On Friday evening (10-14), Jason Aldean played a concert at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville as part of his current tour. And as is customary when performers play in country music’s epicenter, a couple of top-named guests joined Jason Aldean on stage.
“I think I should call up a special guest,” Jason Aldean said at one point in the concert. After naming off other potential guests like Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan, Aldean asked, “Should it be Maren Morris?”
This stimulated a rash of boos from the crowd. Of course, Maren Morris wasn’t one of the special guests on the evening. It ended up being Morgan Wallen and Miranda Lambert who joined Jason Aldean on stage. Morgan Wallen remains a persona non grata with many in the cultural elite and journalism class on Twitter after his notorious N-word incident in early 2021, as does Jason Aldean himself, primarily for standing behind his wife Brittany Aldean after she has made numerous politically-charged statements on Instagram.
Miranda Lambert on the other hand has not said anything politically polarizing, at least toward the left. In fact, over the last two years, Miranda Lambert has made a concerted effort to display her support to the LGBT community, and for inclusiveness in country music through numerous offerings and initiatives.
Miranda Lambert’s brother Luke happens to be gay, and in August of 2021 she spoke to GLADD, saying in part, “I do think we are in a moment of change and I have so much to learn. I know I am uneducated, but I am full of love. Being in a family where I am surrounded by LGBTQ people, it has me learning and figuring out how I can be a part of the change and still be the same person I have been as an artist for 20 years.”
Along with Miranda’s 2013 song “All Kinds of Kinds,” in December of 2021, Miranda Lambert teamed up with the production of Queer Eye to release a song called “Y’all Means All” that featured Queer Eye cast members, as well as Miranda Lambert’s brother and his husband. And this speaks nothing of Miranda Lambert’s support for women in country music, and for songwriters and independent artists. This support has put Miranda Lambert at the very forefront in mainstream country music for opening the music up to different voices and perspectives, and directly helping to codify careers for other songwriters and performers.
But according to numerous journalists, artists, and activists, after her appearance on stage at the Bridgestone on Friday evening with Jason Aldean, all of this good will and Miranda’s active efforts to make country music a more inclusive place deserves to be called into question. Multiple people are demanding that Lambert answer for her actions, are renouncing their support for Miranda, while others are calling on organizations within country music to distance from her, which is an unreasonable, irrational, and decidedly illiberal response from the usual suspects whose commodity in the attention economy is sowing discord on Twitter.
The primary catalyst for the this most recent spat was journalist Lorie Liebig, who is a regular at seeking out and sparking inflammatory Twitter uprisings, sometimes using distorted perspectives and facts to do so. In this instance, she falsely claimed initially that Carrie Underwood was also in attendance at the concert, which she wasn’t. Another country music media outlet, Country Universe, also carried forward this false claim. Though both Liebig and Country Universe later corrected this, they did it in subsequent tweets as opposed to deleting the original tweets that helped spark the episode, because they were already receiving traction and attention for the initial posts.
This stimulated the all too common Twitter flame war, with scores of artists, journalists, fans, and activists jumping on the bandwagon without rationalizing through the anger and disappointment with Miranda Lambert for the appearance.
It’s understandable why Miranda Lambert’s appearance with Jason Aldean would be seen as a disappointment to some, and from a number of perspectives, not just the LGBT community. Jason Aldean is also a persona non grata with a lot of traditional country and independent country fans since he was instrumental in the commercialization of country rap and the early incarnations of Bro-Country, among other infractions.
But attacking Miranda Lambert for making a simple appearance at a concert with someone she’s known since 2005 speaks to the type of “total war” aspect some bring to these culture war issues, and how collateral damage is being inflicted upon individuals who do not deserve it. The initial way Miranda Lambert’s appearance was couched was as being problematic, and so that became the pervasive opinion on a platform (Twitter) the perversely incentivizes negativity. But nobody seemed to want to bring up how perhaps allowing a country music woman who stands for inclusiveness in country music to perform to a packed arena of Jason Aldean fans is exactly what that fan base needs to be exposed to, and what activists should be advocating for.
There is a nonsensical belief that somehow if an artist such as Jason Aldean can be completely isolated from polite society, his entire career will implode. But of course, the exact opposite is what is happening. Jason Aldean has only become more popular through the recent spats concerning his wife’s Instagram account. And by not just attacking Jason Aldean for things his wife said on Instagram, but now by implicating Miranda Lambert, this “total war” perspective continues to only serve the most extreme perspectives who are comprised if a tiny population of cultural elites on Twitter, which is a platform that the vast majority of the public isn’t even on.
However, due to the outsized influence this Twitter discourse can have—and the fear it sows in individuals of being called “transphobic,” “homophobic,” “sexist,” and “racist”—it significantly affects actions in the real world, including soft censoring voices that would otherwise offer differing or dispassionate perspectives to the current social media contagion stimulated off of anger and Twitter’s algorithm that emphasizes conflict.
This “total war” aspect even spread to the media. On Friday evening, journalists Billy Dukes of Taste of Country, and Marcus K. Dowling of The Tennessean were both in attendance at the Jason Aldean concert. Their reporting was how many found out Miranda Lambert had attended. Simply for being at the concert and reporting on it as objective journalists, Billy Dukes and Marcus K. Dowling were attacked by Holly G. of The Black Opry, and others.
Meanwhile, many of the voices that rose up in opposition to Miranda Lambert’s appearance profess to be for supporting women in country music. But they’re not for supporting women in country music. They’re for supporting a strident political ideology that demands absolute compliance, or otherwise they will lobby for the utter destruction of your public persona and career. We also saw this when Carrie Underwood ran afoul of the same people for simply liking a tweet. Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood were the two women who were able to survive the Bro-Country era with major careers in tact. And now they’re being attacked for very marginal infractions based off of political biases.
This diseased and unhinged approach is very actively, acutely, and palpably hurting the very causes these supposed activists purport to be advocating for. They are turning country music more conservative, stimulating individuals like Jason Aldean to be more outspoken, while actively working to erode the voices of artists like Miranda Lambert who can straddle the cultural divide, and speak to country fans in reasonable terms about why LGBT fans and artists should be treated no different than their straight counterparts in country music.
On Sunday morning (10-16), Black LGBT artist Allison Russell tweeted, “Our #negativitybias is accelerating a dystopian future I fear. We continually amplify those whom we wish to repudiate which distracts & derails us from coalition coalescing, creative communion & critical mass problem solving w/ those we esteem, respect, admire, learn better from.”
All that instigating yet another fracas involving Jason Aldean and Morgan Wallen does is put their names back into people’s social media feeds, and in media headlines. This is something Saving Country Music tried to point out with the attempted cancellation of Morgan Wallen, saying that all the attention was actually helping him, not hurting. SCM was called racist for taking this stance, though the truth was undeniable, and eventually highlighted by Back artist Breland. This is also the reason Saving Country Music has completely avoided the whole Jason Aldean’s wife’s Instagram account vs. Maren Morris fracas heretofore. Such social media spats are the domain of gossip, and a distraction from the music, and the real issues facing it, while only giving attention to parties that don’t deserve it.
Jason Aldean, his wife’s Instagram account, and Morgan Wallen, they are more popular, and in a better position now than they were before the recent culture war spats. However, who could be hurt via collateral damage could be people like Miranda Lambert and others as they become ostracized by the cultural elite, muting their ability to bring people together over divisive issues and the cultural divide. That is why this most recent incitement over Miranda Lambert’s appearance with Jason Aldean is worth remarking on. It has crossed a critical line in keeping the divisiveness over this issue compartmentalized with the people directly responsible for it.
Along with Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, one of the other LGBT songwriters Miranda Lambert has championed over her career is Waylon Payne, who is the son of Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne and singer Sammi Smith. Miranda Lambert has co-written numerous tracks with Waylon Payne over her career.
“Every day I see folks who are supposed to be friends just forget all of that and nail each other to a cross,” Waylon Payne said on Twitter. “I wasn’t at the concert so I don’t know what happened- but Miranda Lambert is an ally to all who know her. Maybe all you folks should ask her her thoughts first? Kindness … I can’t stand [Jason Aldean’s and Morgan Wallen’s] views, but we’re all supposed to love each other. All the hatred has to stop. ON ALL SIDES. [Miranda Lambert] is an ally. Period.”
But the problem is, individuals like Lori Liebig, Holly G., and others have created an economy around sowing discord. It’s how they draw attention to themselves and their brands, creating an environment of perverse incentives where negativity is emphasized, progress is muted or rebuffed as inconsequential, and at times, contributions by Black artists, women, and LGBT artists is outright erased to make matters look worse than they actually are.
The more instances of country music being “racist” or “transphobic,” the more the brands of these bad actors on Twitter prosper. Meanwhile, Jason Aldean and his most strident fans are only emboldened, and all sectors of the country music community become inundated with drama and dissent as opposed to where the focus should be: making country music, and making sure it’s an open place for everyone who has a love of country music in their hearts.