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Little Big Town rides ‘Girl Crush’ controversy up the charts

Little Big Town during the First Annual Florida Country Superfest in 2014 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Little Big Town during the First Annual Florida Country Superfest in 2014 in Jacksonville, Fla.Rick Diamond/Getty Images for 2014 Festival Productions Inc.

Little Big Town's haunting "Girl Crush" is a post-breakup single with a twist: It's about entering the stage of grief that involves coveting another woman's entire existence — including, and especially, a boyfriend who got away. "I want to taste her lips/ Yeah, 'cause they taste like you," vocalist Karen Fairchild croons over a deliberately plucked guitar; later, she sings, "I want her magic touch/ Yeah, 'cause maybe then/ You'd want me just as much."

The single went to radio in late December. A few months later, stations in Boise, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, had pulled "Girl Crush" from their playlists because of reported listener complaints over the half-couplets' Sapphic overtones. Those incidences of country-radio censorship garnered quite a few headlines, as well as spirited defenses from Nashville stars Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire.

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But the much-discussed bannings by those two stations have hardly resulted in "Girl Crush" disappearing from radio; on the most recent edition of the Billboard Hot 100, it rockets from No. 95 to No. 45, thanks in part to it being played on 140 of the 145 country radio stations that make up the trade publication's Country Airplay chart reporting panel.

The song also tallied 60,000 paid downloads and 1.6 million streams in the U.S. during the week ending March 29 — which goes to show you that curiosity, while killing the proverbial cat, can be great for marketing, particularly if there's a bit of controversy attached.


Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.