Last week I wrote about some of the recent country songs and performers who are beginning to renew my confidence in country music’s capacity to remain true to its traditions and core strengths while stretching itself in various new directions.
Change is a tricky thing under the best of circumstances, and there have been times over the past decade when I really thought country music was headed off the rails and maybe over a cliff.
But I’m starting to moderate my views and I have some talented young performers to thank for that. Last week I mentioned Scotty McCreery and Ingrid Andress, among others.
This week I have been thinking a lot about another recent song that has generated a lot of buzz and also a fair amount of controversy.
Chris Janson’s “Take A Drunk Girl Home” is about, well, taking a drunk girl home, but is built around the narrative twist in which the person telling the story takes her home to make sure she’s safe and then proceeds to “Leave the hall lights on, walk out and lock the door.”
The song’s drama is derived from the expectation that the storyteller is going to use the young woman’s drunkenness as an opportunity to sexually assault her.
That expectation is based partly on the shameful array of songs that in effect celebrate taking a drunk girl home and taking advantage of her drunkenness.
The song clearly has an anti-rape message, but has also been criticized by some anti-sexual-assault activists and writers for its “self-satisfaction,” as Kathryn Schultz put in in a New Yorker article, or taking a kind of self-congratulatory victory lap over choosing not to sexually assault a woman in a vulnerable state.
Laura Johnston’s article on cleveland.com expresses “disgust” with the song while also acknowledging “maybe it’ll do some good.”
I find the ambiguity understandable because I have had similar mixed emotions about the song.
But I also recognize that the song is directed mainly toward an audience of males who are accustomed to the celebratory songs mentioned earlier that view the situation very differently.
I agree with Johnston that the song might do some good. I not only think it might, I’m pretty sure it will.
Men typically don’t talk about topics such as rape, sexual harassment and sexism the same way women do, but in order to make a lasting difference in the culture we really need moral, honorable men talking to boys and younger men about how to be a man in ways that are responsible and respectful toward women.
It might not always be pretty but it could save a life.