Sorry, Mitchell Tenpenny & “Bitches” Goes Too Far

WARNING: Language

No. We’re not going here. I’m sorry. Consider this a line in the sand. Consider this an ultimatum. Nobody’s mother is being threatened here, mind you. We’re not veering off the rails or anything. But if there was ever a moment where dramatic action was called for in country music matters, this would be it.

This isn’t just an argument about taste, or classic country vs. contemporary country. This isn’t yet another droning discussion about what is country and what isn’t like the ones that go on forever and ever and never get resolved. This is an issue that should have all the denizens of country music of every shape and form in a tizzy, regardless of their allegiances or sensibilities, and locking arms to not allow the music that we all love take such a significantly degrading step backward.

What is this latest cause célèbre that Saving Country Music is probably overreacting about you ask? It’s an artist named Mitchell Tenpenny. Now you probably haven’t heard of Mitchell Tenpenny just yet, but if Sony Nashville has its way, that will all change very shortly. In fact they’re probably betting on Mitchell Tenpenny becoming a conversation piece. Why? Because he’s got a song that have the suits on Music Row seeing dollar signs, and it’s already turning in impressive streaming numbers and converting listeners into fans. And what is the name of this super hot song ready to see Mitchell Tenpenny bust out? It’s called “Bitches.”

Now let’s not be presumptuous and judge this book simply by its cover. Just because a song title sounds salacious doesn’t mean the song itself is, right? Maybe it’s irony, or maybe there’s a twist. We’ve seen so many of these female empowerment songs from folks like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley recently, perhaps it actually has a positive message. I mean, not even mainstream country would flirt with a song that used such a derogatory term towards a woman, would it?

Yeah, it would. Mitchell Tenpenny’s “Bitches” is about as derogatory and degrading as the title implies. In fact, it may be even more so.

The chorus goes . . .

Well, I don’t deal with bitches no more
Yeah, I don’t deal with bitches no more
I could call you crazy, curse your name
Throw your shit out the door
But I don’t deal with bitches no more

And that’s pretty much the song. In total, “Bitches” says the actual word “bitches” a sum of 25 times. Oh, and let’s throw a little slut shaming in there for good measure:

Your reputation, you earned it
You’re the best damn deal in town, oh, so cheap

Yes, this is popular country music in 2018 boys and girls. Or at least it’s what they want it to be.

But sorry, this crosses a red line. And I don’t want to see anyone trying to make sideways comparisons with Wheeler Walker Jr. or David Allan Coe whose clearly sarcastic efforts were never meant for mainstream consumption. Country music is supposed to be the last family friendly position on the station wagon’s radio dial, and instead it’s become a bastion for degrading views on women, right beside outright removing them from the format so they can’t even speak for themselves.

But this isn’t the most sinister twist with Mitchell Tenpenny and “Bitches.” Mark my words, if and when they choose to release this as a mainstream radio single, the narrative Sony Nashville will sow with the help of their willing accomplices in mainstream country media will be that it’s the women who want the song more, even going as far as to say it’s “empowering.” And if you think that is a ludicrous notion, just look what Tenpenny has already been saying about “Bitches,” and with the aiding and abetting of CMT, whose trusty reporter didn’t even bat an eyelash, or offer up a rebuttal or follow up question when he said,

“Seeing women sing it back, that was big for us to be able to all agree that maybe we could do this and do something different … I understood that emotion, and I felt like women would understand that emotion, too, from being cheated on by guys. And they can scream it, too. I want it to be an anthem.”

Yes, let’s take a song that says “bitches” 25 times and turn it into a fucking country music “anthem.” What happened to tipping your hat to the ladies, and the rose of San Antone? And you know if they release “Bitches” as a proper mainstream single, their bought and paid for buddies in country radio will dutifully play it without batting an eyelash. In fact the writer of the CMT article, Samantha Stephen, dubs herself a “Country radio insider.” I’m not even saying there aren’t some women out there that won’t enjoy this song, especially if they’re told to by corporate radio. But that in no way makes it justifiable. It makes the exercise that much more sinister.

But maybe Tenpenny’s label will do a switcheroo at the last minute, and decide not to release “Bitches” as the lead single. After all, that’s what we’re ultimately angling for here—to put pressure on the folks at Sony Nashville, have them look their wives, sisters, and daughters in the eye and make them think about the precedent they would set in country music by releasing this song. Tenpenny’s got plenty of other shitty offerings from where this came. How about “Alcohol You Later” anyone? This isn’t just about “Bitches.” It’s about where it could lead down the road. It’s about an artist that cut such an abomination and built his career on its success even being asked into the fraternity of major label country artists.

And who is this Mitchell Tenpenny tool anyway? He’s the direct product of Music Row nepotism, that’s who he is. His grandmother Donna Hilley was the former CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing—formerly known as Acuff/Rose, which is the largest songwriting and publishing concern in music. Though Sony/ATV is not a label, it is closely related to Sony Nashville where Tenpenny was eventually signed. And of course he started his career as a songwriter after attending the private Lipscomb Academy for high school, and graduating from middle Tennessee’s MTSU.

In a word, Mitchell Tenpenny is just another swinging dick in a baseball cap. I mean, how many of these generic country guys do we need? They had to make a brand new imprint for Mitchell called Riser House just because the other Sony Nashville offshoots are full up with other generic mainstream bros with #1’s on the radio that most of America has never heard of.

You’re tired of “bitches,” Mitchell Tenpenny? Well you just ran afoul of a genuine, Texas-born, single mother-raised, red blooded American ASSHOLE with a sister and a little niece who will pursue you and “Bitches” to the end of the earth if necessary to shield as many ears from this degrading filth so help me God. This is a hill worth dying on, and I know I’m not alone in that attitude.

Welcome to country music, Mitchell Tenpenny.

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Only a guy like this could obfuscate the meaning of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag more than it already has been.