Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and our very own Dolly Parton hosted tonight’s 53rd annual Country Music Association Awards. Tonight’s award ceremony was meant to be an event to celebrate legendary women in country music – complete with an all-female star-studded opening medley featuring some of the greatest country music hits of our time including “Those Memories of You” (recorded by Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris), “Redneck Woman” (Gretchen Wilson) and “Independence Day” (Martina McBride), just to name a few.

While there are perhaps no better candidates the Country Music Association could have selected to join Underwood on stage this year than two powerhouses like Dolly and Reba (who, as Underwood pointed out, have a kind of “no last name required” celebrity status), Dolly’s presence on stage tonight was especially symbolic. 

You see, Dolly isn’t just a veteran CMA Awards host – she made HISTORY back in 1988 as the first EVER female to host the ceremony. 

Dolly looked right at home on stage and effortlessly delivered those pre-scripted punchlines but with a kind of ease that I find is sometimes lacking with other hosts and presenters. 

“I’d have been as tall as you girls if I wasn’t so bunched up at the top,” quipped Dolly flanked by her fellow co-hosts, “just addressing the elephants in the room.” 

No Dolly event is complete without a few “boob jokes” at her own expense. “I don’t know if I’m supportin’ them or they’re supportin’ me,” Dolly confessed in the recently released “Dolly Parton’s America” podcast. 

Dolly also performed at this year’s event, with an as promised faith-based compilation featuring some of her recent hits including the chart-topping single “Faith”, backed by a gospel choir.

Despite tonight’s female-empowered theme, men still reigned supreme

One of the more disappointing aspects of tonight’s event, despite the CMA’s best efforts to celebrate the women of country music, was the ever-present reminder of the gender gap that plagues the country music industry.  Women took home 5 out of 12 possible awards; Maren Morris (Album of the Year), Jenee Fleener (Musician of the Year), Kacey Musgraves (Music Video of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year), and Ashley McBryde (New Artist of the Year). However, the biggest honor of the night, Entertainer of the Year went to … Garth Brooks. 

The last time a woman was named entertainer of the year was Taylor Swift in 2011, and female nominees have been noticeably absent from that list altogether for the last two years.

Perhaps I just had my hopes up that hosting, performing and being nominated in 3 separate categories tonight would be enough to earn Underwood the title. 

Maybe next year Carrie, maybe next year.

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