Country music's long established attitude to gay and female musicians has long been one that's polarised opinions of radio programmers, critics and fans alike. It's hard to say when the storm began to really gather dust but perhaps it's best to start with Kacey Musgraves, the tongue in cheek Texas native who wasn't afraid to say what everyone was thinking, even it meant her music was largely shunned by country radio.
In 2013, Musgraves released Follow Your Arrow, the third single from her Grammy Award winning major debut album Same Trailer Different Park. While the single would go on to win a host of awards including Song of the Year at last year's CMA Awards, the track only managed to peak at number forty-three on Billboard's Country Airplay charts. You see, Musgraves was always going to face an uphill battle, not only is she a solo female artist in a largely male-dominated industry, but she was also advocating same-sex relationships in a way that was never done before.
Perhaps it was Musgraves that lit the fuse as it wasn't long before many were praising the efforts of country music for slowly but surely rectifying the social issues that plagued the genre. Fast forward to late 2014 and country performers Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman were making history by both coming out on the same day, a turn of events that generated a flurry of praise from fellow country stars.
With Musgraves, Herndon and Gilman making headway on changing the genre's attitude towards homosexual musicians, country newcomers Maddie & Tae were plugging away on the female front, quickly putting the last nail in the bro-country trend with their debut single Girl In A Country Song, subsequently becoming the first track from a female duo in eight years to bag a number one. As 2014 came to close, it looked like a new era of acceptance for both female and gay musicians was on the horizon but in light of recent events, it looks like we might not be there just yet.
Earlier in the week, news broke that Little Big Town's current single Girl Crush, a track that's actually about jealousy rather than a same-sex relationship, was facing some troubles at country radio with listeners threatening to boycott stations that played the song and supported the "gay agenda". Taste of Country went on to report that while the track has stalled at number thirty-three in the charts, the single has raced up the iTunes charts to a top five position.
The controversy surrounding Little Big Town's current single serves to raise two important points, firstly, has country music really made any headway if songs are still being forced into low rotation due to same-sex connotations and secondly, has it anything to do with being perceived as a female orientated song due to being largely sung by Karen Fairchild? Whatever the reason, it's about time country music faced its social issues head on or else we're only moving backwards.