The dust dubbed "Tomatogate" may have settled, but a look at Billboard's Country Airplay chart shows terrestrial radio still has a major gender inequality issue. Only five women have singles in the Top 30 right now — including Elle King with her "Different for Girls" duet with Dierks Bentley. And that's been the norm for years.
But one lady who has ruled the airwaves for decades isn't terribly distressed. Reba McEntire insists it’s a cyclical issue and says she's "optimistic" things will turn around.
"This is my 40th year in the music business, and sometimes it'll be real heavy on the male side and then real heavy on the female side," she reasons. "Right now it's male, but it'll take a really great song and it'll flip it over."
Regardless of gender, McEntire is a rare breed on country radio in that she's had a steady stream of chart-soaring hits since 1980. Her secret to longevity is twofold.
"Oh, it's the great songs! Kudos to the songwriters here in Nashville," she says. "And being persevering, trying to continue to reinvent yourself, staying up with technology – which is really a chore! Social media is key, staying out there with the public and giving them what they want."
McEntire isn't in too much of a hurry to find more crowd-pleasing music to record. She reports that she has not yet started crafting the followup to 2015's Love Somebody album. But she also promises to avoid another five-year wait, like she did with her current LP, which followed 2010's All the Women I Am.
"I love to record. . . the process of finding songs, going into the studio with the producers and musicians. I just really love the whole process of making music," she says.
While the wait is indefinite for new original songs from McEntire, her first holiday album in 17 years is right around the corner. My Kind of Christmas will be released September 2nd, exclusively through Cracker Barrel. The album features simply the singer accompanied by Catherine Marx on piano, with no other instrumentation.