Carrie Underwood’s “Cry Pretty” Tanks at Country Radio

A couple of days after Carrie Underwood called out country radio for not supporting strong women, it’s become official that Carrie Underwood’s latest single “Cry Pretty” is done at radio, will be the worst-performing single of her career, and has tanked two weeks ahead of her new album of the same name being released, instead of cresting on the charts as per normal.

“Cry Pretty” will come to rest at #9 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, #6 on the Mediabase radio chart, and #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart which takes into consideration both radio play and consumption. This will be the first single of Carrie Underwood’s career to not reach at least #2 on either the Billboard Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts tracing back 23 total singles, all the way to her 2005 debut, “Jesus, Take The Wheel.” 15 of those singles made it to #1.

On the Mediabase chart this week, “Cry Pretty” lost 12,569 points, and slipped from #6 to #24. On the Billboard Country Airplay chart compiled by Nielsen, it dropped out of the Top 60 completely, and was relegated to the recurrent list. This verifies the rumors that radio and Capitol Nashville have pulled support behind the single—a strange maneuver for a song that was charting well and was meant to be the spearhead behind Carrie’s album release. Apparently the song showed enough weakness that Capitol felt it couldn’t push it any higher. Carrie Underwood just released a new song called “Love Wins,” but there has been no confirmation that it will be the new single.

The crash of “Cry Pretty” comes at a time when the much-discussed lack of female representation on country radio is becoming even more pronounced. Despite Miranda Lambert’s name being tied to the recent 2-week #1 single from Jason Aldean, “Drowns The Whiskey,” the 7-time and reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year’s latest single “Keeper of the Flame” couldn’t make it past #55 on country radio. It was basically dead on arrival. Even more pop-oriented acts who’ve been doing well on radio like Kelsea Ballerini are struggling. Her current, more critically-acclaimed single “I Hate Love Songs” has been stuck outside the Top 25 for 26 weeks and counting.

“Even when I was growing up, I wished there was more women on the radio, and I had a lot more than there are today,” Underwood told the Women Who Want to Hear Women podcast earlier this week. “I think about all the little girls that are sitting at home saying, ‘I want to be a country music singer.’ What do you tell them, you know? What do you do? How do you look at them and say, ‘Well, just work hard, sweetie, and you can do it’ when that’s probably not the case right now? I see so many girls out there busting their rear ends and so many guys out there where some new guy has a No. 1 and I’m like, ‘Well, good for you, that’s great, but who are you? What’s happening?’ And then these strong women who are super talented that totally deserve it are not getting the same opportunities. But how to change it? I don’t know. How do we change it?”

Often women in the mainstream are reluctant to criticize radio for its lack of support, worrying they may poison the well for themselves moving forward. Carrie Underwood speaking out ahead of the official data on “Cry Pretty” was another sign things were not going well behind-the-scenes. Carrie Underwood has been one of the few country women who’s been able to break through male-dominated barrier at the top of country radio recently without the aid of iHeartMedia’s “On The Verge” program or other artificial boosts. Now like Miranda, she could be on the outside looking into the format’s top tier support moving forward.

For those who may question if “Cry Pretty” was worthy of continued promotion, like many singles from country music’s top women, the song charted better on the Hot Country Songs chart which takes into consideration streams and downloads. This symbolized that consumer sentiment behind the song was stronger than the support shown by radio.

The struggles of Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert on radio leave mainstream country music looking for strong feminine voices to fill what many consider a void in country’s representation, while the complaining from the media, endless think pieces on the issue, dedicated Twitter accounts trolling radio and industry, and efforts within the industry itself to create more opportunities for women continue to fail, while some perhaps are even hurting the prospects for female performers.

It’s fair to conclude that part of the problem is there is just not a significant appetite for the women mainstream country music is presenting to the public at the moment. Also, stalling at #9 on radio is not the end of the world, and many artists male or female would love this fate for one of their radio singles. But when established artists with rabid fan bases like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood appear to not be able to find equitable support for their music, it’s hard to not conclude the issue is more systemic.

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