Question: When is a smoldering, suggestive song about two women kissing not about lesbian love?
Answer: When it’s Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” a scintillating slow-burner about a woman longing to be another woman who’s now on the receiving end of her ex-boyfriend’s kisses.
Still, when we hear a woman (in this case, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild) sing a song that fixates on the taste of another lady’s lips, well, we shouldn’t be too surprised that country music fans have misinterpreted the song’s provocative imagery and meaning.
Let’s look at the lyrics first, then talk about the controversy that’s ignited on country radio.
The story is a simple, sad, sensual one: A woman with a broken heart can’t stop pining for a beau who’s now with someone new. Fairchild achingly imagines the carnal pleasures the new girl is experiencing instead of her.
“I gotta girl crush,” Fairchild begins confessionally, “Hate to admit it, but/I got a heart rush, ain’t slowin’ down.” Later there are these hungry lyrics: “I wanna taste her lips/ … I want her magic touch.”
So, it’s clearly Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl” territory, right?
Not quite. In between those scattered phrases are some important details about what’s really going on. “I got it real bad,” Fairchild informs us, “want everything she has/That smile and the midnight laugh she’s givin’ you now.” So why does she want to taste this other woman’s lips? Well, it’s a longing for one last taste of her man (“I wanna taste her lips, yeah, ’cause they taste like you”).
In other words, all that flirtation with same-sex imagery is “just” a “creative” way to express one woman’s ravenous jealousy.
It’s a jealousy so consuming that our poor, envy-besotted narrator can’t even get any shut-eye (“I don’t get no sleep, I don’t get no peace/Thinkin’ about her under your bed sheets/The way that she’s whisperin’, the way that she’s pullin’ you in/Lord knows I’ve tried, I can’t get her off my mind”).
So is the song somehow better or cleaner because it’s not really about same-sex sensuality? Um, well, not really. Wholesome isn’t anywhere in the picture here, no matter how you interpret or misinterpret things, what with this lusty, lonely woman’s fantasies on full display. And, besides, nobody really believes Little Big Town couldn’t have seen the controversy (or the titillation) coming.
Which certainly did come. Washington Post contributor Emily Yahr reports that the song is generating angry responses from listeners at country radio stations across the country, including parents telling DJs they don’t want their kids listening to such racy lyrics. Alana Lynn, a morning co-host at Boise, Idaho, station 104.3 said that as soon as she started playing the song, she got emails arguing it was “promoting the gay agenda,” as well as other messages from disgruntled listeners threatening to boycott the station.
“As a result,” Yahr says, “the song is mired in a difficult climb on the radio charts, and it has ignited a controversy that is symbolic of the fraught state of country radio. There’s a deep chasm these days between what’s popular on country radio—still the genre’s most powerful platform—and what fans are actually buying: ‘Girl Crush’ is No. 4 on iTunes, but lags at No. 33 in radio rankings. And while country music is seen as more progressive now—with explicit lyrics about sex and casual marijuana use—significant portions of the traditional audience will not tolerate a song that they even wrongly assume is about a same-sex relationship. … Even in 2015, the subject is still a taboo in the genre.”
For her part, Fairchild told The Washington Post, “That’s just shocking to me, the close-mindedness of that, when that’s just not what the song was about. But what if it were?”
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.