A Break from Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
By Aaron Bumgarner
Young girls have a lot of options from which to choose when looking for an idol or a role model in the music world today. But if I had a daughter, I’d be thankful for artists like Miranda Lambert and Beyoncé. Neither is perfect; I don’t think Lambert and I would agree on America’s gun laws, and, if I were a father, I’m sure I’d be uncomfortable with my daughter relating to Beyoncé’s overt sexuality. But both singers have released albums of substance within the last year, albums that declare their womanhood to the world with artistry and conviction. I’d be happy having my daughter look up to either of them. (What gives me pause with Beyoncé is that she’s married to the man that released Magna Carta…Holy Grail.)
I’m not a father though, so my only frame of reference for this discussion is my middle-school students. Granted, it’s a lot easier to imagine my students listening to Beyoncé than to Miranda Lambert, given that 90% of them are Latino. I’m not saying that Latinos don’t listen to country music. I have a Latino friend that really enjoys country music. But he’s not a middle schooler living in an urban area and heavily influenced by peer pressure. So I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of my students don’t listen to Miranda Lambert.
But I wish they would! I want my female students to feel empowered to make their own life decisions. I want them to see that women can have the power to start their own businesses. I want them to see that a woman can be married and not be subservient to her husband. I want them to see that a woman can take ownership of her sexuality and not be exploited. I want them to love themselves enough not to define themselves by their relationship to a boy. And I don’t want them to find their identity in their beauty.
Miranda Lambert addresses all these issues and more on her new album, Platinum. She subverts the daddy-daughter song in “Girls” with a chorus of “If you think you’re the only one she’ll want in this world / Then you don’t know nothin’ ‘bout girls”. In “Bathroom Sink” and “Gravity Is a B***h”, Lambert deftly explains that she won’t let what she sees in the mirror become how she defines herself, while extolling the virtues of both her personality and her beauty on “Platinum”. Instead of the crazy ex-girlfriend anthems that have become so popular in country music (and which she’s already mastered), she kisses off boys that ain’t worth her time in “Two Rings Shy” and “Little Red Wagon”. And the only time she explicitly mentions her marriage to Blake Shelton is in a song about her own similarities to a different woman, Priscilla Presley. The lyrics end up hardly being about Shelton at all.
This is an album by a woman about being a woman, regardless of any men. Platinum is all the more impressive when you consider what a boys’ world country music is. Since 2000, over twice as many men in country music have had Number 1 albums on the Billboard 200 than women. Subjectively, it’s hard for me to think of who the women on that list would be aside from Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift, whereas I could think of 7 of the men off the top of my head. It’s even worse in pop music; there may be a lot of female artists in the Top 40, but name one female producer making hits right now.
The worst part about this is the lack of role models for young girls to look up to. Just like there aren’t enough black women starring in movies to inspire young black girls, there aren’t enough women (white or black) making waves in the music world for young girls to respect, and the few that are tend to be presented through the male gaze. If I want my female students to take ownership of their lives and have confidence, Miranda Lambert’s Platinum is a great place to start. Too bad they don’t listen to country music.