Although country music is widely known as a feel-good and nostalgia-driven genre, it’s not necessarily lacking in controversial country songs that touch on sensitive subjects. Well, it’s not surprising because many artists use their music to protest or express their true feelings toward sensitive issues.
Throughout the years, many country music artists have been in trouble with censors and even their fans because of their song’s lyrics touching hard-hitting topics. These controversial country songs usually get boycotted by fans or banned by radio stations from getting played on the air. However, most of these songs continue to be massive hits despite the backlash they receive.
So, are you curious about which country songs touched the nerves of thousands of people? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are 17 of what we consider the most controversial country music songs throughout the years.
1. Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow”
When the song Kacey Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow” got released in 2013, it got criticized for showing support for the LGBTQ community. Despite the backlash it received, it didn’t stop the song from getting an RIAA Platinum certification after selling more than one million copies.
2. The Dixie Chicks – “Goodbye Earl”
“Goodbye Earl” by The Dixie Chicks angered the censors during its 2000 release because it touched on sensitive subjects such as murder and domestic violence. However, radio stations were somewhat divided. Some decided to ban the song, while others played it and shared the domestic violence hotline after.
3. Loretta Lynn – “The Pill”
Released in 1975, Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” is one of the most highly controversial songs in country music during its time. It’s because the song talks about the wonders of using birth control pills. The song still managed to become a massive success. It even charts on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart despite radio stations refusing to play it on the air.
4. Tim McGraw – “Red Ragtop”
While you can easily miss it, a part of the lyrics of Tim McGraw’s “Red Ragtop” talks about a young woman having no regrets after choosing to get an abortion. Several radio stations refused to play the song. However, due to its explosion in popularity on TikTok, the song endured.
5. Reba Mc Entire – “Fancy”
“Fancy” is a classic song about a young woman finding her way in the world while being a sex worker. The song was first recorded and released in 1970 by Bobbie Gentry and later revived by Reba McEntire in 1991. On both occasions, the song managed to stir controversy. Even in the present, people still get shocked after hearing “Fancy” for the first time.
6. Garth Brooks – “We Shall Be Free”
Garth Brooks considers “We Shall Be Free” the most controversial song in his collection. It’s about being in a world that is free from violence, racism, and homophobia. It’s also the only song from Garth Brooks that didn’t make it to the country charts’ top ten, mainly because numerous radio stations refused to play it on the air.
7. Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” is one of those songs that managed to stir controversy due to confusion. Critics interpreted it as a song that “encourages homosexuality.” So, they demanded that radio stations stop playing it. In truth, the song is about going after a man who was already with another woman.
8. Conway Twitty – “You’ve Never Been This Far Before”
The lyrics of Conway Twitty’s “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” would never pass as appropriate in today’s world. The song got banned from plenty of radio stations when it got released in 1973. It’s because the song talks about getting down and dirty with a young woman who is still a virgin. Despite all the controversy surrounding it, the song still because a huge hit.
9. Brad Paisley – “Accidental Racist”
Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist,” which features a cameo from LL Cool J, is more cringe than controversial. It was a clumsy attempt at making an anti-racism song. The song was about finding a better path in the US’s complicated racial history. Ironically, the song made them accidentally sound like racists because of their awkward ideas on how to handle the issue of racism.
10. Taylor Swift – “Picture to Burn”
Taylor Swift is also no stranger when it comes to controversial country songs. After its release in 2008, many fans considered the first verse of “Picture to Burn” homophobic. Taylor later agreed with the fans’ sentiment about the song. She then made sure to change the lyrics for the official version of the song.
11. Willie Nelson – “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other”
As the title of the song suggests, it’s about gay cowboys. Nelson decided to record his version of the song in time for the release of the highly praised 2006 film Brokeback Mountain. Nelson received backlash from fans and critics alike for the song’s pro-LGBTQ stance, but he just shrugged it off.
12. Merle Haggard – “Okie From Muskogee”
According to Haggard, the song is about supporting the American servicemembers involved in the Vietnam War. However, the musician later implied that the fans were right about what they first thought the song was all about. It’s about what America would look if it were a sanitized and small-town version of itself.
13. George Strait and Alan Jackson – “Murder on Music Row”
The song became controversial because it was a jab at how Music Row is slowly losing authenticity and classic country sensibilities. It is a common theme to see in songs coming from country artists that consider themselves traditionalists and those opposing the emerging dominance of the “pop-country” artists.
14. Hank Williams Jr. – “Dinosaur”
While it has amazing vibes and plenty of nostalgic appeals, Hank William Jr.’s 1980 song, “Dinosaur,” has a blatant homophobic message throughout the song.
15. Deana Carter – “Strawberry Wine”
Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” enjoyed massive commercial success and even got praised by critics. However, some radio stations refused to play the song because it could encourage teen sexual activity.
16. Martina McBride – “Independence Day”
Another country song that enjoyed great success but met with plenty of controversies is “Independence Day” by Martina McBride. People thought it was supposed to be a song with a patriotic theme. To much of their surprise, it was a song with heavy themes such as alcoholism and domestic violence.
17. Loretta Lyn – “Rated X”
Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X” angered some fans in 1973 because of its sexy and saucy lyrics, despite the song being a commercial success. With lyrics like: “Well if you’ve been a married woman, and things didn’t seem to work out. Divorce is the key to bein’ loose and free,” it’s not surprising that the song offended people during its time.
The 17 songs on this list are those that we listened to personally. We are sure there are plenty more controversial country songs out there. These controversial songs in country music are only waiting to get discovered.
Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, conway twitty, Deana Carter, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr., kacey musgraves, Little Big Town, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride, merle haggard, Reba Mc Entire, taylor swift, The Dixie Chicks, tim mcgraw, Willie Nelson