If you think we live in the land of the free / you should try to be black like me
Released this week in response to the horrific murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement protests, Mickey Guyton’s new song ‘Black Like Me’ is a powerful statement of personal pain which every country music fan should hear.
To be a woman in the mainstream country genre is difficult enough but to be a black woman…well you can barely imagine how much Guyton has been through just to get here. Despite being on a major label she has yet to even begin to really have her voice heard on the scale it deserves.
Before now she has walked the path of many Nashville hopefuls before her – releasing songs her record label chose only to find that success was elusive. Being brave enough to give up that dream and instead write her own truth has freed her. Stepping up with a song about the discrimination she’s faced in her life and releasing it in a genre that has a history of segregation is truly groundbreaking.
The song itself is as simple, personal and heartfelt as country music should be. She sings of growing up different in a small town, struggling to fit in to the world and the pain of being a black woman in a country that makes her feel invisible.
Vocally the song is a revelation. Emotional, powerful and full of enough truth and twang to prove to any doubters that she is a country artist. The soft pedal steel mixes with the more modern production – a radio friendly sound for a message that should be broadcast on every station.
Of course the sad fact is country radio won’t play it. But that’s not the point of why she released this song. It’s about more than success – you have to sing your story when it really matters. Spotify have, thankfully, stepped up to add it to their playlists (in fact they requested she release the song after she posted a clip on Instagram).
Guyton finishes the song with a statement of power and pride in her difference, her blackness. A moment of hope in the face of discrimination.
Black Like Me asks the listener to hear her story and to see the world from her frame of reference, to know emotionally what she’s experienced and to feel her pain. That’s what real empathy is. Until the country music establishment, and the world, is ready to truly listen without prejudice then we will never progress.
I sincerely hope this song gets the success it deserves. Please support black artists, and the Black Lives Matter movement, in every way you can.