Will the Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert Divorce End Their Monopoly on Mainstream Awards?

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Blake Shelton proposed to Miranda Lambert in the woods near their home in Tishomingo, Oklahoma in 2010 after the country music power couple had been dating for some time before. Since then there hasn’t been one single winner of either the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year award or Female Vocalist of the Year award not named Blake Shelton or Miranda Lambert. Five years in a row now, Miranda and Blake have both walked away with two of country music’s top prizes, regardless if it was a big year or not for either in album sales, touring, or critical acclaim. It is the only run of awards show success of its kind in the history of country music.

On the ACM Awards side, the story is very similar. Miranda Lambert has won Top Female Vocalist of the Year honors every year since 2009—seven years in a row. Blake Shelton—the regular ACM Awards host, has been nominated every year since the couple got together, and won the Top Male Vocalist of the Year in 2011.

On Monday (7-20) it was announced that after four years of marriage and endless tabloid stories about the couple’s martial troubles, they are finally getting a divorce. “This is not the future we envisioned,” the couple said in a statement to the Associated Press. And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.

The top-heavy nature of mainstream country music over the last half decade has led to one of the largest gulfs between the have’s and the have not’s in music history, and nowhere has this been more illustrated than in the dominance of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert in the Top Vocalist awards. Worthy artists looking for recognition regularly fail to even receive nominations because the same collusive list of names are stuck at the very top, while mainstream country music continues to struggle with substantive artist development, especially on the female side.

Where Miranda Lambert appears to be the last female the mainstream is willing to champion to result in significant commercial success (while it appears to be systematically deprecating Carrie Underwood when it comes to awards), Blake Shelton seems to have been receiving his CMA hardware more for his role as a reality TV judge as opposed to critical or commercial performance. Together, the couple was able to create a celebrity footprint that was bigger than the sum of their individual parts, securing their place in country music history as the dominant force the last half decade. This result is why so many celebrity couples come together in the first place—to benefit in a significant elevation of overall fame, though the Lambert / Shelton courtship appeared to begin sincere.

Nobody wins in a divorce or breakup, and you can list countless country songs, including some from Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, that speak to this fact. But maybe this will be the moment mainstream country music moves on from its fascination with its first couple, and the unprecedented monopoly for the industry’s top awards.

But beyond all, Blake and Miranda are people, and their wishes for compassion during this time should be respected.