Am I reading WAY too much into my review of Donica Knight’s new single My Love Ain’t a Prize?
When one thinks of feminism in music, country isn’t the genre that immediately springs to mind. Actually, though, country music has a rich history of badass women – from Kitty Wells to Reba McEntire to Miranda Lambert – who have and do speak out in their own way for women’s equality on topics ranging from domestic violence to sexuality. They may not realize they’re tackling feminist themes and may even deny it as Taylor Swift recently did, but the messages are clear. Martina McBride’s 1993 hit Independence Day, for example, tells an emotional story about an abusive husband and his victim’s redemption and ultimate revenge. Similar themes are found in the Dixie Chick’s Good By Earl and Lambert’s Gunpowder and Lead. These ‘take no shit from him’ anthems stand world’s apart from the traditional conservative stance of Stand By Your Man in which Tammy Wynette advises women to stay in bad and potentially dangerous relationships.
On the sexual front, country music divas have a rich history of tackling controversial issues. Loretta Lynn’s The Pill is a song about birth control. It tells a story of a wife who is upset about her husband getting her pregnant year after year, but is now happy because she can control her own reproductive choices because she has “the Pill.” It was banned from many country music stations for several years. But In an interview for Playgirl Magazine, Lynn told how she had been congratulated after the song’s eventual success by a number of rural physicians, telling her how “The Pill” had done more to highlight the availability of birth control in isolated, rural areas, than all the literature they’d released. Years earlier, a folk song recorded several times by various female artists titled Wish I Was A Single Girl Again implores women to avoid marriage completely because the fun ends when you walk down that aisle.
Perhaps one of the biggest influences on today’s feminist country artists is Dolly Parton’s 1968 Just Because I’m a Woman. Long before slut-shaming became a big concern among young, independent women, Parton admonished men not to think their wives and girlfriends won’t play around just because they’re women. In 1977, Barbara Mandrell took the theme a little further with Angel In Your Arms, which advises an unfaithful mate: “The angel in your arms this morning is gonna be the devil in someone else’s arms tonight”, meaning that she countered his neglect and infidelities by indulging in illicit trysts of her own.
Today’s young female country artists have a rich history of music to inspire them – from country music legends to pop music royalty- and it shows. Their music is often edgier and with messages that still run counter to many rural values. They don’t have to always sing about political issues but you can tell they’re aware of them and what side they probably come down on.
There’s a case to be made that female artists have dragged country music kicking and screaming into modern times.
Donica Knight, an up and coming country singer with some heavy rock influences, might be surprised to see her new single My Love Ain’t a Prize being compared to such country notables as Parton, Mandrell, Lynn and Lambert. But when you strip away the sheer badassery of her persona, Knight drives home a girl-power message that is often lacking in music from women – you can’t buy her. Your flashy cars and money might be impressive but if you want her, you have to inspire her. Sure, take her out to nice places, buy her jewelry and maybe spend the night. But if you want her there when you wake up, you’d best bring your A-game because, as she says, this southern girl can’t be bought. It’s a 21st century updating of Shania Twain’s That Don’t Impress Me Much but with a harder, less playful sound. When Knight says it, you know she means business. And that’s a truly wonderful thing. Female artists understand their young, impressionable fans are watching them and Knight apparently takes that responsibility seriously.
All hidden or not-so-hidden messages aside, this is one rocking song.
Knight, from Millbrook Alabama, draws her inspiration from a variety of musicians from various genres. Echos of Bonnie Raitt, Patsy Cline, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones can all be heard throughout her music producing a unique blend of country and southern rock. He new EP Can’t Buy a Southern Girl is a product of her desire to make an edgier record than her previous endeavors and she’s succeeded wildly. It’s is her announcement to the music world that she has arrived.