Little Big Town has found itself A big hit in its new single, “Girl Crush.” The track races 17-3 on Hot Country Songs — the biggest chart hit for the country quartet since its “Pontoon” sailed to No. 1 in 2012 — in the wake of news coverage about the ballad allegedly having difficulty getting radio airplay due to its lyrics, which could be misinterpreted to be about a same-sex love interest.
“Girl Crush” is sung from the perspective of a woman who’s jealous of another woman’s attractiveness. The lyrics are directed to a man involved with the other woman: “I want to taste her lips/Yeah, ’cause they taste like you/I want to drown myself/In a bottle of her perfume.”
News of the song’s alleged lukewarm radio reception — reportedly the result of listener complaints — garnered headlines like “Radio Stations Pull Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ Over Complaints Of Song’s ‘Gay Agenda’ ” (The Huffington Post, March 27) and “Why Stations Are Pulling Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ — And What That Says About Country Radio” (Washington Post, March 25). Then stars like Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire and Dierks Bentley began defending the song. Following the headlines, Billboard.com reported on March 27 — after speaking with country radio programmers — that the controversy wasn’t as widespread as other media outlets had described. Case in point: In the week ending March 29, “Girl Crush” scored play on 140 of the 145 reporting stations on the Country Airplay chart panel, with 8.7 million in audience, up 28 percent — the largest percentage gain among songs in the top 30 (according to Nielsen Music). As a result, the song rises 32-26 in its 16th week.
“Girl Crush” also vaults 4-1 on Country Digital Songs (60,000 downloads, up 137 percent; its best sales week) and zooms 20-2 on Country Streaming Songs (1.6 million U.S. streams, up 115 percent). Parent album Pain Killer also benefits, logging its top sales week (6,000; up 113 percent) since Christmas and returning to the top 10 on Top Country Albums (15-7) and the top 40 on the Billboard 200 (80-36). Meanwhile, Little Big Town zips 91-44 on the Billboard Artist 100.