In a recent behind-the-scenes clip as part of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Maren Morris felt then needed to apologize to the drag queens competing on this season’s show on behalf of country music.
“Coming from country music and its relationship with LGBTQ+ members, I just want to say I’m sorry,” Maren Morris said. “And I love you guys for making me feel like a brave voice in country music. So I just thank you guys so much for inspiring me. I’m gonna cry.”
Maren Morris is a RuPaul’s Drag Race guest judge this season.
You’ve gotta love how Maren Morris figured out how to make her apology into a self-affirming compliment at the same time, while also using “country music” as a refraction point for her own virtue signaling. Not only is “country music” not a monolith that is regularly and unfairly stereotyped, it’s unclear exactly what “country music” has done to drag queens specifically, or even the LGBT community generally.
Dolly Parton has been one of the biggest drag queen inspirations in history, if not the biggest. Kacey Musgraves and Shania Twain have both worked as a judges on RuPal’s Drag Race previously, and when Drag Race contestant Trixie Mattel released a folk-inspired country album a few years back, it was embraced by independent country listeners.
I guess Maren Morris is once again talking about the content of Jason Aldean’s wife’s Instagram account, which she’s used to siphon attention to herself in a culture war spat? But the Instagram account of some artist’s wife doesn’t represent “country music.” That would be like saying since Kanye West is an anti-Semite, all of hip-hop is. Or even worse, if the wife of Kanye West posted some anti-Semitic stuff on her Instagram account, then that would make all of hip-hop anti-Semitic.
Does “country music” have a glowing history with the LGBT community? Of course not. But neither does any genre of music, and many have much worse histories (hip-hop, for example).
But while Maren Morris is apologizing for stuff, here’s a few things she’s in arrears for on a personal level, including to the LGBT community.
Maren Morris is part of the country supergroup The Highwomen with Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, and Natalie Hemby. On the band’s self-titled album from 2019, there is a song called “If She Ever Leaves Me” written by Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires and Chris Tompkins. The group presented it as the first ever gay country song to the press and in promotional copy.
“Me and Amanda were in Jackson Hole, and I was on the elliptical and I thought about this project and went, ‘What if Brandi sang it?’” Jason Isbell said in a 2019 feature on the supergroup for Rolling Stone. “And I started going, ‘Gay country song! Gay country song!’ I called Amanda [Shires] and went ‘Gay country song! Gay country song!’”
Despite the decades-long lineage of gay country songs and artists in country music—and the participation of Brandi Carlile in the project (who is gay herself and should know better, along with the other members)—Rolling Stone, the writer of the feature Marissa R. Moss, and the media at large allowed The Highwomen to market this song as the first gay country song, enacting the erasure of other gay artists and their contributions to the country genre over the years.
Despite Saving Country Music and other outlets challenging this notion of The Highwomen’s “If She Ever Leaves Me” being the first gay country song, Maren Morris nor any other member of The Highwomen have ever taken responsibility for or even acknowledged the issue, let alone apologized to the gay country community for making such an offensive assertion.
In fact, when Saving Country Music brings this up, the whole issue is laughed off as a fabrication. But the video below of Brandi Carlile introducing the song a few years ago with a cardboard cutout of Maren Morris behind her dispels those notions.
“We’re gonna sing you guys another Highwomen song. This is a really special song, because this is the world’s first gay country song.”
In fairness, Maren Morris did not write the song, but she materially participated in it, and in The Highwomen. This issue by The Highwomen is arguably the biggest offense toward the LGBT community in country music in the last five years. If Maren Morris wants to right the wrongs that “country music” has done to the LGBT community, apologizing and setting the record straight about “If She Ever Leaves Me” publicly would be a great place to start.