The girls and women of country music have had a problem being heard for a minute; if you've been following along, you know that at country radio women are only getting 10% of the airplay while men get the other 90%. It's due to a sexist theory perpetrated to radio programmers that their listening audiences — who are primarily women — don't want to hear the voices of other women. That struggle is something that Maren Morris has highlighted every since she rose into the upper echelons of the industry with her 2016 album Hero, and still now as she cements herself as one of the very few women superstars in country music. And a nod to that conversation is what opens and closes the powerful music video for her new single, "Girl."
"I think it just comes down to: We don't want more than anyone else. We want the same as everyone else," Morris says in the opening of the video. While it feels absurd that this is even a conversation in 2019, the lack of radio airplay has trickled down to less presence for women in country on the charts and less promotion for them on streaming outlets, it's clearly one that needs to be had.
"Once I realized I was writing to myself it became really honest," Morris tells Refinery29 of the song. "I had to take a good long look in the mirror and say these things to myself for the first time. That’s the beauty of being in your late 20s, you start to learn the hard lessons. So this song is very personal but it also had this non-cheesy, non-preachy, anthemic quality to it."
The "Girl" video, directed by Dave Meyers (best known for his work with pop and rap artists like Ariana Grande, P!nk, and Kendrick Lamar — this is his first time working with a Nashville artist), makes a statement with what the camera shows us. The first half of the video depicts only the backs of women's heads, giving the viewer a glimpse at how the world feels for women; one takes a pregnancy test, one paints, one prays, one is Morris playing her guitar, one is dancer and choreographer Jojo Gomez (Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber) crafting a routine, and so on. When the video pauses the song to show Morris singing the chorus, we're greeted with an aggressive older white man telling her to sing with "more power," from her diaphragm — it's an all too familiar moment of casual sexism.
When the camera's perspective flips, the faces of these women whose shoulders we've been looking over are finally revealed. Some are tired, determined, frustrated — but they're also having the time of their lives.
But the biggest moment in the video arrives in a scene that evokes the Women's March, where Morris appears wearing a t-shirt that says "Feminist." For country music, that's a big deal. Going back to Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker in the '60s, country has liked to embrace songs about strong women but the artists themselves have shied away from identifying as feminist — and frequently gone out of their way to make it clear they, in fact, aren't. But Morris has been a vocal supporter of the Time's Up movement and has spoken out about country music's woman problem many, many, many times before.
Her shirt is so much more than a clever tee — it's a huge step forward politically for country music as a whole.
Watch "Girl" below. Her Girl World Tour commences on March 9.