Country Star Maren Morris Calls Bigoted Branch of Genre ‘Butt Rock’ While Bidding Scene Farewell
Who Is Maren Morris?
Morris is a 33-year-old Grammy-winning country musician who has released six full length albums with another on the way. She's also a five-time Academy of Country Music Awards winner. In 2016, Morris released Hero, her fourth record and first on a major label. That effort has been certified platinum by the RIAA and its successor, 2019's Girl, has achieved gold status.
Why Is Maren Morris Leaving Country Music?
The country sensation attributes the rise and, broadly, the acceptance/tolerance of biased and bigoted views within the genre's industry and scene as the primary reason she no longer wants to be a participant in and representative of it.
For example, in 2021, after country musician Morgan Wallen used a racial slur (the N-word) in a video that circulated online, he immediately experienced a 1,220 percent increase in digital album sales and a 327 percent increase in song sales. What this indicates is that country music fans not only tolerate the use of this language, but are so celebratory about it that they want to financially support the artist responsible for using it.
“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over, but it’s burning itself down without my help," Morris assesses, adding in a later portion of her interview with Los Angeles Times, "But the further you get into the country music business, that’s when you start to see the cracks. And once you see it, you can’t un-see it. So you start doing everything you can with the little power you have to make things better."
Morris mentions the "fear-mongering about getting Dixie Chick-ed and whatnot" that's currently taking place in country music, referencing the 2003 controversy where the Dixie Chicks publicly criticized then President George W. Bush about the invasion of Iraq and were subsequently met with intense backlash from the country community.
She says that problems that arise should be criticized and that "anything this popular should be scrutinized if we want to see progress."
"But I’ve kind of said everything I can say," Morris laments, "I always thought I’d have to do middle fingers in the air jumping out of an airplane, but I’m trying to mature here and realize I can just walk away from the parts of this that no longer make me happy."
What Type of Country Music Does Maren Morris Think Is Butt Rock?
When asked what changed and prompted her to reconsider her active role in country music, Morris assesses, "After the Trump years, people’s biases were on full display. It just revealed who people really were and that they were proud to be misogynistic and racist and homophobic and transphobic."
"All these things were being celebrated," she continues, and it was weirdly dovetailing with this hyper-masculine branch of country music. I call it butt rock."
READ MORE: Why Is It Called Butt Rock?
Jason Aldean's "Try That In a Small Town" went viral for its message regarding vigilante justice, where ordinary citizens are seemingly encouraged to take matters of the law into their own hands rather than let police or other dedicated authority figures settle it. The music video, which was later edited, originally featured sites of historic lynchings, among other problematic things, leading many to question what the real intent behind the song was.
It's Morris' view that country fans are supporting this song for reasons other than enjoyment of the music and that, in reality, it's just a stunt. A charade. Posturing. A pandering parade of chest-beating political bombast just for the sake of opposing another party.
"I think it’s a last bastion," says Morris of the the popularity of "Try That In a Small Town," "People are streaming these songs out of spite. It’s not out of true joy or love of the music. It’s to own the libs. And that’s so not what music is intended for. Music is supposed to be the voice of the oppressed — the actual oppressed. And now it’s being used as this really toxic weapon in culture wars."
Back in 2022, Morris publicly feuded with Aldean's wife, Brittany, over transphobic comments the latter had made. And that was before "Try That In a Small Town" even came out.