I'm back from my honeymoon and I'm here to tell you one thing: I hate music videos. Sorry -- I know you guys spend a lot of money on them and, frankly, I'm pretty sure that's how most people consume music these days. It's certainly how they consume information. I was recently hanging out with some friends and their very chatty four-year-old, and handing him the phone so he could watch Minecraft videos was fascinating to witness. With no judgment to the parents (we all needed a break, including the kid), watching the emotions play across his face was awe-inspiring and a little frightening. The sound was off and he's too young to read subtitles, so what was he reacting to?
So the fact that we've got two country music videos making big news makes a certain amount of sense. There is something about visual storytelling that hits the big buttons in our brains. I spent my honeymoon following the Jason Aldean drama from across the Atlantic Ocean with a feeling of blissful distance. I don't have much to add there; I hate that it makes so many of our country music family feel unsafe, especially Black country fans. It's worth noting that Aldean's publicist dropped him after the spat with Maren and his wife launched her "fashion" apparel line (just some ugly t shirts with slogans about protecting children and guns) hours before the Covenant school shooting. She used a MAGA publicity firm that seemed to be specifically targeting leftist country writers in the hopes one of us would take the bait and create outrage clicks. Pretty sure that was the same tactic here.
By contrast, Tyler Childers, who actually grew up in a rural area, released his masterful video for "In Your Love," which depicted a gay couple making their way through Appalachian life in the 1950s. Our very own Josh Friedberg questioned why the story had to end in tragedy, but I think in this particular case it worked. The video shows that the couple had community support and, well, coal miners tend to meet tragic ends. I can only imagine someone who has lost a loved one to cancer or emphysema can find a point to relate to in this story, even if watching two men kiss is a bridge too far. (And, as someone in our Instagram comments pointed out, the song itself is sad!)
More importantly, I think it's interesting to see how artists are using slickly-produced videos to project their brand, moreso than the songs itself. This is a moment, just through a coincidence of timing, where Childers' allyship is sorely needed. I've been writing about the guy for nine years and have been waiting for his emotional maturity to catch up to his potential. That time has arrived. Childers is not the first cishet country musician to draw LGBTQ+ stories into their videos (see Cam's sexy "'Til There's Nothing Left") but as the video-fication of the Internet places more and more emphasis on how artists frame the stories they tell in their songs, who country artists show in their videos -- or don't -- will matter more and more.
Until that happens, here's three weeks of Rainbow Rodeo to catch up on!
Josh Friedberg explains how Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" changed his life
As mentioned above, he also questions the portrayal of queer tragedy in Childers' new video
This month's podcast features Beau Wheeler, their stadium-ready voice, and the heart that's big enough to fill one. We discuss their experience with cancer and figuring out their gender identity. Also -- what they did to go see Mavis Staples.
Get 'em all right here!