Mickey Guyton Became the First Black Woman to *Ever* Perform at the ACM Awards
She said it was "a long time coming."
Singer Mickey Guyton made history at last night’s 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards when she performed onstage at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, becoming the first-ever Black woman to perform at the awards show (a pregnant Black woman, no less). In the words of Guyon herself, this moment has “been a long time coming.”
Backed by Keith Urban on piano, the Texas-born singer took full advantage of her platform by performing her powerful ballad “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” which “addresse[s] the injustices faced by women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, through the eyes of a parent trying to explain those injustices to their child,” as Rolling Stone describes.
“Do you just let her pretend / That she could be the president? / Would it help us get there any faster? / Do you let her think the deck's not stacked? / And gay or straight or white or Black / You just dream and anything can happen / What are you gonna tell her / When she's wrong?” Guyton sang.
“What Are You Gonna Tell Her” appears on Guyton’s six-track EP Bridges, which was released on September 11th.
The EP also includes the track “Black Like Me,” which digs into Guyton’s experience as a Black person in America—a deeply personal song with universal resonance. (“If you think we live in the land of the free / You should try to be, oh, Black like me,” she sings.)
Country artists aren’t typically known for tackling racial inequality, to put it mildly—and Black artists, particularly Black female artists, are grossly underrepresented in the country music scene—and that’s exactly what makes Guyton so special. Not to mention her killer talent.
Of her unusual (for country music, at least) candor in her songwriting, Guyton told Rolling Stone, “For some reason in country music, they want just everything to be light and fluffy, but my world isn’t always light and fluffy.”
Before she took the stage at the September 16th awards show, Guyton acknowledged the significance of her performance, both for herself and for Black women universally.
“Let me tell you, it has been a long time coming for me," she told People in a red-carpet interview. "It's been a struggle for me for a long time. To get this opportunity to represent for Black women at the ACM Awards and to sing a song about the oppression of women and trying to change that—it really does mean a lot to me to be able to do that at the ACMs."
Time will tell if Guyton’s performance actually forces mainstream country music to reckon with their serious lack of BIPOC artists—but for our part, we think Guyton is a force to be reckoned with.