Did country star Kacey Musgraves go after the reigning queen of pop music (and perhaps the world), Taylor Swift, in a new song?
Musgraves' deeply appealing new album, Pageant Material, is filled with hummable tunes that are odes to pot, hometown loyalty, and standing out from the crowd. The song, “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” falls near the end of the album and into that latter category.
In the track, Musgraves sings about how she doesn’t want to be “a part of the good ol’ boys club.” She continues in the chorus: "Another gear in a big machine don't sound like fun to me." That line in particular is what led The Verge to run the piece “Check out Kacey Musgraves' Taylor Swift diss track.” Why would anyone think it’s a “diss track?” Well, Big Machine Records is the label of Swift and country music stalwarts like Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts. Republic Nashville, a part of the Big Machine Label Group, represents artists like Florida Georgia Line and The Band Perry.
The “big machine” dig first eluded me when I listened to the song, which I interpreted as an attack on the industry that has let “bro-country” flourish. It’s admittedly not a deep reading, but “boys club” is, after all, in the song’s title, and it’s frequently pointed out that Musgraves stands in opposition to the likes of Luke Bryan and the aforementioned Florida Georgia Line. Take, for instance, a recent Los Angeles Times profile which argues that she's at the “forefront of a cresting wave of fresh talent ... that's injecting considerable spunk into mainstream country music at a time when it's been stuck in a rut of bro-country homogeneity.” The Pitchfork review of her album explains that "her ascendance does certainly feel corrective at a time when bro-country's red cup runneth over with EDM's structural dynamics, NRA talking points, and 'rapping.'"
Musgraves herself said the song has a “wink” in an interview with Fader, but maintained, “I’m talking about a lot of different people.” She said: “Any industry has its shoo-ins and people that get in because they know somebody, or their dad worked here, whatever. But, yeah, there is a wink.”
If you do want to latch on to the argument that the song is a coy attack on Taylor Swift specifically, there’s plenty to chew on. Musgraves, for one, is an ally of Katy Perry, who in turn is supposedly the target of Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Meanwhile, Swift has left Musgraves' genre in the dust for the bigger, shinier world of pop — something Musgraves has no intent on doing. (“Any artist wants to just be the first them, not the next anybody else,” she told the NY Daily News.)
I would like to take Musgraves at her word, that the song is "about a lot of different people," mainly because nothing good comes of talented women publicly feuding. On her song "Biscuits," Musgraves sings, "I'll just do me and honey you can just do you." Neither artist needs to share the spotlight; they're doing just fine on their own.