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Maren Morris Advocates for Being ‘Giant Pain in the Ass’ to Make Change in Industry

Maren Morris received the Changemaker Award during Variety’s Hitmakers event on Saturday in Los Angeles. The singer reflected on her newfound freedom addressed on her new EP, The Bridge, which she has described as representing a “liberating phase” in her life, and earlier this year, she apologized for country music’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people and also chastised Jason Aldean’s wife, Brittany, over transphobic comments in 2022.

“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by my peers and the industry as someone who has bucked a system or attempted to make change,” she said during her acceptance speech, recalling her move to Nashville from Texas as her childhood dream took fruit over the last decade. She added: “In these past 10 years, I’ve had mountain-top career moments and Number Ones that crossed to pop, and a Grammy, and collaborated and became friends with my musical idols.”

However, she acknowledged the system she was navigating was “deeply fractured,” where men were the central focus. “Even as I stand here today, not a single solo woman artist has been in the Top 20 on the Country Airplay charts in the last two weeks,” she said.

“I realized very quickly that publicly pointing out these inequalities doesn’t make you the most popular. If you dare criticize blatant misogyny, racism transphobia within the ranks of your industry, you’re met with isolation, death threats, labeled as ungrateful, biting the hand that fed you. Or diminishingly told to just shut up and sing.”

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She acknowledged the brave heroines, who often fought alone for to “dismantle a status quo.” She named Taylor Swift, who re-recorded her albums to take back ownership; the Chicks for taking on Bush for invading Iraq; Sinead O’Connor for when she tore up the pope’s photo during Saturday Night Live in protest of abuses in the Catholic church, and Billie Holiday’s performing “Strange Fruit” even as the FBI investigated her.

“We write the songs. We hold the change that we seek to make at the tip of our pen, and only we can tell our stories, not anyone else,” she continued. “I love making music and you don’t fight for what you don’t love. So, the only change I’ve made that I feel I can take any credit for is the one within myself, and if that has in any way reverberated outward and meaningfully affected somebody — then I’m privileged and relieved that it’s done so. So, thank you to Variety for this honor and to my fellow honorees, who inspire me to keep going, keep fighting, and to keep being a pain in the ass. Thank you.”

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