HITS Daily Double


How Country Radio Caved to a Bunch of Busybodies--Though It Won't Stop Little Big Town's Smash

As you may have read in this morning’s story, “Girl Crush” by Capitol Nashville’s Little Big Town has been held back at Country radio—despite making huge strides at retail—due to a barrage of calls and emails from listeners claiming the song advanced “the Gay Agenda.”

How stupid is this? Let us count the ways.

It’s probably irrelevant that all this ginned-up listener outrage is based on a total misreading of the song, which is a clever take on jealousy. But it’s still galling that programmers simply backed off a great song out of fear of some boycott.

But wait, you say—weren’t they just respecting the wishes of their heartland, traditional-values audience?

I kinda doubt it. Reports about the calls suggest that some ultraconservative organization rallied its troops to contact stations and threaten to stop listening. Indeed, I suspect these callers were not a spontaneous legion of objectors but were in fact mobilized and given a script. If station personnel had kept them on the phone long enough to ask them what songs in the current rotation they did like, I rather imagine they would’ve hung up.

Look: The Country form is evolving. It’s hipper, younger, more cosmopolitan, more hedonistic and more rock ‘n’ roll. It’s hard to imagine that its most avid listeners would be rattled by a bit of lesbian subtext.

Seriously, do we really believe that these outraged types are big fans of Florida Georgia Line, Eric Church and/or Luke Bryan? Not me—those songs are all about fornication and drunkenness and vanity. I’d bet you a dollar quite a few of those pious souls listen to gospel music exclusively. But if they were regular listeners and earnestly (if erroneously) took umbrage at the song, wouldn’t their threat to stop listening to the station over one tune ring hollow?

If I’m right, then a lack of courage and curiosity on the part of radio brass enabled a bunch of busybodies who don’t even listen to contemporary Country radio to keep a great song off the air.

Of course, limiting the track’s airplay isn’t going to stop it. In fact, in addition to being the #1 Country song at iTunes, it’s the #11 single overall (the band's full-length Pain Killer is #6 on the Country album chart, ahead of most of the format's superstars) . Which means Country radio has thus far only succeeded in sacrificing its equity in a potential smash. I expect “Girl Crush” to grow—perhaps in part because of the controversy, but mainly because it’s an excellent song that does what the genre does best: Present a familiar human drama in a creative way.

We’re all for advancing that agenda.