Country music ‘moving in right direction’ with inclusivity, Keith Urban says

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Mike Stunson
·2 min read
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Ahead of this weekend’s Academy of Country Music Awards, Keith Urban said the genre is beginning to show signs of improving its inclusivity.

Urban is hosting this year’s award show with Mickey Guyton, a Black country musician who has risen in stardom in recent years.

Asked Thursday by Ellen Degeneres on “The Ellen Show” if country music is becoming more welcoming to artists of different backgrounds, Urban said “it’s on the right track.”

“I mean, there’s always work to do, and there’s always improvement,” Urban said. “But we’re definitely moving in the right direction, finally.”

Guyton was nominated for New Female Artist of the Year, with the ACM having already announced Gabby Barrett as the winner in the category. Earlier this year, Guyton became the first Black solo female musician to receive a Grammy nomination in a country category for her song “Black Like Me.”

The academy has already handed out awards to some people of color.

Kane Brown won the Video of the Year award for “Worldwide Beautiful” and Jimmie Allen received the honor for New Male Artist of the Year. The singers became the first Black individuals to win the respective awards, Taste of Country reported.

Brown is also nominated for Album of the Year for “Mixtape Vol. 1.”

Five Black artists — Brown, Guyton, CeCe Winans, and duo Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount of The War and Treaty — will perform at Sunday’s award show, according to Billboard.

However, people of color remain underrepresented on country music radio, according to a new study. BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) artists accounted for about 3.7% of songs played on country music radio between 2014 and 2020, according to a study by Dr. Jada Watson on Song Data.

Of the 2.3% of airplay that BIPOC artists received from 2002 to 2020, 95.7% were sung by men.

“Guyton has received no support from country format radio,” Watson wrote. “The historic underrepresentation of BIPOC women in this industry doesn’t just impact representation in the country industry, but it also radiates into the broader industry, which then impacts public perception of what it means to be “country”.

One notable exclusion from the ACM Awards is Morgan Wallen, who in February was heard saying a racial slur in a video shared by TMZ. During the fallout, the Academy of Country Music made the decision to end Wallen’s potential involvement and eligibility in the award show.

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