I did not wake up today expecting to hear a song about gender discrimination from country singer Keith Urban, but OK, here we are. Urban released a new single titled “Female,” and according to his songwriter, Ross Copperman, the song came about because the two were so moved by the mounting allegations against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, that they just had to write a song about it. In his words:
[“Female” comes] from the Weinstein announcement. We’re in a room and we’re like, ‘What can we do about this?’ And that’s the one thing we can do is write songs.
I will be upfront with you right now and say that I have nothing against Urban. If Nicole Kidman enjoys hanging out with you enough to get married and raise children together, then you must be perfectly nice. And I deeply sympathize with the nagging urge to do something when you hear that terrible things have been happening right under your nose. It sits in the pit of your stomach, until you decide to speak up, and that isn’t enough to make it go away. But Urban’s “Female” is mansplain-y at best, and dangerous and woefully misinformed at worst—and more than that, it’s not a very good song.
“Female” sounds like it was engineered to make you cry. (I almost did while listening to it for the first time, but I chalk it up to the fact that the trailer for Lady Bird played right before the song came up on YouTube.) The melody builds to a painfully cheesy climax during the chorus, while the lyrics invoke Meredith Brooks’ 1997 Grammy-nominated hit “Bitch.” (You know it, even if you mistakenly thought it was sung by Alanis Morissette; it goes: I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, yada yada. That one!) By which I mean, the chorus is a bunch of synonyms for “woman” strung together in an attempt to be uplifting. But instead of raising me up like Josh Groban once intoned, the refrain comes off like a bad Hallmark card—garden-variety feminism meant to go down easy.
Sure, it could be worse. If the biggest criticisms you have against a song are “it sounds like off-brand Andrea Bocelli” and “so earnest and misguided it’s mildly cringe-worthy,” then, congratulations, you made a not-great but altogether inoffensive song! Someone has to give Urban points for these lines:
When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just cause she was wearing a skirt
Now is that how it works?
But the rest of the song makes me wish someone, anyone, had consulted a woman before greenlighting this idea. Nice try, Keith; better luck next time.