Country is more than just a genre of music. It’s a lifestyle, a state of mind — and a dramedy with a serious cast (Nashville wasn’t just a television show!). Top billing goes to power couple Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman who are using their royalty status to shine a much-needed light on the women in country music. That’s right, the first couple of country music is proudly flying their feminist flag, and people have noticed. Let’s examine the evidence.
In one whirlwind weekend, Urban and Kidman shouted out a who’s who of women in country. Kidman, like many of us, recently enjoyed a stop on Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour in Nashville, TN. She posed with Swift, who happens to be a former country music star. A day later, Urban shared a stage with Carrie Underwood, who wrote on Instagram, “Will it ever suck getting to sing with @keithurban??? No.” Kidman and Urban also posed for a photo with Kelsea Ballerini, a legend in her own right and Urban’s opening act on his current tour. And last year, Urban released a song called “Female,” his well-meaning attempt to shed light on on the #MeToo movement in a world where it has largely been ignored.
Urban and Kidman are flexing their power where it matters. Country music isn’t immune to the misogyny and sexism that plague much of the music industry; though some inroads are being made. And they have a good track record: Kidman has also been working to correct these disparities in the entertainment industry as a visible member of the Time’s Up initiative and the #MeToo movement. Along with Reese Witherspoon (who came out to support Urban at his Nashville show this week), Kidman co-produced the HBO adaptation of Big Little Lies, which wasn’t just a smashing success — it was proof that TV audiences are hungry for authentic stories about women, by women. Country music fans are no different.
A country song is meant to be a narrative — and these days, women’s stories are breaking records. Country would be greatly enriched by highlighting women’s stories from their point of view. Urban and Kidman are working to normalize greater gender equity music, a genre which is particularly in need of a conversation about representation. By propping up the hardworking women in their community, Urban and Kidman aren’t ahead of the curve — they’re widening the curve to include the work of the female musicians who’ve always been there, strumming on their guitars.