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.

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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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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