By Tom Barnes
Country music doesn’t have the most progressive or inclusive reputation. But a handful of up-and-coming country artists are working to break that mold, and Sam Hunt is one of the most promising among them. Instead of setting his latest video “Take Your Time” at a tailgate or around a campfire with a few Budweisers to lighten the mood, he chose to tackle an absolutely essential issue — domestic violence.
The video: Hunt’s video charts the deteriorating relationship between a young mother and a booze-hounding husband. When the husband begins beating his wife in public, Hunt intervenes as a vigilante passerby. Most compellingly, the video clearly illustrates the conflicted cycle of domestic abuse — the mixed signals of violence and affection that let the cycle perpetuate.
Rising visibility: The issue of domestic violence has become tremendously visible in music in recent months. R&B legend Mary J. Blige dealt with the cycles of violence on her December video for “Whole Damn Year.” Katy Perry performed “By the Grace of God” as the conclusion to an emotional tribute to domestic violence during February’s Grammy Awards.
With “Take Your Time,” Hunt now brings country into the conversation. He adds the video to a growing collection of songs and artists attempting to stretch country to include more modern narratives. “County is taking a more liberal direction as a whole,” Hunt told Rolling Stone. “[T]here are little subgenres of progressiveness among artists who are pushing the boundaries.”
Some of these artists are Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman, who both came out in November. Also in November, Kacey Musgraves took home Song of the Year at the CMA Awards for her song “Follow Your Arrow.” The song preaches openmindness toward people of different walks of life, such as LGBT people, marijuana users and atheists — all typically excluded from country’s community. In accepting her award, Musgraves asked the audience, “Do you guys realize what this means for country music?” It means that country music may soon see a brighter, more inclusive future. That’s a promise Hunt is fulfilling.
The true purpose of country: Though this modern country takes on different topics in entirely different tones than “traditional” country, Hunt doesn’t see himself and his peers as being all that different.
“As long as we’re singing about a country lifestyle, and as long as there is truth in the lyrics, storytelling and the visual images that have always shown up in country — for me that’s what keeps it country,” he told Fader. The images in “Take Your Time” are traditional country, even if his angle isn’t. It all tells a powerful, emotional story. That’s what real country is all about.