“Girl Crush,” the most recent single off Little Big Town’s Pain Killer, is a #nohomo gag almost as compelling as when two drunk frat bros cuddle ‘cause they’re just such good buds. It’s a beautiful piece of music. Karen Fairchild’s lead vocal performance is haunting, gorgeous, delicately needful, deserving of accolades. The verse structure sounds kinda like Beyoncé’s version of “Ave Maria.” It is tender and weird. I’m, like, convinced that the “long blonde hair” lyric overlap with reigning country queen Miranda Lambert’s latest “Little Red Wagon” is meant to signify that the song is about her, and nobody can tell me otherwise, even my own more logical inner voice. I like listening to it over and over while I practice handstands; the blood rushes to my head and the combined effect makes me feel like I’m at a super gloomy, horny church (i.e. a church). This is probably the most interesting song on country radio right now, so it’s disappointing that it’s also a bait-and-switch diddy that barely even bothers to wink about two girls who want the same dude.
I mean, it’s not that “Girl Crush” needs to be about a woman who wants to have sex with another woman. I’m not saying there should be a gun held to the members of Little Big Town, or anybody, like, “make this gayer.” That’s not the point at all. The world will go on just fine while another song about a woman who is jealous of a woman who has the man she wants is vibrating through its atmosphere. Not every maybe-baby-I-don’t-know-could-be same-sex love song can toe the line in a way that never steps bullishly outside the limits of authentic feeling like Rosanne Cash’s “The Way We Make A Broken Heart,” and that’s fine. I don’t really care that this isn’t a song about a girl longing to kiss another girl, I just wish it weren’t quite so cute about pretending to be.
Little Big Town are not entirely to blame here. Neither, in my opinion, are the song’s writing team of Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey. The idea was McKenna’s baby, and she’s written for Faith Hill. She wrote this Angaleena Presley song I love. She calls “Girl Crush” a new twist on the jealousy song, and that’s not technically untrue, though the woman-almost-singing-to-a-woman schtick is hardly novel, particularly in country music. This song absolutely does not prove, and I would not wish to suggest, that these women are not strong songwriters. I mean, the song is catchy. It’s good, slick and somber in the chorus with nicely lived-in verses. What it does prove is that the cultural appetite for superficial lesbian-tourism that gestures vaguely like it’s going there but never, ever, in a million years is going to has not abated in the year 2015. The term “girl crush” is embarrassing, anyway, and no less clunky and politically archaic than its fist-pounding beer can-clanking “bromance” cousin. Nobody thinks you want to bang your friend because you like her new jeans. Faux-progressive homosocial self-consciousness creates lots of room for the type of hint-hint-nah innuendo play “Girl Crush” is built on, the harmlessness of such play being, at the very least, up for debate, and if the world was so hell-bent on hashtaging their pictures of Rihanna with it over and over all across the Internet long enough, this song was bound to happen.
The bottom line is, the story that this song’s selling, I am not buying. Not even for gas points with my swipe card. I do not believe this scenario. I do not believe a narrator who says things like, “I wanna drown myself in a bottle of her perfume” and “I want her magic touch” or “Lord knows I’ve tried / I can’t get her off my mind” is doing it just because she’s after some lady’s boyfriend. I’m sorry; that’s not a thing. Fairchild sells the intensity beyond dispute, and that’s to the track’s ultimate detriment, because, no. I do not buy it. Kelly Clarkson claims to, before doing a lovely cover of the track, and more power to her, but I’m unconvinced. “I’ve totally been that girl, like ‘I’m so much cooler than her, you just don’t get it yet,” Clarkson says of her strong connection to the song, which would make sense, which I would nod my head along with, if that were at all what “Girl Crush” sounds like. “I want to taste her lips / oh cause they taste like you” is ridiculous nonsense, pretty, but acceptable only if it purports to be a description of some other species of beings on some other planet, some place where emotions and desire work in an entirely different way than what we simple humans can comprehend. I am being told that all this great and baleful wanting is only a manifestation of unrequited desire for an occupied man, and I can’t make that jump seem plausible in my mind no matter how many times I listen to the song and try. These lyrics are intended–clearly, though they don’t succeed– to add up to a portrait of a woman who is so lovesick over some guy that she is displacing her lust onto his female significant other, but that concept, a perfectly reasonable concept, actually, a kind of fascinating one, is buried amid an effort to make every single line sound as gay as possible while actually being absolutely, 100% oh, ha, see what we did there, L O L, curtseying straight. “I hate to admit it, but” this song is bullshit. I am going to take it off repeat, like, any day now.