Kacey Musgraves is looking to change a mammoth, 44.6 million-albums-sold-last-year music machine from the inside out. And she's going to use pot, homosexuality, and atheism to do it. "EGADS!", one might say. "POT, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND ATHEISM?!" And then one might think for a moment. "No, wait. Those aren't that exciting anymore," one might realize. "Pfffft, Kacey Musgraves, nice try, with your 'controversial' singing music record. NEXT." But wait. How often do you hear about any of the above in a COUNTRY album? How often are small-town Texas and big-town Nashville starting those conversations? ZING! That's what I thought. Kacey Musgraves is a native of the former, and a product of the latter, and she's changing the genre that made her one song at a time.
Last night, nine million of us set aside our differences, turned on our TVs, and watched Connie Britton and Hayden Panetierre go country. That's right y'all, it was the premiere of ABC's Nashville, a Music City version of All About Eve with enough rhinestones, twang, and Powers Boothe bitchface to fill the Grand Ole Opry (which they did, because the first few scenes were actually filmed there). In keeping with ABC's reputation for primetime soaps, last night's episode set up plenty of fun hot-people-with-secrets drama, but it also set up a tired Madonna/whore dynamic between its two female leads. Set to a kickass soundtrack, of course.
There's a script for women in commercial country music that doesn't necessarily coincide with more mainstream stereotypes and assumptions about women. If you've ever heard Carrie Underwood's ubiquitous 2007 single, "Before He Cheats" (lyrics), you'll recognize the tropes.
Of course there are exceptions, but the ideal country woman is often blond (and white), feisty, world-wise, and hot. She is deeply possessive of her man, and aims to squelch competitors for his affection. She gives the appearance of working-class roots even if she didn't grow up working class, and she's equally comfortable talking about guns (Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead"), Jesus (Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), and heterosexual romantic relationships (Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away").
One of the newer variations on these themes is the girl group Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Check out the first single of their August LP, Hell on Heels (lyrics):
Near the end of this tirade, Morgan included an old chestnut for the queers in the audience, something I’ve grown used to hearing from every "edgy" comedian who wants to get a few yucks doing material about sissy men or butch ladies or epicene androgynes or whoever is filling the straight male id with abject terror this week: "If you can take a dick, you can take a joke." The implication being that anal sex is some sort of great feat, like the Iron Man Competition or a Triathlon, that straight men couldn't possibly endure, because they're so strong and manly? Obviously a person who has passed through such a terrible ordeal will be so hardened by the experience that they will lose all ability to be angry that they paid almost 90 dollars to be told their sexuality is a choice. The statement sometimes carries with it a note of begrudging respect, but that respect is in the context of the speaker acknowledging that "taking a dick" would be impossible for them. They use queer sexuality to have something to define themselves against in order to underscore and highlight their own bland heteronormativity, and expect to get a pass for vile shit they've said about queer lives? Fuck that.