Nashville’s Last Taboo? Country Music Stars Are Tiptoeing Around Trump

1The man’s face is shrouded by shadows, however, the silhouette is unmistakable: comb-over hairdo, thick neck, beefy red power tie.

Katie Hasty / BuzzFeed News / Getty Images

Two fists, bronzed and engorged like mylar balloons, pump skyward from the podium inside a pugilistic dominance display. The reign in the 45th US president, as depicted inside a music video released late recently by the outsider country artist Sturgill Simpson, is short-lived. It ends in the act of left-wing wish-fulfillment, using a boy in a very cape destroying the podium plus a massive, barbed border wall, allowing a procession of brown-skinned immigrants to march into golden light.

The video, for Simpson’s ballad “All Around You,” was already released the week after his dark horse triumph with the Grammy Awards (where he took home Best Country Album and performed over the telecast), and marked the latest in the series of provocations from the seasoned country music disrupter. But it was especially notable in another context, increasing by one the tiny club of country artists who may have explicitly addressed the presidency of Donald Trump in a choice of speech or perhaps their art.

Margo Price performs in a “Icky Trump” T-shirt the afternoon after the election.


Margo Price, a fixture, like Simpson, on Nashville’s progressive-minded perimeters, dedicated a performance of her acid-tongued single “About to Find Out” to your president-elect your day after the election (sample lyric: “You have some of people fooled about your motivation, but I don’t believe your lies”). And on Twitter, famously self-styled singers Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves have jabbed at Trump and the cabinet.

Meanwhile, for the vocally pro-Trump end on the spectrum are country artists such as the middle-tier whiskey-and-women enthusiast Justin Moore (“I such as the fact that [Trump] evokes a feeling of winning, you realize?”) and mop-headed jester Chris Janson, and a cross-section of conservative elder statesmen including Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Dunn, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Kenny Rogers.

But between these poles is really a vast middle ground, inhabited by just about any mainstream contemporary superstar in country music. Of the 87 artists currently on either Billboard’s Top Country Albums or Hot Country Songs charts, only five (Simpson, Moore, Janson, Maren Morris, plus the Brothers Osborne) have gone about the record using a clearly favorable or unfavorable opinion of Trump or his policy proposals through the beginning with the 2016 campaign towards the time of this posting, in accordance with an analysis by BuzzFeed News.

More so than prominent figures in other popular music genres, Hollywood A-listers, or possibly a growing volume of multinational corporations, the dominant figures of country music have until now abstained from national conversations regarding the Trump administration’s policy initiatives and rhetoric.