/Nash Icon/Valory) Reba McEntire & Lauren Daigle

Song Suffragettes founder Todd Cassetty, owner of Cassetty Entertainment, provided Billboard Country Update with a list of 20 female artist-songwriters that have scored publishing deals and six that have landed recording contracts since first performing on Song Suffragettes.
Still, says Cassetty, “From a macro perspective, things aren’t getting better” for women artists. “The dangerous part is there’s a false belief that it is because Maren and Kelsea got nominated for Grammys for best new artist. Everybody in town seems to be quick to pat themselves on the back because of Maren’s and Kelsea’s newish success, but the reality is when you look at the weekly radio chart, female-only music is only yielding 8 percent to 12% of the chart [on average]. I get frustrated because I hear a lot of people saying it’s getting better, but the numbers are still tragic.”

Some radio programmers are also frustrated by the gender imbalance. With fewer female artists coming their way from labels, they say radio simply has fewer opportunities to program women. Yet labels have seen female artist after female artist struggle at radio, so they’re signing and promoting accordingly.
“For every 10 male artists that show up for a radio tour, there is one woman,” says Sue Wilson, VP operations for Rubber City Radio Group.


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