Musgraves, whose Golden Hour album won four Grammy Awards in 2018, three of which were tied to the country genre, has had her latest album star-crossed excluded from the Best Country Album Award for the upcoming Grammys in January 2022.
The news, as Billboard reports, is confirmed by a letter written by Universal Music Group Nashville president Cindy Mabe, which is addressed to Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr..
In the letter, Mabe calls out the decision to make star-crossed ineligible for the award, which was reportedly made at the Recording Academy’s annual screening committee meeting last week, and describes the decision as "very inconsistent", adding that it "calls into question the other agendas that were part of this decision".
Mabe wrote, "As a prime stakeholder in country music, I would really like to frame what’s happening in our genre right now and help you and the Grammy’s [sic] fully understand the importance of Kacey Musgraves to country music and why this decision is so much more than an entry point for an awards show. Taking her out of the country category actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall."
"The numbers speak and are a matter of public record with women making up only 10 percent of all country airplay," Mabe's letter continued. "This year alone country music has been mired in the controversy surrounding one of the formats biggest artists, Morgan Wallen, who used a racial slur and grew fans and audience from it. THIS IS NOT ALL THAT WE ARE. Under the surface are the artists that change it all and they are led by the example of Kacey Musgraves."
To be eligible, Musgraves' album needed to have "51% playing time of new country recordings", and in Mabe's letter, she argues that star-crossed is "more country" than Golden Hour, "Sonically, it’s got more country instrumentation than Golden Hour which won Country Album of the Year in 2019. To compare Golden Hour to star-crossed, both albums were produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Kacey Musgraves. Both albums were mixed by Shawn Everett. On Golden Hour, Ian, Daniel and Kacey wrote 7 of the 13 songs and on star-crossed they wrote 11 of the 15. Both albums complete each other with Golden Hour telling the story of falling in love and star-crossed telling the conclusion of the breakup. There is no departure in sound from these two projects. This album was consistently classified as country throughout it’s [sic] metadata and overall labeling across the DSP accounts and partners. star-crossed appeared on every major country playlist of every DSP."
In another part of the letter, Mabe writes that "The system is broken and sadly not just for Kacey Musgraves but for our entire genre because of how these decisions are made for music’s biggest stage."