Written by Annie Gondran. 2 November 2015.
“Girl Crush”, by Little Big Town, has been the source of many controversies. But this hasn’t stopped the catchy song from selling over 1, 755,000 copies in the United States alone and hitting number 18 on Billboards Hot 100 Chart. Written by Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, and Liz Rose and released as a single on December 15, 2014, the song tells a story about a girl envious of another woman who holds the attention of the man she wants. The lead singer talks about wanting to become this woman in order to gain a man’s affection. However, many listeners have interpreted some of the lyrics of the song to reflect lesbianism. Around 18 months after the release of the single, gay marriage was legalized in America, adding fuel to the fire. “Girl Crush” has even been banned on a few radio stations for their controversial lyrics, but this hasn’t slowed down the song’s success- in fact, in may have even added to it.
Little Big Town was founded in 1988 and is comprised of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, and Phillip Sweet. In “Girl Crush”, Fairchild is the lead singer. The group wasn’t an overnight sensation; they started off singing back up vocals for Collin Raye after being dropped from their first record. After a long road of up and downs and several record signings later, the band signed with Capital Nashville and began headlining their own tour just a few years after. It’s been uphill since then, now they’re a household name with several hits such as “Pontoon” and “Tornado”.
“Girl Crush” is Little Big Town’s first Top 20 single of their career after hitting number 18 on Billboard in May 2019. This song placed on both country charts and pop charts, making its success even more monumental. It was number one single on Hot Country Songs for 13 straight weeks, making it not only their longest running single, but also the longest running number one single on Hot Country Songs by a group of three or more since 1959. The Browns set the previous record with their song “The Three Bells.” According to Rolling Stone, “Girl Crush” is “now the most downloaded [single] in country music for 2015.” There are many reasons for the success of this song, but one is that the song is so widely discussed because of the perception that it’s a lesbian song.
It’s understandable that this misconception could occur because of some of the lyrics, but when you listen to the words closely, the real meaning of the song is clear. Older generations could also find the title controversial. The term “girl crush” is used frequently by younger generations to describe an admiration a girl has for another girl. But here, older listeners could easily be perceived as having a literal crush on another girl. However, this hasn’t stopped people from complaining about the song. This song could be especially offensive to right wing Christians, who oppose the idea of same-sex relationships. Radio stations even began yanking the song from their playlists after receiving complaints. All of this buzz could be because of the timing of the song, with the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court over the summer as the song was climbing the charts.
Kimberly Schlapman, a member of the band, said that the controversy behind the song “was disheartening” and it was difficult to hear negative news stories about their song. But these comments have ended up giving “huge life to the song” because it led to people “buying it like hotcakes”, according to an article on ajc.com. Although some radio stations may have yanked the song from their playlists, it created so much buzz that the song broke records and topped charts. The song’s reception has been compared to the Dixie Chicks Natalie Maines’ comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, but it’s clear that this controversy led to greater success as apposed to the Dixie Chicks, whose career ended after the more than controversial comments. It’s unclear whether or not the song was actually removed from as many radio stations as it’s perceived to have, but the drama put the song in the news. Of course when a person hears that a song has been banned, they immediately go listen to it, propelling the song up the charts.
The song is somewhat open to interpretation, it could be about a girl wanting a guy who either cheated on her with another woman or a guy that she wishes she has but doesn’t. The song opens with “I got a girl crush/ Hate to admit it but/ I got a heart rush/ Ain’t slowing down/ I got it real bad.” It’s easy to see where the misunderstanding comes from with this opening line, but for the lucky people that choose to keep listening, the song goes on to say “Want everything she has/ That smile and that midnight laugh/ She’s giving you know.” These lines that conclude the first verse make it clear that the song is not about a lesbian crush, but actually about a girl who wishes she was another girl. This girl is all the singer thinks about, she wants to have her hair, smell like her, and even taste like her lips taste simply because they’ve touched the man she loves.
In particular, the line “I want to taste her lips” could cause a major misunderstanding. While it sounds like she wants to kiss this girl, it’s actually because her lips taste like the boy she wants. Its interesting that this line would cause so much stir after Katy Perry released a song entitled “I Kissed a Girl” that talked about how she kissed a girl at a party and she enjoyed it. Obviously, these two songs reached two very different audiences, Katy Perry and her pop fan base and then Little Big Town with their country fan base. Country music listeners tend to be more Christian and conservative, which is why the song was so controversial to this crowd as opposed to Katy’s song. Also, “Girl Crush” is to a much slower beat, making the song almost sexual sounding; while “I Kissed a Girl” is an obvious pop party song.
Fairchild opens the song with the first verse, setting up the tone of the song. She starts slowly, enunciating every word. She even slows down more during the line “ain’t slowing down” and drops her voice there. Its almost as though she’s using a seductive voice to allure to the audience and draw them in. During the chorus, the back up singers join in, emphasizing the importance of this section of the song. This is where it becomes especially clear what the real point of the song is, especially with the line “Yeah, ‘cause maybe then/ You’d want me just as much.”
The closing line of the chorus, “I got a girl crush”, is especially emphasized, its almost like you can hear a period at the end of every word. It’s repeated twice and followed by a short instrumental. This instrumental leaves you hanging on her every word and leaves it reverberating in your mind. Fairchild’s voice grows in strength throughout the song; that is until the end of the chorus at the closing of the song. Instead of ending on “I got a girl crush”, the first three lines of the first verse are repeated. They’re song loudly and each word is clearly annunciated, that is until the final line “It ain’t slowing down”, which is practically whispered. The song ends abruptly after that line.
The musical instruments used in “Girl Crush” are minimal, only an electric guitar and a drum set with symbols. The song opens with a slow, lone electric guitar playing to the rhythm of the first verse. The melody is almost playful, which matches perfectly for a song that isn’t exactly what it seems. The drums don’t come into play until the end of the chorus when Karen sings, “I got a girl crush”, adding emphasis onto the line. Symbols and drums are both played along with the electric guitar in the second verse, adding to the coy tone of the song and mirroring Fairchild’s voice as it grows in strength. At the end of the song after the final line of the chorus, the drums fade out and the electric guitar is the only instrument. However, by the final line the electric guitar grows faint and it ends on the sound of Fairchild’s voice alone.
No matter how you interpret the song, it’s relatable to anyone. Whether you hear it as a song about a girl wanting to become the girl their boyfriend cheated on or a song about a girl wanting to become the girl who holds the boy she loves’ affection, you can still put yourself in the shoes of the singer. Rebeca Davis commented on the music video for “Girl Crush” on youtube saying, “I think this song makes me think about me and my ex-husband. I miss him so much and I know he is with a hot new girl. I just wish I could see him again. I still love him so much!!” The simplicity of the instruments and the almost pleading tone of Fairchild’s voice makes you feel her pain and wanting, even her envy. Cmt.com analyzed the success of the song and concluded “part of the reason is because ‘Girl Crush’ is about a topic everyone can identify with.” Between the relatable aspects and the buzz the controversy has created for this song, it’s clear why it has been so successful.
|0.00-0.06||Introduction||Slow electric guitar with no background music.||This lone guitar introduces the more serious aspects of the song. The melody is a bit playful, as though they’re trying to let you know that the lyrics aren’t exactly as they seem.|
|0.06-0.39||Verse 1||“I got a girl crush…”||The instrument continues with the lone electric guitar. The rhythm stays the same and the lead singer begins to sing. There are no backup singers.|
|0.39-1.30||Chorus||“I wanna taste her lips…”||The backup singers are featured in the chorus, although very subtly and only accompanying her on certain words. The chorus is made more persistent by the lead singer enunciating every word clearly. A drum is also used in this section, but very minimally.|
|1.30-2.02||Verse 2||“I don’t get no sleep…”||The song begins to pick up in speed. In addition to the electric, the drums are more obvious and the symbols are used. The singer’s voice also grows in strength, signifying the emotional aspect of the song.|
|2.02-2.40||Chorus||“I wanna taste her lips…”||In addition to the electric guitar, the drums are more obvious, as well as the symbols. The singer is louder than in the previous chorus.|
|2.40-2.53||Instrumental||Electric guitar accompanied by drums and symbols.||The instruments keep with the rhythm of the chorus, but begin to slow down.|
|2.53-3.13||Refrain||“I got a girl crush…”||The guitar is the only instrument used, and it is used very sparingly. By the last line there are no instruments and the only sound is the singer’s voice.|
Ho, Rodney. “Controversy over Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ May Have Actually Helped It on Radio | Radio and TV Talk.” Radio and TV Talk. N.p., 1 May 2015. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
“Little Big Town.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
“Girl Crush.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
Stephens, Samantha. “Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” Makes History.” News. CMT, 13 July 2015. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
“Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” Stirs Controversy – Like It Was Built To.” Saving Country Music. N.p., 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
Betts, Stephen. “Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ Makes Chart History.” Rolling Stone. N.p., 09 July 2015. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.