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When 2 famous singers came out as gay — and 9 other great things that happened in 2014 country

Country music is sometimes criticized for not being very progressive. And with the rise of "bro country" in the past couple years, such criticisms are not entirely unfounded. But here's a list of some pretty awesome stuff that went down in the country music world in 2014.

When 2 famous singers came out as gay — and 9 other great things that happened in 2014 country

1. Kacey Musgraves won two Grammys and bunch of other awards.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote from The Wall Street Journal.

Kacey Musgraves is amazing. She's a popular female country artist who — *GASP* — actually sings about things other than trucks, beer, and gettin' it on. Her 2013 album, "Same Trailer Different Park," features the song "Follow Your Arrow," which is based on not letting the haters get you down. It goes, "Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into." Besides, Musgraves has been writing hit songs for country artists for years — 'bout time she got some more recognition!


Just to tally it all up, in 2014, Musgraves won two Grammy Awards (for Best Country Song and Best Country Album), an Academy of Country Music Award (for Album of the Year), and a Country Music Association Award (for Song of the Year).

2. Maddie & Tae took the scene by storm with "Girl in a Country Song."

The teen duo consisting of Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye debuted their first hit single, "Girl in a Country Song," in mid-2014. The song is (a) VERY CATCHY, (b) so on point, and (c) really impressive for a debut single. And the video is hilarious as well, so check that out when you can.

My absolute favorite line is this: "We used to get a little respect. Now, we're lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut, and ride along down some old dirt road we don't even want to be on, and be the girl in a country song." So good!

3. On Nov. 20, 2014, Ty Herndon came out as gay.

Ty Herndon may be best known for his 1996 hit "Living in a Moment." But he's back in the country scene making a splash with a recent announcement that he's gay — and in a happy, long-term relationship. He came out in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote via Entertainment Tonight.

4. A few hours later, Billy Gilman came out as gay.

This just gets better and better! Just a few hours after the news about Ty Herndon, 26-year-old Billy Gilman (known for "One Voice," his first single at age 11, and more recently "Say You Will") posted a video to YouTube in which he let the world know he's gay.

And to make the story even BETTER, the great LeAnn Rimes took to Twitter in support of each star.

5. Brad Paisley made fun of the Westboro Baptist Church by taking a selfie with them outside of his concert.

OK, now this one is just hilarious. In June 2014, Brad Paisley spotted some angry picketers outside his concert in Kansas. Now, Paisley is famous for the 2005 song "Alcohol" and seems to post on Instagram about moonshine regularly. I can't tell you whether or not he drinks alcohol, or whether or not he's religious, but I can tell you that he took to Instagram to make fun of the picketers outside his summer concert.


Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud.
A photo posted by Brad Paisley (@bradpaisley) on

Did you see that witty caption? It says, "Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud."

6. Kira Isabella took a stand against rape culture with her song "Quarterback."

Image via Thinkstock. Lyrics from "Quarterback."

Kira Isabella is a Canadian country music artist (they exist!) who released her first single in 2011. Her most recent album, "Caffeine & Big Dreams," features the single "Quarterback." In the song, a young girl gets invited to a party by the quarterback of the football team. He gets her drunk, they have sex (her first time), and the next day she is horrified to find pictures of the incident posted all over the Internet. The lyrics leave the story intentionally unclear — What really happened that night? Who did or said what? — but when the whole town takes sides, no one takes the girl's, and no one believes that she was wronged in any way (which, let's just say it, is some serious bullsh*t 'cause that sh*t was definitely not consensual).

Image by Raymond Santos, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from ThinkProgress.

The song "Quarterback" was written by Rivers Rutherford, Bobby Hamrick, and Marti Dodson. Fun fact: According to this article, the song was pitched to Carrie Underwood, but her team turned it down.

7. Steve Grand kept being Steve Grand.

Steve Grand is acclaimed by some as the first popular country musician to start a career already out of the closet. In March 2014, he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his first full-length album featuring the hit 2013 single "All-American Boy." The success of that fundraiser — as well as his 2014 singles "Back to California" and "Time" — prove that he's not leaving the country music scene any time soon.

Here's a clip from the video for "All-American Boy," which was super popular on the Internet when it came out in 2013.

I can't imagine why. It's not like he's adorable or anything. JEEZE.

8. Glen Campbell "sung out" about his battle with Alzheimer's.

In 2011, Glen Campbell (of "Rhinestone Cowboy" — you'd know it if you heard it) announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative disease for which there is no cure. In October 2014, Campbell released one final song to make us all cry (and so everyone would remember the music he's all about).

Image by Arnielee, used under a Creative Commons license. Lyrics from "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

Be sure to catch the whole music video for "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

9. Sheryl Crow sent out this plea on Twitter (and then defended it).

After listening to the radio for over an hour without hearing a single female voice, Sheryl Crow took to Twitter with a plea:

Later, in a radio interview, Crow stood by her initial tweet.

Original image via Thinkstock. Quote from interview with KNCI 105.1.

10. Kenny Chesney called out the genre for objectification of women.

In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Kenny Chesney spoke out against the "bro country" we've all been hearing so much of.

Image by LawrenceFung, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from Billboard.

He gets props for that, for sure, but let's not be too quick to fawn over him as The Savior of Objectified Damsels in Distress. In another interview he explains, "I am learning that when you write songs about women, the perfect place to start is their spirit." I don't really want Kenny Chesney writing anything about my spirit, so the whole thing feels a little "eyeroll-y" still, but we'll let him stick around on our list all the same.

11. Garth Brooks cancelled his appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" after Darren Wilson was not indicted.

Image via Thinkstock


On Nov. 25, 2014, (the day after the announcement that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, would not be indicted — a day of massive civil unrest in our country), Garth Brooks announced via his Facebook page that he had cancelled his Thanksgiving appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show." He said, "To spend the day promoting our stuff like nothing was wrong seemed distasteful to me." While that's really the only hint we've got as to what his reasoning was, I think it's safe to say this was a pretty bold and respectful move on his part.

So what do ya say? Is it finally time to admit to the world that country music has stolen your heart (and radio)? I'd say so.

And finally, there's no way I covered every awesome thing about the 2014 country music scene. Know of any big progressive moments that I missed? Get at me! I'd love to hear about 'em on Twitter, @meganhazel.


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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.