Great country music is always filled with honesty. It’s a simple formula that many of country music’s biggest stars have followed for decades.
Despite this trend, rarely does country music see the honest stories of Black women, especially stories resilient and strong in today’s political climate. This unfortunate fact is what makes a dazzling gem such as Texas-native Mickey Guyton so special.
Many became aware of Guyton’s presence with her moving performance of “Black Like Me” at this year’s Grammy Awards. A song released amid protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder and the larger Black Lives Matter movement, Guyton detailed her raw, impactful story of growing up as a Black woman in America.
The song itself, dedicated to high-profile police brutality victim Breonna Taylor, earned Guyton recognition as the first Black woman to be nominated in the country category.
Because of the outspoken political stances in her music and career, Guyton is pushing the boundaries of what country music wants to accept as mainstream. In a genre too quick to praise the likes of Morgan Wallen, Guyton is taking on a bold task. We are, after all, discussing the genre that not too long ago blacklisted a girl group just for speaking out against a conservative president’s militaristic actions.
There is almost something Kacey Musgraves-Esque about Guyton’s career path. She’s someone who is established as a mass-media persona, loved by television and social media, but almost completely absent from radio stations too hesitant to play women too outspoken with their beliefs. Some would argue this is due to Musgraves and Guyton’s records experimenting with other genres, but neither are sonically too far off from the music of Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood.
In an interview with the Grammy Awards, Guyton opened up about what it’s like being one of the only Black women in country. For years, the singer found herself driving four hours to Atlanta for every Nashville red carpet event, as there was no one in Nashville well-equipped to style her hair type. This, along with other hardships, impacted the image others in Nashville painted her with.
“[Industry people] would always describe me as the ‘girl next door,'” said Guyton. “I’m like, ‘What if the girl next door is Black? Does that make her any less ‘girl next door’?'”
On “Remember Her Name,” Guyton’s long-awaited debut album released Sept. 24 on Capitol Records Nashville, she demands that her voice is heard, continuing to tackle racial topics in her songwriting that country music is lacking.
The album was preceded by singles such as “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” a heart-wrenching ballad detailing the world of inequity little girls are born into, that dive deeper into the uncomfortable conversations on race that need to happen.
A co-writer on every track but a gorgeous cover of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” Guyton establishes herself as an impossible-to-ignore songwriter.
Standout tracks such as “All American” and “Lay It On Me” channel Guyton’s Southern background and musical roots, shining as beautiful sentiments dedicated to love and patriotism. On the latter, she dives into a gospel-inspired vocal arrangement, proving any haters on her talent wrong.
The album is also packed with uplifting tracks, such as the celebratory “Different,” where Guyton radiated body positivity and confidence. There’s something especially beautiful in her lyrics, “I love my hips, I love my thighs, the way they move and they shake when the beat’s just right.”
On “Rosé,” a Miranda Lambert reminiscent track, she declares her love for a chilled bottle of wine through her equally sweet Texas twang. Songs like this establish her as a jack-of-all-trades, able to properly balance the lighter messages with the heavy.
The amount of content covered in the sixteen-track project almost serves as a reminder of Guyton’s decade-long journey through Nashville to her debut album. Guyton is likely not going anywhere soon, as we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in what she’s capable of.
If “Remember Her Name” proves one thing, it’s that Guyton is the country music rebel the genre needs.
Check out “Remember Her Name” here.
Featured image taken from Instagram: @mickeyguyton