“If you think we live in the land of the free, you should try to be black like me.” This is the chorus to country singer Mickey Guyton’s 2020 song “Black Like Me,” and a focal point of the New Yorker’s latest feature piece on Guyton, titled, “Mickey Guyton Takes On the Overwhelming Whiteness of Country Music.” The gist of the article is pretty simple: country music is racist, and it needs to be disrupted from within by woke artists like Guyton.
Predictably, “Black Like Me,” received a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance at the 2021 Grammy Awards. In 2020, Guyton co-hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban, where she was nominated for the New Female Artist of the Year award, and during Blackout Tuesday in 2020, Spotify put “Black Like Me” at the top of the Hot Country playlist.
Even though Guyton’s songs are glorified by corporate country and the corporate media, everyday country fans, like myself, haven’t exactly clicked with her music or enjoyed the fact that country radio is constantly shoving it down our throats.
First of all, “Black Like Me” is based on the lie that the American dream does not exist for black or brown Americans. Taking a page out of the BLM mission statement, Guyton’s song overtly maintains that our country is institutionally racist, has made little to no progress since slavery, and if you have melanin in your skin, you may as well stop trying. Basically, if the 1619 project were a country song, “Black Like Me” would be it.
But then again, hopeless victimhood based on left-wing lies are sort of Guyton’s brand. Here are the lyrics to her 2020 single “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” a song about how women, especially black women, will never make it in the world because of sexism:
She thinks life is fair and
God hears every prayer
And everyone gets their ever after
She thinks love is love and if
You work hard, that’s enough
Skin’s just skin and it doesn’t matter…
But what are you gonna tell her
When she’s wrong?…
Do you just let her pretend
That she could be the president?
Would it help us get there any faster?
Do you let her think the deck’s not stacked?
Guyton’s music is based on a divisive falsehood. Moreover, there’s really nothing that makes her songs in any way remarkable or even country. Her sound is far more pop than twangy or rootsy, it doesn’t have a unique or interesting melody, and her lyrics are pedestrian, albeit very progressive.
The problem with Guyton and the Brooklyn-based author of the New Yorker article, Amanda Petrusich, is that neither of them seem to understand anything about country music or fly-over America in general.
Petrusich psychoanalyzes country music, saying the genre has “shifted from mirroring white anxieties to seeding them.” With no evidence, she writes that country music “establish[es] racial divides.”
She also says country music is “often predicated on feelings of nostalgia for an imagined rural past, in which life moved more slowly and the continuation of tradition was paramount,” adding that “This sort of longing for a bygone era is rarely a Black experience, in part because the myth of the ‘good old days’ tends to predate the civil-rights movement.”
I’ll start by saying that outside of Brooklyn, Amanda, rural America does, in fact, exist, and as of 2020, 57.2 million people live in it.
Petrusich’s politically motivated stereotyping of the genre prevents her from understanding the beautiful underlying truth behind authentic country music. Country music is not racist, it is regional. Non-corporate country gives listeners a glimpse into the everyday lives of distinct voices from unique areas across the country. That’s why country music has so many sub-genres (bluegrass, red dirt, honky-tonk, Texas, Tex-Mex/Tejano, outlaw, folk etc.).
Take, for example, Emily Scott Robinson’s “Westward Bound,” a beautiful song about the America “that the Interstate left behind.”
Pass the corn fields and the UFO museum
Little churches washed in white
With names like Holy Restoration
Tabernacle of Eternal Life
In the mountains of New Mexico
I cross the Great Divide
Flip through the empty radio
And drive on through the night
It put a roof over my head
And the armor on the tanks in Normandy
The lights shone bright in the hands of its care
From the western skies to Washington D.C
Now it lies broken, high, and cold
In its grave of Appalachian stone
Now we don’t need tokens to a company store
That’s what government stamps and codeine’s for
We may have won a few battles, but we lost the war
Now we’re slaves and poor
Country music also has an uncanny ability to capture the everyday human experience. Flatland Cavalry is a folk band known for its use of the often forgotten fiddle, utilizing it for upbeat tunes and blue ballads. One of my favorites is “Sleeping Alone.” It’s smooth and miserable and clever all at once.
Counting constellations on the popcorn ceiling
And staring at your picture on the wall
Rays of lonely moonlight slowly slice through the blinds
As the tears begin to fall
I’m tired of sleeping alone
And I just wanna be where you are
Tired of saying goodnight through the phone
And waking up each morning in the dark
Better say a prayer
Turn out the light
Sigh and hug my pillow tight
I’ll be with you soon my dear
If only in my dreams
Unfortunately, songs like the ones listed above do not usually get played on country radio. Pop country music like Guyton’s is reflective of a decades-long and growing tension within the country music industry. Motivated by bigger profits, Nashville executives prop up rap-country and pop-country singers so that they can appeal to a larger, cross-genre audience. Consequently, more traditional regional country artists get overlooked by the growing monolithic corporate country sound, leaving hardly any distinction between your local pop and country stations.
Uplifting artists who use traditional, regional sounds would be a positive change for the industry. But Guyton couldn’t care less about the struggling country artists fighting the Nashville machine because she is part of that machine. She is every self-conscious, self-loathing Nashville executive’s affirmative action dream. Her mediocre, politically trendy music has benefited tremendously from the corporate obsession with “diversity” that is now infecting country music.
Indeed, The New Yorker’s Petrusich worries that: “Guyton’s advocacy is so vigorous that it sometimes risks overshadowing her artistry.” But you can be sure Nashville’s virtue signaling executives are not really worried about artistry. They want her politics upfront and center as a shield against the threat of being called racist.
Guyton quite clearly has zero respect for or any understanding of the genre she claims to be part of. She stereotypes all of country music and shames it for not hitting the right intersectional checkmarks. “It’s not enough for just one to make it here and there — it needs to be a sea of Black women, a sea of Latina women, a sea of L.B.G.T.Q. artists,” Guyton tells the New Yorker. “If we don’t see that, then it’s just gonna be the same white guy in a pickup truck with a ball cap, maybe some sneakers.”
The anxiety over the underrepresentation of black singers is a growing concern for corporate country. Guyton knows this and she is using it to her advantage.
To be clear, there are many talented black country stars like Darius Rucker, Yola, Cowboy Troy, Kane Brown, and Jimmie Allen. Aversion to Guyton’s music specifically doesn’t make someone a racist. I love Yola’s “Ride Out In The Country,” because it’s simple, soulful, and perfect for, as she sings, “take[ing] a ride out in the country.” By contrast, “Black Like Me” is politically charged, unremarkable, and a pop song.
Something I don’t hear Guyton or Petrusich complaining about is the massive over-representation of black artists in R&B, rap, hip-hop, funk, and blues. Is that racism, too? No, because that doesn’t fit the critical race theory narrative. There is zero evidence that country music is perpetuating racism in America, just like the overrepresentation of black artists in multiple other genres is not perpetuating racism.
Country music showcases lifestyles, homes, families, traditions, pains, and joys of people who tend to live in, as Robinson sings, “the America that the interstate left behind.” Leftists don’t want to amplify the voices and messages found in country music because it tends to run counter to their goal of establishing a cultural reset. They want to reimagine the genre on their terms. It’s part of the reason why they cheer on the destructive nature of rap and bro-country. It’s also why they fawn over b-list woke singers like Guyton.
As a Latina woman, I never found that my race inhibited my ability to love country music. I didn’t have to be white or grow up on a farm to love Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country,” or consider myself a redneck to blast Gretchen Wilson’s “redneck woman” as I’m driving down the freeway. For me, it was never about skin color.
I gravitate toward country because of its incredible story-telling powers, its ability to capture human emotion and the everyman’s experience, and because it reflects my values. Good country music is honest, raw, American, and for all these reasons, worth protecting from those who seek to destroy it.
Evita Duffy is an intern at The Federalist and a junior at the University of Chicago, where she studies American History. She loves the Midwest, lumberjack sports, writing, & her family. Follow her on Twitter at @evitaduffy_1