Kid Rock Is Home of Phobic but Miranda Says 'Gay Rights'!

Dispatches from a confusing week on country Twitter.

On Monday, TMZ released a video of Kid Rock saying the word “faggot” while onstage at FishLipz Bar & Grill in Smithville, TN. He used the F-slur in reference to audience members who were filming his performance on their phones (a normal thing to do in a live music setting), whom he implored to film his private parts instead. I’m not linking the video here, because I do not think anyone else should be forced to watch it.

It was a depressing but not altogether surprising incident, given Kid Rock’s well-documented history of saying awful things, which Billboard has helpfully compiled here. Content warning: he has said some impressively awful things.

After catching considerable heat online for his latest offense, Kid Rock tweeted this:

Phew. Let’s unpack this.

First, Bob Ritchie is Kid Rock’s legal name, which means that he’s framing this conversation as a sort of strange, internal dialogue. This doesn’t really matter, but the Bob Ritchie thing was initially a sticking point for me, a person who knows almost nothing about Kid Rock. Moving on!

Needless to say, allegedly having gay friends does not mean that Kid Rock is allowed to say the F-word. I personally don’t think any straight people should be using that word, up to and including Kacey Musgraves. (Just don’t tell that to gays on Twitter!) This slots into a broader conversation about whether anyone can or should try to reclaim hate speech, but that’s way too serious for this little newsletter.

Kid Rock seems to be arguing, in the most offensive way possible, that the F-slur has nothing to do with being gay. This was a common defense among the homophobic boys at my middle school, who frequently called each other faggots, by which they meant stupid, lame, gay, etc. It also recalls several lines from the “Gay Witch Hunt” episode of The Office, none of which I feel comfortable typing out here. (Sometimes satire ages poorly?)

To me, the big issue here isn’t that Kid Rock keeps saying vile and ignorant things, because, duh. The problem is that his actions have been met with radio silence from most of the country music community, including the Country Music Association, which isn’t fooling anyone with its rainbow-tinted Facebook banner.

To be fair, Kid Rock isn’t an incredibly relevant figure in contemporary country music; his last hit was the insufferable “All Summer Long,” back in 2008. But he been in the news over the last year for one simple reason: his proximity to the disgraced country singer Morgan Wallen. Wallen was thrown out of Kid Rock's Big Honky Tonk & Steakhouse — a locus for reckless behavior throughout the pandemic — for drunk and disorderly conduct last May, after which he and Kid Rock apparently started hanging out.

More quietly, Wallen played his first live set since February at Kid Rock’s bar last month. It was a conspicuous choice of venue, given that Kid Rock is one of country’s loudest and proudest Trump supporters, and that Wallen’s own mother and sister have publicly denounced “cancel culture” on social media. Could there be a burgeoning anti-woke movement in country music, of which Kid Rock and Morgan Wallen are the unlikely centerpieces? John Rich sure seems to hope so.

On Thursday, Rich bemoaned the supposed silencing of conservative voices in country music, following Wednesday night’s fairly “woke” CMT Awards. Rich, who once compared same-sex marriage to incest and referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci as “a bottom bunk kinda guy” in a tweet literally yesterday (!), seems to be upset that country singers are no longer allowed to use hate speech with impunity and/or that this year’s CMT Awards notably spotlighted artists of color. We’re at the point where it’s hard to tell which marginalized group he’s punching down at.

All of this is exhausting, and it’s easy to spiral about the current state of the country music industry (my favorite pastime), so let’s end this on a lighter note. On Thursday, Miranda Lambert posted this adorable throwback photo of herself, her brother, and their husbands at WorldPride in 2019:

In an interview with Pride Source at the time, she seemed genuinely surprised that people thought her coming out as an ally was a big deal, and expressed a desire to “try to use [her platform] for the better.” Though the post was not the full-throated condemnation of Kid Rock’s words that many might have been hoping for, it was pointedly timed. Could #yallmeansall be a reference to progressive country singer Chris Housman’s low-key viral hit “Blueneck”? And could this mean that Miranda is taking steps toward becoming the enlightened queen we desperately want her to be?

I hope!

The Unlikely (and Very Sweet) Olivia Rodrigo-Tanya Tucker Love Fest

This week in news that isn’t deeply disturbing: Olivia Rodrigo is a Tanya Tucker fan! In an interview with Zane Lowe for his Apple Music show, Rodrigo described spending her formative years listening to Tucker’s greatest hits on a “crappy little Crosley record player from Urban Outfitters.” Tucker and Rodrigo feel like a natural pair, given that both artists achieved stardom at very young ages — Tucker was 13 when she first recorded “Delta Dawn,” her signature song, and Rodrigo was just 17 when she scored what is likely to be the biggest hit of her (or anyone’s) career with the inescapable “drivers license.”

Rodrigo, who mentions in the interview that she grew up listening to country music, is also a huge fan of Johnny Cash and Kacey Musgraves. She describes seeing Musgraves perform “Rainbow” at the Greek Theatre in LA as “one of my favorite moments of maybe my whole 18 years of life,” a sentence that makes me feel very, very old.