“Girl Crush” is possibly the most misleading song title of the year.
If you pay attention to the gossip, Little Big Town’s most recent single, “Girl Crush” is a pro-lesbian song, an anti-lesbian song, inspiring, defeating, it has horns or a halo… and just about everything in between. So what’s really going on with “Girl Crush?” And how does country music feel about the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) community?
Well, here ya go, we’re going to help you out.
First the facts. “Girl Crush” was released in December as Little Big Town’s second single off the album Pain Killer. It is currently at the No. 18 spot on Billboard’s Top Country Songs, down from its peak at No. 16. It has sold over 167,000 copies and has over 4.5 million plays on Spotify. It has also spawned covers from Miranda Lambert to YouTube starlet Julia Sheer.
But what’s the appeal?
“Girl Crush” is a beautiful song. It’s catchy. It’s haunting. It’s sparse and direct. But “Girl Crush” is a song about crushing jealousy. It is about the ache of desire. It is, ultimately, about fantasising.
What it is not about is lesbianism, bisexuality, or any manner of pro or anti or whatever LGBT. When Karen Fairchild sings “I want to taste her lips/Because they taste like you” it is important to realize that this desire stems from an obsession, not sexuality. The singer is fantasizing about being the other woman so she can be with the man.
In this way the title “Girl Crush” is a little misleading. So are some of the band’s comments about the song, which are meant, no doubt, to stir the rumor mill. For example, Fairchild’s quotation in Rolling Stone: “There are not many women on the radio and not many ballads with that kind of lyrical content.”
Lyrically, the song is great. Musically, the song is great. But to claim it has controversial content is to stir the rumor mill.
“Girl Crush” is essentially a grown-up, slightly more psychologically disturbed, version of Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on my Guitar.”
Pro-gay country songs.
But if you’re looking for pro-gay songs, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Start with Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” although the song’s pro-gay lyrics have been blown way out of proportion. “Follow Your Arrow” is pro-gay because of one line that encourages the listener to be happy with who they are and do what makes them happy.
Next, let’s look at Steve Grand’s self-financed “All-American Boy,” which has been both praised and criticised (notably by Slate for presenting a reductionist take on the achievements of LGBT progress).
Rascal Flatt’s 2009 song “Love Who You Love” has been seen by many as being pro-gay.
Ok, so it’s not like there is a bevy of pro-gay songs in country music. But it’s making progress. Consider that in 2014 both singers Ty Herndon and Billy Gillman both came out as gay. Meanwhile, Brandy Clark is a huge force in the country songwriting world.
Looking further back, Chely Wright was one of the first country singers to come out as gay in 2010. Before her k.d. Lang came out in 1992. If you don’t know k.d. Lang, she released a string of incredible country albums in the late 80s before turning to pop. She won just about every award imaginable in the 80s, including a string of four consecutive years as the Canadian Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year and a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance.