A Grammy Awards selection committee that has to make tough decisions about which albums count as "country" in the ever-changing world of pop music has decided that Kacey Musgraves' latest album, Star-Crossed, should not be considered best country The album should come into question. The awards come on January 31, 2022. And everyone who has actually heard the album and viewed it objectively has to agree.
The category descriptions that the Grammy Awards publish each year to determine where certain albums should be considered state from the start that the award is "For albums with at least 51% new country song playing time." Even most die-hard Kacey Musgraves fans would admit that Star-Crossed wouldn't qualify. This is not a criticism of Kacey Musgraves or her music. It's just a call to the genre. And in this case it was the right one.
Nonetheless, Universal Music Group President Cindy Mabe plays the inclusivity card in Nashville, quoting Morgan Wallen of all people in a strongly worded letter to Harvey Mason, CEO of the Recording Academy, which hopefully leaked to friends of the label at Billboard's pressure on the Grammy Exercise Awards.
"This country committee decision not to include 'Star-Crossed' in the country album category is very inconsistent and calls into question the other agendas that were part of that decision," says Mabe. “As a major country music stakeholder, I really want to outline what's going on in our genre right now and help you and the Grammys fully understand the importance of Kacey Musgraves to country music and why this decision is so much more than is just an entry point. for an award ceremony. Taking them out of the country category harms a format that has to contend with change and inclusiveness as a whole.
Cindy Mabe continues: “The numbers speak and are public knowledge, with women making up only 10 percent of all country airplays. This year alone, country music was caught up in the controversy over one of the biggest artists of the format, Morgan Wallen, who used a racial slur to win fans and audiences. THAT'S NOT ALL WE ARE. Beneath the surface are the artists who change everything, and they are guided by the example of Kacey Musgraves. "
But there are several problems with Cindy Mabe's claims, most notably that none of this prevents star-crossing from being country, and Cindy Mabe and UMG Nashville knew that from the start. On April 20, it was announced by UMG Nashville that they had concluded a unique label partnership with the decidedly non-country imprint of Interscope Records to promote and release the Star-Crossed album. Why? Because even according to UMG Nashville's internal assessments, Star-Crossed didn't fit well enough into the country world to be promoted by the label, so they needed a partner outside of the genre to release the album.
At the time, Cindy Mabe herself said: “Kacey's music never had limits. Her clever songwriting, her skillful storytelling, her vulnerable and genuine emotional performance and her general "take me or leave me" spirit have translated through genre, time, space and culture. When we started building their new music it made sense to push the boundaries again to reach more fans around the world while continuing to serve the fans who have been here from the start. "
At that moment we knew that star-crossed was unlikely to be a country record. When it was released on September 10th, this suspicion was confirmed. Again, this is not a call if we want Kacey Musgraves to be included in the country format. It's about whether the music on Star-Crossed is objectively more country than any other genre. A committee made up of label reps, artists, journalists and other professionals in the country music industry said this was not the case.
Cindy Mabe also cited how Kacey's previous albums were included in country categories and, oddly enough, "Sonically it has more country instrumentation than Golden Hour, which was named Country Album of the Year in 2019."
That's just basically wrong. First, the Grammy Screening Committees are specifically asked not to consider an artist's previous work in making decisions about current albums or songs to be considered for this year's awards show. It does not matter whether earlier Musgraves works were considered country. Steel guitarists Russ Pahl, Justin Schipper and Dan Dugmore also performed at Golden Hour. Star-Crossed doesn't contain a steel guitar at all. Golden Hour also features more banjo and violin than Star-Crossed, while Star-Crossed also gives more people for "synthesizer" and "drum programming" in the liner notes.
But the most damaging and misleading part of Cindy Mabe's letter to the Grammy Awards was her attempt to undermine the credibility of the decision by highlighting inclusion and diversity in country music. This decision has nothing to do with Morgan Wallen. This is simply an attempt to make the Grammy's decision and capitalize on current events. One of the most powerful figures in country music as President of UMG Nashville, Cindy Mabe was one of the people who led the current regime in which women are so poorly represented in country music. In 2019, Cindy Mabe was named Billboard Nashville Power Player Executive of the Year.
While it heavily promoted the radio singles of artists like Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and Sam Hunt, UMG Nashville has consistently shown poor support behind singles by women like Kacey Musgraves. In February 2018, Saving wrote Country Music an open letter to UMG Nashville and Cindy Mabe asks why the label isn't promoting Kacey's single "Space Cowboy". Similar to previous Kacey Musgraves singles, the label released the song in the wilds, but put little or no promotion for it on country radio. This is one of the reasons Kacey never had a hit single on country radio format, despite the strong critical acclaim of her career.
As a major country radio personality, Bobby Bones said recently, “Here's the truth about # 1 songs: It's politics. They exchange them like baseball cards. One record label will talk to another record label and say, “OK, I'll give you this # 1 that day; They give me number 1 that day. ’“ But UMG Nashville didn't go for Kacey Musgraves singles, much like their male counterparts.
Cindy Mabe is certainly right that country music continues to address issues of inclusivity, especially for women. That's why it was such a disappointment for many country fans when Kacey Musgraves released such a decidedly pop album.
Like Saving Country Music in His Star-Crossed Review:
What the release of 'Star-Crossed' means is that once again a woman in country music who has amassed critical awards and media attention hardware (aside from the radio) is now moving on with the genre having nothing to show for the investment Has. Yes, country music has a serious concern about supporting and developing women. But retention is perhaps the biggest concern, though it's the artist's fault rather than the genre's fault.
There have been a total of seven CMA wins and a total of 21 CMA nominations from Kacey Musgraves over the course of her country career, not to mention four ACMs and 16 nominations there and six Grammy Award wins. That's a lot of hardware for an artist who just released a pop record.
Much like Taylor Swift, once she reached a certain level of proficiency, Kacey moved on, and country music has nothing to boast other than a guarantee of more thinking pieces wondering where all the women in country are. Can't say Kacey got chased off regardless of the radio, which she's never really courted in recent years. 46 nominations and 17 wins over a period of eight years is an incredible commitment on the part of country music. "Golden Hour" won the super fecta of awards – CMA, ACM and Grammy for best album and the Grammy for all genre album of the year.
But questioning a Kacey Musgraves pop album for a country music award is unfair to real country artists like Carly Pearce and Lainey Wilson, who have both released strong country records that may be faded out when pop music goes to country -Categories may compete. Likewise black country artists like Chapel Hart. Kacey Musgraves has the right to make any type of record she wants. It's not about limiting your creativity. But country albums should be allowed to compete with other country albums, not albums that are decidedly outside the sonic parameters of country music.
Kacey Musgraves and Star-Crossed will continue to be eligible for awards in the Pop and All-Genre Grammy categories such as Album of the Year Musgraves won for Golden Hour. And sure, maybe their chances of competing with bigger pop titles will be less. But that's the risk you take if you decide to switch from country to pop. Suddenly you become a little fish in a big sea. On the other hand, Kacey competed in this world in 2018 and won.
Cindy Mabe is right here too. It is unfortunate that Kacey Musgraves' latest album is not considered best country album at the Grammy Awards. But that's not the Grammys' fault. That's because of Kacey's creative choices, perhaps partly inspired by UMG Nashville's years of under-advertising on country radio.
The Grammy Awards are not responsible for the fact that Star-Crossed was not considered Best Country Album. Kacey Musgraves and UMG are Nashville.