Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” Controversy Paved the Way for Their Biggest Hit Yet

John Russell/CMA

Little Big Town‘s latest single, “Girl Crush,” is on track to be the biggest hit of the band’s career, but the song was almost a bomb at country radio earlier this year. Instead of understanding the lyrics as depicting a jealous woman singing about the man she loves being in love with another woman, a few mistaken listeners complained about the song’s perceived lesbian subject matter. Those calls led a few stations to stop playing the song as much just as it was starting to climb the country chart.

LBT’s Kimberly Schlapman says, “I think that controversy, when it started, it was very disheartening, ’cause we just wanted the people to listen to the words of the song. Everybody has been rejected and can identify with rejection and jealousy.”

When it looked like “Girl Crush” might never become a hit at radio, country stars, including Reba, Dustin Lynch, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, rallied behind the song and started wearing “Girl Crush” hats in photos on social media. Miranda and Kelly Clarkson even performed covers of “Girl Crush” in concert, and the song has now been downloaded more than a million times. It currently sits in the top 10 at country radio.

Kimberly doesn’t think the song would have become the monster hit it is now without that initial resistance.

She says, “I think the controversy was important for a lot of reasons, and the main reason is that it took to a greater mass of people. So, all these people would not have heard this song had it not been for that controversy. So, it was certainly meant to be.”

While they’re thankful for the big exposure the “Girl Crush” controversy brought the song, Kimberly adds, “We like being on this side of it much better.”

Her band mate Phillip Sweet adds, “I’m glad that people leaned in and listened to the lyrics and what it really meant. I think it turned out beautifully.”

“Girl Crush” is included on Little Big Town’s album, Pain Killer, out now.

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