For its annual Artists of the Year awards, Country Music Television highlighted its focus exclusively on women this year, and the performances of the seven winners on Wednesday night, including Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini, did not They left no one questioning the level of talent among women in country music today.
In fact, after an evening full of such amazing performances, there was only one question left: why are there no more women on rural radio?
Undoubtedly, there is a "women's problem" on radio waves, and CMT chose to boldly show the antidote in its live broadcast from the Nashville Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
As Underwood said when he accepted his award at the end of the night, "I definitely want to tell all the incredible, amazing and talented women who have been on this stage tonight, they are not here because they are women." You are here because you are very good. "
But as exciting as the performances were, the show turned out to be both a protest and an impatient plea for parity as a celebration of talent.
"I just want to tell CMT, thanks for being the one who changed the conversation in an action tonight," Ballerini said in his acceptance.
When Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town, who received it along with her bandmate Kimberly Schlapman, accepted her award, she pulled out her cell phone. "It seems rude," he told the audience, "but it's not going to be."
Then he read the names of more than 30 young recording artists, most of whom have not yet deciphered the country's charts. They were all there, sitting in silent testimony on both sides of the stage. Some were wiping away their tears when Fairchild and Schlapman stopped to shake some of their hands when the two left the stage.
The videotaped statements of the recipients, presented in an interlude during the night, aimed directly at the radio stations.
"I do not know why women do not play on the country's radio," Lambert said.
"They're saying that women do not want to listen to women," Morris added. "I'll have to call BS, because I grew up listening to women. That's why I'm here today. "
"It's time," interjected Ballerini, waving an imaginary wand. "Change of trend".
Even the performances were subversive at times. In his mix of hits from some of the country's great women, Underwood took an unmistakably shrewd turn to Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" tradition, emphasizing the word "alone" in the lyrics: "After all, it's just a man. "
Morris and the folk-rocker Brandi Carlile made their way through "Natural Woman" in homage to the late Aretha Franklin, but when singing them, they turned the sensual lyrics of Carole King into a testimony of the power of brotherhood.
Do not think that the message of the night did not come home, particularly to the men who adorned the stage. Everyone was there to support the women in the spoken praise or in the song.
Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, from Lady A, were amazed when their bandmate Hillary Scott rose up with pop artist Tori Kelly, showing Lady A's "American Honey" success and Kelly's blockbuster "Never Alone." . Franklin, joined the two women at the end to continue in an euphoric "Oh, happy day."
"I really hope that Hillary does not start a group called Lady and Lady because that was great," Charles Kelley said before he and Haywood handed Scott his prize. "We're so blessed to be in this band with you, we love you so much, I mean, that was just a test there, you're a bad ass."
Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet of Little Big Town expressed similar admiration after Fairchild and Schlapman multiplied their vocal power with the power of Motown Gladys Knight. Together, the three women found resilience in two classic songs of despair, "I can not make you love me" and "Help me to spend the night".
"Thanks to these two incredible women, Kimberly and Jimi's wife, Karen, we have been able to live together making music," Sweet said in her introduction, acknowledging the fact that Schlapman and Fairchild were the founders of the group.
"I think it's a blessing to be able to share the stage every night and make music with these two smart, strong and beautiful women," Westbrook added.
Ballerini and his 27-time Grammy-winning duo Alison Krauss exerted their own power over the classic "Phantasm in this House" by Krauss, their voices mingling in unsettling harmony.
RELATED VIDEO: Kelsea Ballerini opens on her new single "Sassy" "Miss Me More"
In accepting her award, Ballerini recognized the support she received from other women in launching her career, from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Reba McEntire and "Alison-fucking-Krauss".
"I think what I've learned from that is how important it is to elevate each other, support each other and share our stage, no matter how big or small," Ballerini said.
Unfortunately, the only disappointment of the night was the absence of the country's legend, Loretta Lynn, who received the CMT Artist of a Lifetime Award. The 86-year-old icon remains in fragile health after suffering a stroke and fractured his hip in the past 18 months, but the strength of his career still remained overnight.
RELATED: Loretta Lynn, 86, opens up about her stroke and fall: "I was not going to let her stop me"
"He opened the way and showed everyone how it's done," said longtime fan Miranda Lambert in her introduction to Lynn's musical tribute, which featured Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow and Dierks Bentley. "She showed us how to pursue our dreams and tell our minds."
It was fitting that Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar for best actress playing Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter," will be presented to her friend and idol to accept the award.
"I loved playing Loretta in Daughter of the coal miner"Said Spacek." I loved being her. I had the band. I had the bus. I had the clothes. But I think we can all agree that there is only one Loretta Lynn. "
Spacek said he had visited Lynn earlier that day "and I was very excited about this award."
"From the moment we met, she's been my cheerleader," an emotional Spacek stopped to recover, "my sister, my best friend, and that's the way it is, almost 40 years later." "It's an honor for me to accept your award."
Those words made the audience stand up for a sustained ovation, but Spacek was not finished yet.
"Well done, Loretta, well done," he added, before returning to the theme of the evening: "I think Loretta said it best," It's about the father's time that we recognized women. "