I tweeted during the CMA’s that Keith Urban’s latest single, titled “Female,” was “quite a good song actually.” I didn’t say it was country, and I’d like to make two things clear here–one, Urban’s forsaking of his guitar talent to produce pop/adult contemporary stuff like this irks me beyond any semblance of reason, especially as a proud owner of his first six records, (you know, when he actually tried), and two, after being forced to hear this from virtually everywhere this past week, my opinion of the song has gone down some. Now it’s just there for me. It just exists. But apparently the fashion among everyone is to hate it with all vehemence and even, for some, to find it offensive. And as a woman, I’d like to add some equilibrium to that argument.
Even among people who hate this with all passion, there is a consensus that Keith’s heart was in the right place trying to say something and speak out about the recent rash of sexual assault claims and the systematic discrimination of women in general. And let me tell you, we need men to speak out about this. I keep seeing people say versions of, “well, the industry would make more of a statement by actually playing more women,” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that this becomes an empty gesture if it’s not backed up by the actual inclusion of more women in say, the very industry in which Keith Urban makes his living. But having said that, if only women write about this and speak about this, nothing will change because in many cases, it’s mostly women who will listen. We need men to be up front about this, and I applaud Keith Urban for showing the leadership to do that, not to mention for recording this and releasing it in a timely manner when mainstream Nashville notoriously takes forever to transition songs from a pen and paper to the final product.
Keith Urban’s colossal mistake? Not actually writing the song himself, but recording a song penned in part by Shane McAnally. The verses in this song are actually quite good, and they address real, specific issues like how people say women deserved what they got because they wore tight skirts, or how many Christian men excuse their behavior toward their wives and other women because God made Adam first. The problem is that listastic thing characteristic of writers like McAnally and so many others who write by committee, coming out in full force to infect the chorus by throwing out a bunch of descriptors of women…oh, and some words like “suit of armor” and “river wild” that have absolutely nothing to do with women at all. It’s hearing this all week that has taken the song down for me, and yet it’s that part which will probably give this song its only fighting chance at radio. Still, it can’t be denied that country radio, an industry undeniably rampant with sexism, will hesitate to play this, and again, the fact that Keith Urban doesn’t give a shit about that should be commended. But it’s the efforts of McAnally and his cowriters to still make this song radio-friendly that deprive it of any substance, or at least that make the parts with substance somehow matter less.
So, I could take or leave this song when it comes down to it. It’s there, it exists, it stands at a 5 rating, and i daresay it’d be a 6 if it in any way, shape, or form resembled country. I don’t hate it. I don’t find it offensive, as some people have, for its use of the word “female,” although I understand how this can be offensive in certain contexts and by certain people. I don’t find the descriptors in the chorus stereotypical so much as lazy; it’s just a list of words thrown in there to, like I say, try to make this work on radio. So, it’s a great effort by Keith Urban, and it falls short in the writing, and ultimately, a song that could have said a lot, and indeed does manage to say something worthwhile in its verses, doesn’t really execute all the way through. That said, the vitriol this song is receiving is unnecessary. It’s forgettable, and perhaps a missed opportunity by Keith Urban, but it’s not the horrific mess some would claim it to be, at least not for this listener.
Written by: Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, Ross Copperman