Post the “Girl Crush” controversy, the song has:
” Peaked at #1 for country songs on iTunes.
” Gone from #4 to #1 on the Billboard Country Digital Songs chart (it was already doing well from the beginning of the controversy the previous week).
” Gone from #17 to #3 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart (factoring data from radio, sales, and streams).
” Gone from #20 to #2 on Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart.
” Gone from #32 to #26 on Billboard’s Country Radio chart.
” The parent album Pain Killer went from #15 to #7 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (the greatest gainer of the week).
Over the last week or two, the controversy surrounding Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” has been all the rage amongst country music pontificaters and tastemakers that were more than happy to do battle about whether the song has lesbian connotations or not, and if the supposed “boycott” of the song was more fabricated than real. What seemed like an interesting debate to begin with had Saving Country Music bowing out quickly when it looked like it was all part of an effort to bolster sales.
“Girl Crush” is not a lesbian song, and that has been exhaustively established at this point, and anyone who would dare question otherwise has been unceremoniously smeared as a closed-minded troglodyte who needs to understand the new realities of life in 2015 and slunk back under their rock, thank you very much.
But by my perfectly unscientific calculations and deductions, there were way many more people positively outraged at people thinking it was a lesbian song than there were people who thought it was a lesbian song in the first place. The truth is there were people who were chomping at the bit to make “Girl Crush” a political issue ever since the song was released. And after all, the controversy was all sort of nudged along subtly by the artists and others, and then when it all blew up in their face (or didn’t, depending on who you speak to), they acted like the shocked victims of a conservative conspiracy and solicited the support of other artists and the industry, shooting the track up the charts from if nothing else, the curiosity factor stimulated by the fracas.
No matter anything else, Little Big Town and their label knew the song would stir the pot, and that’s exactly what it did, and so much so that it has seen a dramatic resurgence across the board on all of country music’s measurables, including radio play, which was supposed to be the bastion of anti “Girl Crush” conservative misunderstanding in the first place.
Has “Girl Crush” lagged on radio compared to its digital sales? Sure it has, but that’s a narrative playing out all across music, especially for women and slow ballads. That doesn’t make it right, and these are issues we should all be so happy to champion. But try getting sympathy from Sturgill Simpson for Little Big Town’s sales vs. radio discrepancy.
From winning the CMA for Vocal Group of the Year, to being recently inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, there has been a headlong effort by the country music industry to foist Little Big Town onto consumers and revitalize the franchise in a push of virtually unparallelled enthusiasm compared to what we have seen for any other country artist in recent years.
And in my opinion, it is the reduction of the efforts of many artists, independent and mainstream, to even breathe a word about Little Big Town or their songs being oppressed in any manner, for any reason. Not to downplay their talents and their hard work over many years as a vocal group, but Little Big Town have been bestowed untold riches that 98% of musical artists never get to see their entire careers, and that’s not just over Little Big Town’s illustrious and lucrative run, that’s just from the success of the supposedly oppressed and misunderstood “Girl Crush” itself, even before the controversy.
Conspiracy? Controversy? Madison Avenue would salivate over getting this much attention for something that was already waning in its life cycle.
There has been times in the past, and there will be more in the future, where the misunderstanding of a song, album, or artist breeds true controversy, and the champions of forward thinking progress need to rally behind that song or artist to make sure their proper place in the spotlight is secured. But championing “Girl Crush” in such a manner could result in the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome. The true victim here was not “Girl Crush,” but country music, which once again was characterized in the public as a closed-minded, simpleton’s genre with listeners who couldn’t even navigate themselves through lyrics and are full of searing hatred for the gay community.