Last week, Sugarland posted a live video of a cover of “Tony” to honor Pride month. Though the song is already powerful, the band, performing with an ampersand in their name as Sugarl&, included harrowing info about LGBTQ suicide rates.
Using the name “Sugarl&” was important to Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush because they wanted to drive home the message that all people should feel welcome at their concerts. “& = Everyone belongs here, including you & you & you & you,” they write at the beginning of the video.
In addition to the text at the start of the video, important facts are displayed throughout their live performance. “We contacted our friends at the Human Rights Campaign to supply us with the appropriate messaging to enhance the performance,” Sugarland stated on YouTube. “We hope it touches hearts, possibly changes minds and that our #LGBTQ fans, friends and family know they are loved, supported and celebrated. Happy #Pride!”
The song, “Tony,” was written by folk/alt rock artist Patty Griffin and recorded for her 1998 album Flaming Red. Lyrically, the song is told from the perspective of a teen who relates to Tony, a gay high schooler who commits suicide. The track oscillates from sorrow to anger and then blends the two together in an unpretty, but realistic, story of a gay teen who can’t find his place in the world so he decides to end his life.
For many, Sugarland’s cover of “Tony” can be a tough listen as it can be painfully relatable for some and a surprise to others who are expecting a cheery Sugarland track. But the message and emotions behind “Tony” can’t be ignored just because it’s difficult to navigate, and Sugarland (or Sugarl&) is striving to “raise awareness among our fanbase about the impact of hate speech and the importance of supporting LGBTQ kids.”