The CMT Artists of the Year special only honored male performers in 2017, which, unsurprisingly, caused some backlash online. It looks like the network heard people’s complaints, though, because this year’s honorees are exclusively women. Yes, for the first time since its inception eight years ago, the CMT Artists of the Year ceremony will tribute the current queens of country music—and only the queens.
Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott are the seven women CMT will honor during the show—and each are more than deserving of the praise. Morris took the country and pop music world by storm this year with her crossover hit “The Middle,” featuring Zedd; Lambert spent the first half of the year killing it on tour; and Underwood publicly emerged stronger than ever with her song “Cry Pretty” after enduring a facial injury. (Her album of the same name drops this Friday, September 14.) Little Big Town also found success on tour this year, and Lady Antebellum is still riding the success of their 2017 album Heart Break. Ballerini, meanwhile, was just tapped to be a fifth coach on NBC’s hit competition series The Voice.
“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,” CMT senior VP Leslie Fram said in a statement.
All the women receiving honors this year are returnees, except Morris, who released her first album in June 2016.
The CMT Artists of the Year Awards will air live from Nashville on October 17 at 8 P.M. ET. Mark your calendars accordingly.