When the nominees for the 2019 CRS New Faces show were announced, Lindsay Ell says her Twitter blew up. She's one of 13 named. She's also the only woman.

The criticism isn't personal, and no one believes the "Criminal" singer and 2018 Taste of Country RISER isn't worthy of being one of the choices for five CRS New Faces slots, an industry honor that was given to Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Midland, Carly Pearce and Michael Ray in 2018. But the 2019 nominees underscore an overall and ongoing lack of female voices on the radio, on popular streaming service playlists and elsewhere. They are also the result of a very clear, stated set of criteria.

"At the end of the day, I'm very proud that I get to represent the women in this lineup," Ell tells Taste of Country. "The criteria is the criteria, so it's nothing against CRS. It sort of highlights the state of where our format is. Do we need more women in our format? Yes we do, and are there incredible women in our format? Yes, there are. So I feel like next year, it’s hopefully going to be taking another step in the right direction."

Watch Lindsay Ell's One-Woman Version of "Criminal"

It remains to be seen if Ell's optimism will become reality, or if the criteria will change. Speaking to Billboard, CRS Executive Director Bill Mayne defends the criteria which states: "acts must have had at least one but no more than five Top 25 singles on the Mediabase Country Chart as published in Country Aircheck or at least one but no more than five Top 25 singles on the BDS-based Country Chart during the qualification period."

You also can't have been a New Faces artist previously, which wipes out a lot of young female artists still considered by most to be "new." Critics place blame on the process, with others accusing country radio programmers of not taking more of a leadership role in breaking new female artists. It's a continuation of a circular conversation that has led to women getting multi-year low amounts of airplay and exposure.

Music Row has the full list of 13 CRS New Faces nominees. Voting lasts through Nov. 23. 2019 CRS (Country Radio Seminar) takes place Feb. 13-15 in Nashville.

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