Country singer Kelsea Ballerini may have been singing about an ex in her new her song “Miss Me More” (the video just dropped this week), but her outright refusal to listen to the demands of a man and how he thinks she should look or behave is just as much, if not more, about the gender inequality in country music as it is about any relationship. Ballerini pulls no punches (well actually, she pulls quite a few) and makes it perfectly clear that she isn’t trying to live up to anyone’s expectations but her own. It seems only fitting that the title of the album is Unapologetically.
The music industry is male-dominated and country music is no exception; name a genre and there will undoubtedly be unrecognized women who deserve better. Radio time for women on country music channels has decreased in recent years, down from an already low 13% in 2016 to about 10% this year. The 2018 Country Music Awards have not nominated any women in the Entertainer of the Year category and only one for New Artist of the Year. This boys club has to go, and Ballerini is ready to join us with a sledgehammer to dismantle it.
In her music video for “Miss Me More,” Ballerini is in the throes of training for the fight of her life. She gets knocked down, but not for long. “I thought I'd miss you, but I miss me more,” she sings as she stares down the camera. In a classic metaphor, the real fight is with herself. It will only hold you back if you let it. She’s done sacrificing things she shouldn’t have to in order to win someone’s approval, an opinion she also holds for her career, too.
In an interview with The Independent, Ballerini shed some light on one of the many things female country artists get criticized over. It seems trivial, but even an artist’s influences or who they find inspiring can come under fire. Ballerini believes that will become a thing of the past. “Attitudes are changing, and radio’s been really good to me, Maren [Morris], RaeLynn, Lauren Alaina...this new class of women that I’m in. We all have influences that are outside of country and you can hear it,” she explained. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine a man getting much flack for that. If he did, it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence. He’d probably be praised for moving the genre forward in new and interesting ways.
While it is hard to walk away from a toxic relationship with one person, an entire industry represents a much more formidable summit. Artists such as Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have been using their influence to speak out against the marginalization of women in the genre, especially when it comes to radio, and giving opportunities to up-and-coming women to open for them on tour. Women in country music are committed to changing it for the better, even if the industry isn’t entirely on board yet.