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.
My friend @TyHerndoncom is a BAD ASS!! I love you big brother. #speakthetruth #respect #ComingOut
— LeAnn Rimes Cibrian (@leannrimes) November 20, 2014
I'm crying in a damn @McDonalds restroom in VA Thx to you both @TyHerndoncom @BillyGilman #speakthetruth #LGBT #ComingOut
— LeAnn Rimes Cibrian (@leannrimes) November 20, 2014
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).
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:
Would someone please play a woman on the radio? Any woman. Doesn't have to be me but if I hear one more bro country song I'm gonna vomit!
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) March 28, 2014
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.
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.