It’s an amazing time to be writing about country music. Like it or not, the current political turmoil has people across America discussing the values of our society and questioning our nation’s cultural, economic and social institutions. Country music positions itself as the most American of genres (and whether or not that’s the case is a different article.)
So it’s no surprise that, in the midst of other discussions about American identity, the structure of the country music industry and the art it produces has also come under question. With the Internet disrupting radio’s reach, artists can be more outspoken than ever while gathering large followings and operating outside of the confines of the industry. Artists like Kari Arnett are free to make big statements with songs like her debut single, “Only a Woman.”
To anyone who cares about sexism in country radio (which should be you, dear reader), the last few weeks of the country radio world have been something of a whirlwind. The Twitter account WOMAN Nashville has helped to organize song request drives to boost the numbers of women in rotation in country music’s largest radio markets. Margo Price and Brandi Carlile have openly criticized sexism on music festival lineups (an important part of the business end of music now that musicians earn so little from streaming services.) Carlile even announced a women-only music festival. On Monday, Kacey Musgraves spoke openly with Reese Witherspoon about the challenges she’s faced within the country music industry. Add to that is Marissa R. Moss’s important article about sexual harassment and assault in the country music industry, and it’s clear that it’s time for a reckoning.
Enter Kari Arnett. Arnett is readying her debut album and is about to make the jump from Minneapolis to Nashville to see it through. She is not here to pull punches. The first few notes of the bass line on “Only A Woman” will put you on notice. This is not an ingenue’s torch song. This is a Spaghetti Western showdown that’s tagging along to a protest. Arnett rails against society’s double standards and the music industry’s condescension to women.
Arnett writes, “This song is about being a woman in the music industry in a male-dominated climate. I think it’s super relevant to the current music culture as far as the lack of women and diversity in festival lineups and radio and being told to keep silent in the face of adversity – due to being labeled ‘difficult’ or “hard to work with.’ I wrote it out of frustration and after having many conversations with women in the industry, telling me they are going through the same things and seeing all the lack of women on lineups this year and on radio, this song was an easy write.”
Arnett’s debut album, When the Dust Settles, will be out on Sept. 20. Nashville, you’d better get your act together by then.