Today Keith Urban released a new song that serves as a response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, "Female." And tonight, he performed it on the Country Music Awards.
Urban performed alone on a black screen, with words from the song flashing behind him and showing a list of words historically used to describe women, or female archetypes: sister, daughter, Virgin Mary, Scarlet Letter, baby girl, and Mother Nature all stream by.
The song starts reductively, with Urban asking, “When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl / How does that hit you? / Is that such a bad thing?" but gets real pretty quickly when he follows it up with, "When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world / Do you believe it?" Ouch.
Urban, the self-described father of daughters and husband to Nicole Kidman, who has spoken out against the abuse and misuse of power in the film industry, is trying to do the good guy thing with this song, drawing attention to a pervasive issue that obviously affects his family. The song falls flat, however, because it is another instance of a man talking for women. Even the songwriting team behind it of Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon and Ross Copperman only has one woman in the mix. In this genre, where women are criminally under-represented on radio and when most men sing about them it's to extoll their ideas of what a woman should be like, it seems like a missed opportunity to have Keith Urban singing a song that any one of the women in country would be more impactful singing.
It is great to have a voice like Urban turning the tide of how country music talks about women though — rather than singing a "hey girl" song about a body like a backroad, "Female" at least has some sense that the sole reason women exist is not to meet some man's ideal.
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