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Girl Crush: a misplaced controversy

Jeffrey Remz  |  April 3, 2015

Little Big Town is riding high on the charts with its latest single, "Girl Crush," but it is not without controversy, certainly the most of the quartet's career.

The song, penned by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey, may or may not be about lesbianism (more on that later), and radio stations may or may not be playing it as a result.

The song is sung from the point of a woman who can't get her man because he's with another woman. While it seems to be about lesbians at first, there's the turning point that she's jealous because he beds her.

Some have interpreted this as being about lesbian love. Reports were out there that country radio was lukewarm about the song, leading to articles in such publications as The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times about the difficulties.

But, in fact, back in a Rolling Stone Country piece in December, LBT singer Karen Fairchild said, "Already, radio's support has been huge out of the gate."

An anonymous blog piece from a Texas country music radio station music director on For The Country Record from Texas wrote of widespread complaints from listeners, who said they were ditching the station.

An Idaho radio station official said that the phones were lighting up against the song from people who didn't like the lesbian aspect.

But Billboard reported on March 27 in a story entitled "Controversy Over Little Big Town's 'Girl Crush' & Its 'Lesbian Theme' Is Mostly Fabricated' that this may all be overblown. "Radio programmers say they've received few to no complaints, indicating this is mostly a media-fueled uproar," Phyllis Stark wrote in the story. One key aspect of that story was that 140 of 145 stations on the Country Airplay chart panel played the song. This week, the song skyrocketed from 17 to 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

I have little doubt that the For the Country Record piece was accurate for that music director, but I suspect the people complaining didn't really understand the song, and the music director wanted to express his viewpoint. I'm not sure how much "more than a handful" of people is, but sometimes a station also has to stand up for what it believes in (I suspect few do these days with the almighty dollar beckoning).

A bunch of performers, including Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, took to defending the song wearing "Girl Crush" hats. Others have followed suit and gone to social media to back it.

But based on how well the song has done, it seems apparent that the story was overblown. Like way overblown. The song has a good groove (no surprise considering the writers, who are top shelf) and deserves the play. No doubt the "controversy" has elevated both sales and play because stations want to make it clear where they stand.

Country has seen a lot of change in recent years. Musically, of course, but now you're hearing more and more songs with drug references indicating usage is okay. So, it seems almost a natural that this is also part of the changing landscape. After all, Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow," which the line "love who you love" made clear.

Controversy usually is good for a song, and that is, in part, the case here. But somewhere along the line, chances are that was misplaced controversy.≈

:: Posted at 5:43 PM by Jeffrey Remz ::
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