Margo Price’s career is finally taking off.
She is 35, and after 12 years in the music business, she was nominated for a Grammy award for best new artist. She has been on Saturday Night Life, The Daily Show on Comedy Central and all three major network late-night talk shows.
She might have made it sooner, but she started off collaborating with her future husband, Jeremy Ivey, on a “Kinks-inspired duo” that the husband called “an easy way to clear a room” because of its penchant for scaring off audiences.
She also might have made it sooner if she had not taking a life detour into drugs and alcohol and spent a weekend in jail in 2013 after she crashed her car into a pole while drunk then attempted to outrun police.
But according to the Washington Post in “A country music artist navigates an art form altered by America’s poisoned politics,” what has slowed her career – and continues to do so even now – is not drinking or drugs or her 6-year-old son or poor choices in what music to play. It’s Donald Trump and the people who support him.
What does Trump have to do with a country singer – well, a singer who sings country because her other music has not proven marketable, according to the Post – and her failure to climb the ladder of her profession earlier?
“Mainstream country music has little patience for messages that fail to celebrate small-town America or tilt even remotely anti-Trump,” wrote Greg Jaffe of the Post in a story that mentions the president seven times as merely “Trump” but never provides his first name or title.
It’s a problem throughout the industry, Jaffe wrote.
“Price’s career – her success and nearly a decade of struggles – is a testament to the way America’s poisonous politics are scrambling country music,” he wrote. “Study after study has documented the widening social gulf that separates the major parties. Republicans and Democrats report increasing levels of animosity for those on the other side of the political divide, according to surveys. They have few close friends from the opposing political party. They watch different television shows.”
This is “giving rise to separate musical genres” – one aimed at Democrats, another at Republicans – in “one of America’s most distinctive art forms,” Jaffe wrote.
And since conservatives control broadcast media, this is bad for Price. “She’s entirely absent from country music radio – still the major star maker for Nashville-based musicians who aspire to fill stadiums,” Jaffe wrote. “And that has made Price all but invisible in certain quarters of the country including some parts of her adopted hometown [of Nashville].”
To make matters worse, sexism also has held back her career, Jaffe wrote. “Country music these days is dominated by men, who typically account for about 80 to 90 percent of Billboard’s top 40 country radio hits,” Jaffe wrote without evidence.
On top of that, “Hit country songs tended to celebrate small-town life,” Jaffe wrote. “Often, they responded to the growing partisan rancor by emphasizing America’s essential goodness.”
But Price “was offering a different view of America. She sang about sin and struggle and the sorts of misfits who never felt comfortable in football stadiums. … Her songs were about small, depressed towns that people longed to escape. These were the very places country music expected her to celebrate.”
But thanks to Price throwing in with liberals – giving in to the “pressure to signal to their fan bases that they are on their side” – she has overcome Nashville silencing her and other apostates, such as the Dixie Chicks.
Now, they are “their own subgenre and today are often classified as ‘Americana’ artists, a subset of roots music aimed largely at liberals.”
Why? “’White people are the only race that’s politically divided right now,’ said Lilliana Mason, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and author of “Uncivil Agreement,” a book about political identity and America’s growing divide. ‘Because the partisan divide is so deep you have to define what kind of white person you are.’”
Photo by Robbi O