Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Marc A. Ouellette

Committee Member

Tim Anderson

Committee Member

Ruth Osorio

Committee Member

Jada Watson


Mainstream country music has a gender problem—female artists have gone missing from the industry. Industry insiders like radio programmer Keith Hill have alternately blamed female stars for not producing good music or pointed the finger at audiences who they say rate songs by female artists poorly. These explanations are, however, insufficient to explain country’s missing women, and scholars like Jada Watson have shown that country music discriminates against female artists by squeezing them from music circulation. Her studies examine representation in radio airplay to show how women have lost ground in the industry through their elimination from radio. My research extends her work through analysis of the rhetoric country music constructs at the level of radio and streaming playlists. After demonstrating the rhetorical power inherent in the absence of women’s embodied voices, I examine how the rhetoric of music lyrics, together with the voices of the performing artists, accumulate ontological power to valorize the voices and subject positions of men. While this happens at the level of a single song, most people listen to more than one song at a time, and this rhetoric is thus intensified through repetition on country radio and streaming playlists. With the marginalization of women cemented at every level of country music, further study of how women’s voices might be recuperated is thus warranted in order to increase the representation of female perspectives and voices in country music. One way to do this is to identify ways that older hit records, referred to as re-currents and as gold or oldie records, circulate in radio and streaming playlists. My study of the rhetorical possibilities offered by older songs in an hour of country music highlights a strategy of altering the playlist’s rhetoric, and this strategy intervenes in country music’s gender problem, becoming important for its potential to shift the industry’s trend of squeezing women out.


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