Maren Morris is a victim. Just ask her, or her surrogate toadies carrying her water in the media who want to paint her as so put under and oppressed by this draconiously restrictive genre known as country music, it’s tantamount to a humanitarian atrocity, stifling her incredible creativity, and insisting that she cover up her absolutely spectacular body.
“I don’t know who’s made these scriptures but it’s like women in country music need to to be super religious and they need to be super conservative and never show their body,” Maren Morris said recently. “And I’m like, ‘Are you giving me like a run for my money right now?’ Because like Dolly’s outfits back in the day were amazing. There’s just such a stupid mold that, even ourselves, are attempting to fit into, and it’s just bullshit.”
Well, Maren Morris, if you feel like country music is too restrictive in it’s “stupid mold,” then you can get the hell out!
Nobody asked or told Maren Morris to be a country star. There is absolutely, positively, certifiably nothing whatsoever that is country in any way, shape, form or manner about Maren Morris’s new album, GIRL.” Nothing. Period. On the contrary, Maren Morris is exploiting country as a stepping stone to a pop career, while not caring a hoot about whatever troubled wake she may leave in her path, and everybody knows it, including Maren. She rode into the genre on the Trojan Horse that was “My Church,” professing a religious affinity for the traditions of country music, and now she’s running down both the religious and traditional aspects of country because she feels they’re too restrictive. Well then by all means Maren, don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!
What’s the difference between Dolly Parton and Maren Morris? Gee, let us count the ways, starting with the 3,000-plus songs that Dolly Parton has written over her career that are actually country. How about paying dues with Porter Wagoner and other legends for many years before she struck out on her own. How about respecting the traditions of country music, even when incorporating pop elements into the music, or delving into risque subject matter.
Dolly Parton never bared her midriff to attempt to distract you from how terrible or non country her music was, or how mediocre of a singer and a songwriter she was. Dolly never tried to make up for the fact that she had absolutely no style of her own by falling back on sexual imagery. Dolly Parton would have been Dolly Parton even without all the shimmer. That’s what makes her Dolly Parton. The reason that Maren Morris is holding on so dearly for her right to post risque photos on social media and face no reprisal is because that’s all she’s got. Otherwise folks wouldn’t pay attention to her, and attention is what she craves.
This is country music, not pop or hip-hop. Dolly Parton and many other artists over the years may have worn revealing clothing or put their image out there proudly. But they also balanced it with humility, were appreciative of the attention they received, and even were self-deprecating. Maren Morris comes across like she thinks she’s better than every other person on the planet and deserves to have a red carpet rolled out for her wherever she goes, and verifies that whenever she opens her mouth. That’s not confidence, that’s arrogance, and that’s not country music. Perhaps in pop and hip-hop, people want to see their favorite stars flaunting their money, their body, and their fame. But in country, Maren posting pictures of herself in sports bras on private jets, in sports bras at a big sporting event, in a sports bras at some landmark, or in a bikini on the beach comes across as down-looking, and pandering for acceptance.
Maren Morris was complaining about the food in country music immediately after she got here. But the problem is she showed up to a steakhouse expecting sushi. She showed up to church in a 2-piece thong and immediately wondered why everyone was judging her. Then she acts like she’s being body shamed for posting photos of herself on social media. No Maren Morris, you’re body shaming others. Maren is saying, “Hey, look at me. I’m better than you, prettier than you, thinner than you, and I get to go to all these cool places you don’t.” And no, the criticism Maren Morris is receiving is not from the men of the country music patriarchy trying to subjugate her to a 2nd class citizen because she’s a woman. The negative reaction to Maren Morris is coming from women specifically. This is supposed to be an artist women are rallying behind, but instead they see her as tearing down other women with her arrogant social media presence and her arrogant pronouncements in both interviews and her music that work to tear down other women in country who deserve the attention Maren Morris is receiving.
Miranda Lambert fans, Carrie Underwood fans, fans of the scores of country women who’ve devoted their lives to the genre and doing it right and are more than happy to adhere to the rules and traditions of country music are coming out in full force against Maren Morris because she’s taking attention away from their favorite artists, and under the veil of “exploring her sexuality.” Supporting Maren Morris is not supporting a woman in country music. It’s taking away support for the women who actually make country music. And when Maren makes her inevitable leap to pop, she will leave a gaping hole in country, and no return on investment for all the attention and press and awards given to her at the expense of actual country women, just like Taylor Swift did.
Carrie Underwood has always incorporated pop sensibilities into her country music, but she’s also always honored the traditions of country, and respected it as a family friendly place on the radio dial. This includes once again being the only major country music star in 2018 to pay her proper dues to the Grand Ole Opry by performing at least ten times. Miranda Lambert has built an entire career out of being a “badass,” but has always gone out of her way to pay tribute to the greats of the past, and to help shine a light on the songwriters of the genre who never receive enough attention. With Maren, any praise to others is lip service, immediately undercut by her own words exposing that her true loyalty is to herself, and her career, country music be damned.
Yes, country music is more traditional. But let’s not also portray it as “super religious” or “super conservative.” These are just more aberrations from Maren Morris to act like she become a victim, because in today’s society, what makes you cool is not what you’ve done, but how much victimhood you can claim across a wide variety of grievances. The true victim here is the integrity of country music and it’s traditional fans. Kacey Musgraves won the CMA for Song of the Year with “Follow Your Arrow” five years ago. Johnny Cash won it in 1970 with “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The idea that country music is this closed-minded bastion of ultra-conservatism that won’t let a woman or someone with an open mind succeed is ludicrous.
However country music in the mainstream has always been family-friendly, and respectful to people of all stripes, including ones who happen to be of a religious leaning. Meanwhile Maren Morris has released two consecutive radio singles that include the word “shit.” Yes, country music is more restrictive than pop or hip-hop when it comes to the radio, and that’s okay. There should be a place on the radio dial for people who happen to be religious, or that want to listen to music with small kids and not blush or expose them to something they probably shouldn’t hear.
Maren Morris wants to portray herself as some pioneer or trailblazer tearing down these restrictive boundaries around country music, but in truth what she’s doing is homogenizing the genre with the same pop sounds and themes prevalent in all types of popular music. Country music is different, and that’s okay. That’s not something that should be resolved or torn down. It’s something that should be celebrated, just like the differences in all popular genres should. The “diversity” people clamor for doesn’t need to be represented by all genres sounding the same, it should be represented by all genres collaborating together to make an overall diverse sound, with each genre offering a vibrant alternative to the others.
Country music fans don’t want to hate on Maren Morris, or judge her for her style or her lack of modesty, or her pop sound. In truth, GIRL is probably a pretty good pop record. But it’s completely inappropriate for country music, creating a conflict where Maren is having to face harsh judgement for her music and style that she probably isn’t deserving of. Maren Morris isn’t bad for playing pop or putting herself out on social media, she’s just not country. And like Taylor Swift before her, as soon as she starts being honest with the public about the true nature of her music and her underlying intentions to be a big pop star, the conflict and judgement ceases immediately, and both country music and Maren Morris can move forward.
Until then, the conflict will rage one. But make no mistake, Maren Morris is not a victim of country music’s restrictive environment that is trying to change her from being something unique. It’s country music that’s a victim of Maren Morris from her trying to change country music into something that’s the same as everything else.
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P.S. – A proper review of Maren Morris’s “Girl” album is forthcoming. This matter was handled separately to clear the decks for a discussion exclusively on the music.