In an interview last fall, Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild used the word "provocative" to describe what is now the group's current single, "Girl Crush." She couldn't have been more dead-on in describing the song about one woman's jealousy over the other woman in her man's life.
In a widely circulated recent post on ForTheCountryRecord.com a blogger using the screen name "TexMex" -- who purported to be "a music director for a current country music radio station in Texas" -- wrote about listeners calling to complain about "Girl Crush" over what they mistakenly believed to be the song's lesbian theme.
"To my surprise, after explaining the song to more than a handful of people, every one of them responded with basically the same thing: 'You are just promoting the gay agenda on your station and I am changing the channel and never listening to you ever again!,'" TexMex wrote, going on to explain that the complaints made his/her boss move the song back from medium to light rotation.
But such complaints don't appear to be widespread, despite headlines in The Washington Post and Fox News declaring that multiple stations are "pulling" the song while citing just one example: a station in Boise, Idaho.
Billboard checked in with a dozen prominent programmers from across the country and found most reporting few to no complaints about the song. Whatever complaints there are don't seem to be hurting the song's performance. It's bulleted at No. 32 on the April 4 Country Airplay chart after 15 weeks, well within the range of what would be considered a normal chart climb. (The singles just above and just below it on the chart are at 17 and 20 weeks, respectively.) Even more telling, on the chart dated April 4, "Girl Crush" received plays on 139 of the week's 145 reporters, according to Nielsen Music.
KRYS Corpus Christi, Texas, has only recently begun spinning the song, and while PD Big Frank Edwards says it's too soon to gauge a response, he adds, "I'm a narrow-minded, conservative, eighth generation Texan, and I think the song is fine."
"The song certainly is delivered from a more abstract perspective than what we're used to," says WDAF Kansas City PD Wes Poe. "That takes a few more listens to grasp all they lyrics, but it seems pretty clear to me what they're getting at."
Mike Preston, PD of KKWF Seattle, says he has received "only a couple of complaints, nothing crazy though." As for how he handles them, Preston says, "Since they usually are email based, I send a link to an article in Rolling Stone where [songwriter] Lori McKenna tells the story behind the song. Seems to help them understand. Also interesting to note, Capitol is running commercials on the station with LBT 'explaining' the song."
Of the 12 programmers we contacted, just one -- KILT Houston assistant PD/music director Chris Huff -- who detailed a specific complaint. "We actually had a woman who paid an in-person visit to the station to express her concern for our airing of this song and, as she misinterpreted it, its threat to the moral integrity of country music," he says. "She seemed quite set in her conviction and we simply thanked her for her feedback."
Among those reporting no complaints at all are WUSN Chicago; WCTK Providence, R.I.; KSON San Diego; and KNTY Sacramento, Calif., where, PD Tosh Jackson says, "The song is doing well and researching."
KUZZ Bakersfield, Calif., has the song in power rotation, and PD Tom Jordan says, "Our research is showing our listeners want this song. We have the occasional caller that is pissed about it playing. The morning guys, Steve & Geoff, will put that call on the air and explain to them it is not a lesbian song, and what it is about, in a quick 30-45 second call that is pretty damn entertaining."
KCYE Las Vegas and KSJO San Jose, Calif., also report no complaints, with KCYE PD Kris Daniels saying, "I have had a lot of requests from mostly women that love the song. Our listeners are pretty to the point about what they like and don't like, and they really like this song." Adds KSJO PD Mac Daniels, "I see the huge numbers of downloads [on the song] every week. That's pretty high praise if you ask me."