Little Big Town Respond to ‘Gay Agenda’ Controversy Over ‘Girl Crush’
Little Big Town's latest single is "Girl Crush," and it is a prime example of the schism that currently exists between country radio and the actual tastes and consumption habits of the country music audience.
The song describes jealousy from a very unique perspective: "I want to taste her lips / Yeah, 'cause they taste like you ... I want her magic touch / Yeah, 'cause maybe then you'd want me just as much / I got a girl crush."
The song brings a fresh new sound to country radio, with an unusual time signature and a soulful vibe that is different than anything else in release at the moment. But the group — whose last single, a party song called "Day Drinking," reached No. 1 — are having a hard time at country radio with the song due to an unexpected backlash.
Alana Lynn, a morning co-host on 104.3 FM in Boise, Idaho, tells the Washington Post that she has been inundated by angry calls and emails threatening to boycott the station for "promoting the gay agenda" by playing the song. Lynn says the last time she received this much negative listener feedback was over "the Dixie Chicks' President Bush comments."
It's a reaction that the Grammy-winning vocal group didn't expect when singers Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman first heard the song at a "girls' writers day" at the home of Liz Rose, who co-wrote the track with Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey. “It’s a genius lyric, such a beautifully written song about jealousy,” Fairchild tells the Post. “It was like, ‘Why would we not cut this?’”
The group's label had some reservations about releasing it as a single, but ultimately agreed it was a focus track on the group's record that needed to be heard. The result has been a well-reviewed song that has reached No. 4 on iTunes and is selling 25,000 units each week, but has struggled to just No. 33 in terms of radio airplay — in no small part because of a similar backlash in other markets, including a Texas programmer who received an email saying, “You are just promoting the gay agenda on your station and I am changing the channel and never listening to you ever again!!”
Bobby Bones hosts the most popular show on country radio, and he didn't hesitate to face the controversy head-on when Little Big Town stopped by for a recent appearance in the studio. “Is it frustrating to you that here is your song — that is one of the Top 10 sellers for weeks and weeks and weeks — and people on the radio are still afraid to play it because they think it’s a ‘lesbian song?’” he asked them. “It would drive me insane!”
“Just the fact that we’re still discussing that, number one, there’s so many problems with that whole issue,” Fairchild replied. But it's clear that "the gay agenda" is still a hot-button topic at country radio, whose audience tends to be more conservative than the wider culture. That's evidenced by Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow," which went gold after selling 500,000 copies and took home Song of the Year honors at the 2014 CMA Awards, but peaked at just No. 43 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.
In an effort to get around the controversy, LBT recently recorded a commercial spot in which Fairchild explains the lyrics of the song. They're hoping that will help clear up the misperceptions about "Girl Crush," but it won't change the underlying bias of the faction of the audience that drove the controversy in the first place.
“That’s just shocking to me, the close-mindedness of that, when that’s just not what the song was about,” Fairchild says. “But what if it were? It’s just a greater issue of listening to a song for what it is.”
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Little Big Town Talk About 'Girl Crush'