Often times, shock value in music isn't perpetrated by the lyrics or the artist itself. In a mainstream industry in which parameters for each genre are so tightly defined, sometimes jaws are dropped simply because something doesn't sound right, regardless of how innocuous the subject matter is.
We saw it with Macklemore's "Same Love," an ode to gay activism and a celebration of love blind of sexual orientation. "Same Love" turned heads and even lead to some backlash simply because it was promoting a message that was foreign in hip-hop, a genre that of late has become ridden with misogyny and homophobia. While mainstream hip-hop was a surprising avenue for LGBT storytelling, perhaps even less likely is country music.
Country's a genre rooted in heteronormativity, one that has little diversity in its image of artist or its subject matter, at least on the radio. The fact that "All-American Boy," a single sung by gay country star Steve Grand to his love interest, is getting radio play will all but certainly garner some controversy. It will also reach a few people who need it.
Hip-hop and country have two long documented histories of homophobia, leaving gay fans of the genres with conflicts of interest that are hard to resolve. "Same Love" and now "All-American Boy" give this fan base their first chance to associate with the music they follow, and it could spur a more encouraging trend in both genres.
"All-American Boy" has been on YouTube for a week and is just starting to catch fire. In the video, Grand deals with a lover who seems to only come out to him in private, one who spends time at a party with a girl and ultimately going back to her after he and Grand kiss. It's a unique, if not sad story, and the music hangs with the best of what country has to offer right now. Aside from its unusual narrative and lyrics, "All-American Boy" sounds like all the other country songs on the radio of late. Replace "boy" with "girl" and you have a smash Luke Bryan hit.
What makes "All-American Boy" stand out from "Same Love" is that unlike Macklemore, Grand identifies as gay. Macklemore was met with opposition when his song started hitting the radio, but Macklemore's own sexual identity, coupled with his established radio name that already came from "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," gave him some protection. Grand's big statement is his first single. He could be in for a world of criticism.
Ultimately, country music and LGBT activists likely don't overlap too much. Much of country's target audience can err on the side of social conservatism, to say the least, and we'll have to see how "All-American Boy" is received as it continues to pick up recognition.
Sound off and let us know what you think in the comments section, and check out Grand's music video below.