The Little Big Town “Girl Crush” story was overblown NOT fabricated

Little Big Town girl crush

Last week you had to basically be living under a rock not to have heard all the buzz about Little Big Town’s song Girl Crush. Unfortunately, the hype wasn’t because it’s an amazing song but rather it came about for a different, completely sad reason.

Word got out that a couple of radio stations (a couple, as in two) had pulled Girl Crush from rotation – or at least lowered the amount of plays the song was getting – due to complaints from close-minded listeners who thought it was a song about lesbianism and rather than jealousy, which is what it’s really about.

The misunderstood lyrics were:

I wanna taste her lips, yeah, ‘cause they taste like you
I wanna drown myself in a bottle of her perfume
I want her long blonde hair, I want her magic touch
Yeah, ‘cause maybe then you’d want me just as much
I gotta girl crush, I gotta girl crush

Yep, if I was a homophobic nut I’d probably have a problem with those lyrics, too. The problem was that people weren’t listening to the whole song to see that it’s actually about an ex-girlfriend wanting to know exactly what her ex’s new gal has that she doesn’t have.

Well the original story that got people talking was a passionate plea by a Texas music director who wrote under the name TexMex on Gab friend, and occasional writer, Vickye’s site For The Country Record. TexMex told how his station had had enough complaints about the song that his boss had decided to back off playing it.

I asked if they could just change the station for a bit and come back to us?? Nope! It was never my intent after fielding several complaints to take the song off the air. However, my boss thought we should move it back to a light rotation and out of medium, which for our station means 14 less spins per week. I fought for the song to stay put, but in the end he has the absolute final say, even though he agrees with me in principle.

And that was it. He told the story of his experience. He wrote the post as TexMex to protect his job. I have two people in radio who write for me on occasion who use names that aren’t their own for the exact same reason. It’s not a huge secret that that sort of thing happens.

Well Vickye got lucky because the story got picked up by The Washington Post, who also spoke with a DJ in Boise, Alana Lynn from Wow 104.3, who had a similar experience with angry listeners. Then the story went viral in a big way and Vickye’s site started getting namechecked by literally hundreds of news agencies and blogs talking about the Little Big Town “controversy.” That doesn’t happen very often and it’s amazing when it does.

Unfortunately, like also tends to happen, with each retelling of Vickye’s original story about one station’s experience with angry listeners, the idea that Little Big Town’s song was being forced off the air by homophobic radio listeners got bigger and bigger. By the end of the week, it sounded like Little Big Town was getting the Dixie Chicks treatment and were being boycotted nationwide. The band even reportedly recorded a commercial for stations to play before the song to help listeners understand the true meaning of the song.

Then something unexpected (but not really) happened. Billboard came out with an article about the story being overblown. Which it was. Not the original FTCR story, mind you, but what happened after the original story. Unfortunately, the Billboard writer decided to title her article “Controversy Over Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ & Its ‘Lesbian Theme’ Is Mostly Fabricated.” She also seemed to question For The Country Record’s guest writer’s credentials, which, if you ask me, is just kind of rude.

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.

The article then went on to point out that the song isn’t really being hurt at all by whatever controversy there actually is.

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.

So Billboard checked with a dozen programmers, which sounds great in theory. However, if you Google the number of country stations across the US you would find that there are around 1900 country music radio stations. When you think about that amount, a dozen programmers saying there isn’t a problem doesn’t sound so impressive.

That, however, isn’t my problem with Billboard’s story. My problem comes from the fact that the article’s writer said that the story is mostly fabricated, which it’s not. The story was never fabricated. It began with the story on Vickye’s site of one radio station having difficulties with angry listeners and Wow 104.3’s Alana Lynn recounting her own trouble with homophobic listeners to The Washington Post. But that’s it. Two.

The rest of the story’s sensationalism came from the breathless internet retelling.

See, the story isn’t guilty of being fabricated, it’s guilty of being really bad at the telephone game, where each retelling got more dramatic and a whole lot worse than the original story ever meant it to be.

telephone game
The Telephone Game – photo via WikiHow.com

Like I said, by the end of the week, the internet pretty much had Little Big Town getting ran off the airwaves, but that wasn’t what was happening at all.

Obviously.

But that wasn’t For the Country Record’s fault, or even The Washington Post’s, that’s just the way the internet works. There’s nothing the internet loves more than a good dramatic story, especially when one aspect of that dramatic story is about people being homophobic.

Something else the internet loves? Blaming someone when they feel like they’ve been duped. So when Billboard decided to say the story was fabricated (or mostly fabricated), and call into question FTCR’s writer’s credentials, acting as though maybe TexMex was a fraud and not a music programmer at all (don’t you know? All the cool kids are pretending to be radio programmers these days), guess who a large part of the internet decided was to blame.

Yep, For The Country Record.

Those who just a few days earlier were quoting Vickye’s story were now shaking their heads, clucking their tongues, and excitedly writing about the story being fake.

Umm, again, no it wasn’t. The story was blown into crazy proportions by the power of dramatic social media and breathless bloggers and reporters wanting to write about the homophobic ways of country music fans, but the original story was and still is just one person’s experience with angry and misinformed radio listeners.

Period.

End of story.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of this story. See, once Vickye decided to take exception to Billboard writer Phyllis Stark’s portrayal of her original story as fabricated (whether that was the Stark’s intention or not), Phyllis decided to ignore her concerns. Rather than maybe having a conversation with Vickye about her being upset, Phyllis just deleted all comments on her story, including the one or two from Vickye asking her to clarify the whole “fabricated” thing.

Yep, the Billboard story, which came out on Friday and has now been linked to and talked about by hundreds of other sites, has not a single comment on it (at least it had none when I read it last a couple of hours ago).

Apparently the way Billboard handles people not agreeing with their reporting is to just ignore and delete their comments.

Odd way of doing things, but okay.

Ms. Stark then decided to comment on Twitter about how Vickye should just be happy with the publicity.

Phillis Stark snarky tweet

Apparently Vickye shouldn’t be upset about feeling like she’s being called a liar because she’s getting a bunch of hits on her website.

And that, my friends, is a load of crap.

Back on Vickye’s end, she decided to help combat the idea that story originator TexMex was a fake by outting him (with his permission, of course), in a new blog post.

I kept the OP’s (original poster) anonymity because I respected what he had brought to the blog and didn’t want his job to be threatened. But now our site’s credibility is being threatened, and more and more outlets are talking about it potentially being fake.

His name is Lee France. He is the music director for WACO 100 FM and KAGG-FM in Texas. Both are iHeartMedia stations.

Now let’s stop spreading shit about a blog that has done literally nothing wrong. Thanks.

Pretty sad that this is how it all turned out.

This is a story that deserved to go viral for what it was – a blog post about a few homophobic radio listeners causing problems for a really, really great song. It should have brought about a conversation about how people should take the time to actually listen to the lyrics of a song before passing judgement.

Funny enough, a story about people failing to listen to the words of a song turned into a story about people failing to listen to the words of a story.

So in the end, the internet did what the drama-hungry internet does and turned a good thing (like a story going viral) into a virtual nightmare.

Welcome to news 2015 style.

 

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