Why the Grammys care if Kacey Musgraves is country (and why you're too smart to)

10/14/2021 3:20:00 AM

When the Grammys declared Kacey Musgraves' 'Star-Crossed' not country enough for best country album, they started a firestorm about genre and authenticity.

The Recording Academy found itself in hot water this week when word got out that the industry group had barred Kacey Musgraves’ “Star-Crossed” from consideration in the country album category at the 64th Grammy Awards.

When the Grammys declared Kacey Musgraves' 'Star-Crossed' not country enough for best country album, they started a firestorm about genre and authenticity.

Beyond whatever machinations were involved, the academy’s call regarding the pop-leaning “Star-Crossed” raises larger, more complicated questions about how genres are policed — and by whom — at a moment when many of the old lines have blurred. (An academy spokesperson didn’t respond to an email asking whether the committee’s decision was final. First-round Grammy voting is due to begin Oct. 22.)

In her letter, Mabe points out that Musgraves made “Star-Crossed” with the same creative crew that made 2018’s “Golden Hour,” which won Grammys for country album, country song and country solo performance in addition to the overall album of the year award. “Sonically, it’s got more country instrumentation than ‘Golden Hour,’” she adds of the more recent LP — a subjective characterization, for sure, but a suitable one for the academy’s intrinsically subjective process.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Steve Jordan on saying goodbye to Charlie Watts, filling a legend’s drum seat and why it was ‘the right decision to keep going.Variety , the decision to make the album ineligible was made last week during the Academy’s annual screening committee meeting.Her alleged exclusion from the category came to light after a letter the president of her label, Cindy Mabe of Universal Music Group Nashville, wrote to the Recoding Academy protesting their decision hit the press.Photo: Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images In 2019, the sun set on Kacey Musgraves’s pop-country opus Golden Hour when it won Album of the Year at the Grammys, becoming the first country album to earn the top prize since Taylor Swift’s Fearless in 2010.

’ Beyond whatever machinations were involved, the academy’s call regarding the pop-leaning “ Star-Crossed ” raises larger, more complicated questions about how genres are policed — and by whom — at a moment when many of the old lines have blurred. (An academy spokesperson didn’t respond to an email asking whether the committee’s decision was final. (Though it will not be eligible to compete in the country categories, the singer is still welcome to submit star-crossed in other genre-nonspecific categories. First-round Grammy voting is due to begin Oct." She also pointed out that diversifying the country music genre and representing female voices were crucial with"women making up only 10 percent of all country airplay. 22. Cindy Mabe, the president of Universal Music Group Nashville (the label that has released all of Musgraves’ previous studio albums), has stepped up to protest the ruling.) In her letter, Mabe points out that Musgraves made “Star-Crossed” with the same creative crew that made 2018’s “ Golden Hour, ” which won Grammys for country album, country song and country solo performance in addition to the overall album of the year award. To be eligible in a genre category at the Grammys, at least 51 percent of the songs on an album must fall into it.

“Sonically, it’s got more country instrumentation than ‘Golden Hour,’” she adds of the more recent LP — a subjective characterization, for sure, but a suitable one for the academy’s intrinsically subjective process. According to Mabe, this recent decision has larger ramifications for both the ceremony itself and for “a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall."THIS IS NOT ALL THAT WE ARE. According to the group’s rulebook, the Grammys’ country categories are open to “recordings that utilize a stylistic intention, song structure, lyrical content and/or musical presentation to create a sensibility that reflects the broad spectrum of country music style and culture.” Recording Academy chief Harvey Mason, Jr. For a recent example, the UMG president points to this year’s controversy regarding Morgan Wallen, a chart-smashing country artist who rightfully came under fire after. at the 63rd Grammy Awards in March. "The idea that a handful of people including competitors, who would benefit from Kacey not being in the country category, are deciding what is country only exacerbates the problem," Mabe wrote. (Jay L. 1 on Top Country Albums upon its release.

Clendenin/Los Angeles Times) Yet Mabe also frames the issue in moral terms, telling Mason that removing “Star-Crossed” from the country album category “actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity.” Her argument is that country music needs artists such as Musgraves, an outspoken woman with progressive social views, as a kind of counterweight to the likes of Morgan Wallen , who became a hero to the anti-cancel-culture brigade after he was caught on video using the N-word early this year. I'm sad for fans of our music and the ramifications of how we'll continue to define success in country music. “THIS IS NOT ALL THAT WE ARE,” Mabe writes, referring to Wallen and the fans who pushed his music to new commercial heights even as some in the industry sought to deplatform him. But does country music actually want Kacey Musgraves? As an institution, the genre is shaped to a large degree by country radio, which historically has shown little interest in Musgraves’ music. (Her highest-charting song on Billboard’s country airplay chart is still her debut single, “Merry Go ’Round,” which peaked at No. So far, the Recording Academy has not commented on the matter.” She went on to emphasize Musgraves’s importance to the country genre as a progressive woman.

10 in 2013.) Mabe says that SiriusXM’s the Highway channel is playing “Star-Crossed” and that streaming platforms classified the album as country. × But that’s a bit like claiming that a new potato chip is beloved by America because it sells like crazy at Whole Foods. Grammy committee members’ rejection of Musgraves’ new music, which chronicles the end of the brief marriage she sang about beginning on “Golden Hour,” may be a response to its rollout. With splashy performances on “Saturday Night Live” and MTV’s Video Music Awards and an arty short film à la Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” “Star-Crossed” arrived much more like a pop record — or a Taylor Swift project — than a country release, which likely led more provincial Nashville types to conclude it wasn’t meant for them.

After all, appearances matter deeply in country music: Think of the academy reportedly rejecting Beyoncé’s “ .