Honorees for the 2018 telecast include Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert (pictured earlier this year), Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. (AP)
After facing criticism last year for its all-male lineup, CMT is taking a new approach with its annual Artists of the Year show. It’s been announced that this year will feature exclusively women on the roster.
Honorees for the 2018 telecast, set to air on Oct. 17, include Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. It also puts the female members of bands front-and-center such as Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town as well as Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.
The move comes as female artists in the genre have been outspoken about the lack of opportunities for them. Women have been shut out of nominations for major country awards, such as CMA's entertainer of the year category for two years in a row, and men overwhelmingly dominate country radio charts.
CMT noted that this is not its first attempt to bridge the gender inequality gap, having previously established the Next Women of Country invitational to promote rising female artists.
“This year, we’re evolving the special to reflect what’s happening right now in culture and in the lives of our fans,” said Leslie Fram, CMT’s Senior Vice President of Music & Talent in a statement. “In this monumental year for women, dedicating one of the biggest nights in the genre to applaud female country artists not only solidifies our commitment, but we hope will spark a much-needed change in the industry.”
The only honoree in 2018 that is new to the CMT stage is Morris. It marks Underwood’s fourth honor and Lambert’s third. Ballerini was honored in 2016 and the ladies of Little Big Town the year before. The show will be broadcast on Oct. 17 live from Nashville. It is expected to feature women heavily, but not exclusively.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.