As one of the judges (and executive producers) of Real Country, Shania Twain is committed to bringing “diversity” to the new TV talent competition. Does that mean we’ll see members of the LGBT community and people of color? Hmm, perhaps, though Twain’s take on the term applies to music—as in different facets of the genre. “I’m looking for diversity, anybody who can sing their truth, who is a sincere artist,” she told Rolling Stone.
Twain is making sure an underrepresented minority gets a fair shake on her show: women.
That said, Twain—who’s flanked on the Real Country panel by Travis Tritt and Jake Owen—is making sure that one underrepresented minority does get a fair shake on the show: women. Gals get way less country radio airplay than their male counterparts; in fact, the number of purely female songs played on country stations dropped by 2.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, from 13 percent to 10.4 percent, according to Country Aircheck, an industry trade publication.
Picking up the Torch
It may seem like a small dip, but 2017 proved to have the lowest percentage of female voices on country radio since 1994. And this comes a few years after the country music industry’s “Tomatogate” embarrassment, so called because radio consultant Keith Hill, in likening the genre to a salad, said, “The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton; the tomatoes … are the females.” He also noted that most country radio fans are women, and women “like male artists.”
2017 had the lowest percentage of female voices on country radio since 1994.
Female stars hooted and hollered—Martina McBride even put out “Tomato Lover” T-shirts—but no progress was made, and today you’ll still only hear about one song by a woman for every nine by a man. Fortunately, Twain has picked up the torch, and of the 21 hopefuls on Real Country, nine are women.
“I’m worried about the upcoming girls who are gonna get discouraged and say, ‘There’s no room for us in Nashville,’” Twain says. So you’ll see her counseling persistence on the show, telling one contestant: “There are 10 guys in front of you, and to break in you have to have bigger balls.”
Perhaps one day it will just be about bigger talent.