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So, wait.

I don’t listen to the radio (I don’t own a radio, which is odd, since I am 96 years old). However: There is apparently a very popular musical act called Lady Antebellum? And to be fair, I have heard their hit song played in several delis across New York City and didn’t know who actually sang it until tonight, so it’s not totally foreign to me. But they’re winning Grammy awards? And their name is, I will remind you, LADY ANTEBELLUM?

Seriously, why is this happening? (Also, Train, really? We think this is good enough to award? The world is ending, and we all deserve it).

Also, What Tami Said.


63 thoughts on So, wait.

  1. It’s happening because people like simple, catchy romantic tunes that are easy on the ears. And because people don’t stop to think about how a name like this could offend lots of people. And think that people who have issues with the band’s name are “over thinking things.” (Yes, I’ve been told this about this very band in the past.)

  2. Shit like this is why I ignore American culture the first time around, and wait for other progressives to get really outraged and blog about it.

    @PrettyAmiable: Gaga has done some racist stuff, especially with her lyrics to “Born This Way.” Sigh.

  3. Um…

    I’m a bit embarrassed about this – I’ve heard of this band several times but never looked into their name. I simply assumed that it has some significance to Americans. (I’m from India, BTW)

  4. When Lady Antebellum member Jim Crow’s solo album wins the Grammy in 2012, you’ll understand.

    Unfortunately, the following year, only one of the original members will remain and Starship 2: Electric Boogaloo will release the 2nd worst single known to recorded history.

  5. Thanks for linking to that article; it was interesting. As a history major, I really dislike it when people glorify different periods of history. It always has this air of, “We should go back to the good old days where (black people knew their place/women knew their place/most people didn’t go to high school/nobility had the right to kick the peasants around/people could be considered property).” They speak of glory days that never existed, or that are far prettier in the fantasies of fools than they were in reality. When governments do it, it’s a very bad sign. You tend to get extremely conservative, fascist-like governments attempting to restore order. Hitler is actually a good example of this.

    I know this is off-topic, and maybe I don’t get it because I’m autistic and sometimes don’t get things like that, but did you mean to say that you’re 96 years old?

    1. I know this is off-topic, and maybe I don’t get it because I’m autistic and sometimes don’t get things like that, but did you mean to say that you’re 96 years old?

      I was making a joke because I realize the whole post made me sound really out of touch with the world — I don’t own a radio, I’ve never heard of this young whippersnapper band before, kids these days, etc etc 🙂

  6. Letha: @PrettyAmiable: Gaga has done some racist stuff, especially with her lyrics to “Born This Way.” Sigh. 

    You know, I heard the melody and maybe the first two lines before I wrote the song off entirely as “not my scene.” I’m sorry to hear it got worse from there. What a weird verse to include! How did people sign off on that?

  7. I looked into the group a while back because I was incredibly curious why they would think “antebellum” was a good choice for a band name. Wikipedia (yeah, yeah, I know) says they liked pre-war style of architecture or something along those lines. They really should have considered that the term doesn’t just apply to architecture, but also a time-period and the lifestyle of said time-period.

  8. Can somebody please explain why this term is offensive? (I’m not American sorry). I thought that it was a Latin term that meant ‘before the war’? Not that I’d use this term in general conversation but it’s always good to know when a term is loaded. Avoids unintended offense 🙂

    1. I noticed that Tami said what she said over a year ago and that Lady Antebellum’s cross-over project began well over two years ago. As someone who cares a great deal about country music, the fact that you know so little about the genre that the existence of a hugely successful cross-over band is news to you kind of annoying. annalouise

      …why is that annoying? I mean, there are all kinds of things that people care a great deal about that I don’t follow. Country music is one thing in a long list.

  9. SomeLadyInOH: I looked into the group a while back because I was incredibly curious why they would think “antebellum” was a good choice for a band name. Wikipedia (yeah, yeah, I know) says they liked pre-war style of architecture or something along those lines. They really should have considered that the term doesn’t just apply to architecture, but also a time-period and the lifestyle of said time-period.  

    And architecture that would have been built by slave labor.

    That story has always rang so intellectually dishonest to me, or at least, as actively disavowing the suffering that lifestyle was built upon. I can’t believe this is not a big deal. It feels like when horribly transphobic things happen and no one cares. I guess it’s easier for me to accept that because there are so few of us, but come on this is ridiculous.

  10. @ BeigeShirt

    That is the literal translation, but it refers to a period in American history that was characterized by extensive slavery. The use of the correct terminology is not offensive so much as the glorification and romanticization of a time period, usually without regard to the incredibly negative significance of the time period for African Americans. That’s a pretty simplistic gloss (I’m not American either), but you can Google for more fairly easily.

  11. For the non-Americans:

    “antebellum” almost always refers to Southern plantation culture, ie, slave-owning culture, that existed before the Civil War. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Gone With the Wind”, that’s the antebellum South.

  12. Well, our dog loves them but she has notoriously bad taste in music prefering Dean Martin over Sinatra…even a young Sinatra. Perhaps Grammy voting this year was dominated by the spoiled pooch vote?

  13. Well, antebellum architecture is the official name for that architectural style. So when they heard the term they chose it for their band. But that is not an excuse, merely an explanation.

    I’m sure even if they had done their research and found out that it refers to ‘pre-civil war’ it wouldn’t have affected their decision. But I don’t think we can necessarily point our fingers at these three white folks and blame them exclusively. I am not protecting them at all, but I definitely think it’s part of the system. American history is taught from a very white perspective. It’s no surprise they could easily overlook the significance of the term, the time period, and what it really suggests.

    Black history is constantly being overlooked and erased by our ennntire society.

  14. V. I agree with you that no amount of research would have affected their decision, but I have to disagree with you about whether it’s surprising that they could overlook the significance of the term.

    The work in Nashville, where I live. Their name had to be given the okay by the record companies here in town. Even if we believe those three people could live here–in a town that regularly argues over whether the stone slave walls are worth preserving or if it’s okay to tear them down, where you can be driving down a street and suddenly be in the middle of a Civil War battlefield–and somehow not know, it is inconceivable that no one at their label knew.

    I would guess that the truth of the matter is that they all knew it would cause a “WTF?” reaction in some people and be off-putting to Black people, but since those people aren’t country music’s primary audience, they didn’t care. And they figured that, if called on it, they could be all “What? We didn’t know!”

  15. I noticed that Tami said what she said over a year ago and that Lady Antebellum’s cross-over project began well over two years ago. As someone who cares a great deal about country music, the fact that you know so little about the genre that the existence of a hugely successful cross-over band is news to you kind of annoying.

  16. I never thought of the group name was racist. While I wish they had chosen a different name, but I love this group’s music. Yeah, it’s pop-py country, but there are some other songs on their second album (and the itunes session album) which I think are quite beautiful. That may not be a popular opinion on this post, but frankly, I’m tired of people making fun of the “popular” music. It may not be a soaring aria from opera or majestic crescendo from classical music or even some funky jazz number, but it has its own beauty and place in the world.

    I love Glee, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, even Taylor Swift. I also love the Beatles, Sara Bareilles and P!nk. It takes all kinds of music to make the world go round.

    I’m just saying!

  17. I share Tami’s concerns with a novel glorifying John Wilkes Booth. What was the last time resistance to slavery was romanticized in North American literature? John Brown, Nat Turner, anyone involved in abolitionism or militant action?

    Oddly, the last (and only) time I ran across a romaticized description of a slave rebellion was in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods, in the form of a few pages describing the trials, struggles, and death of a man fighting the French during the Haitian Revolution.

  18. Lauren: At least Esperanza Spalding beat Justin Beiber!!

    Yes. Thank God. Who is she? All I know is that she’s from Portland and I really liked the little scrap of a song of hers I caught on the radio announcement.

    Apparently Justin Bieber showed a lot of class and a sense of perspective at the announcement.

  19. Well, in general it’s annoying to post shock and surprise that is really only based on not paying attention to a somewhat well-publicized pop culture thing that has been around for years.

    But, specifically in relations to country music it’s especially annoying for two reasons: 1)country music markets to people of a certain class and geographic background and contempt for both country music and the people who are thought to enjoy it is pretty endemic in liberal circles. So “lol, I know nothing about this band” has some messy implications and 2) Lady Antebellum, their name, their marketing, their cross-over success and all that exist in the context of an incredibly right-wing music establishment that among many others things, blacklists progressive artists. There’s a lot to say about how the Nashville establishment supports far-right political views and actively censors anything left-of-center, but you’d have to actually know about or care about this music to have that discussion. And it’s obvious that you don’t.

    As much as I love to talk politics and country music, it’s annoying to do so around someone who doesn’t give a shit about country music.

    I can’t find it now,but didn’t someone just this shameless self-promotion post something about sexism and country music? It still wasn’t my favorite but at least this was someone who actually listened to country. Like, look, if you are shocked that glorification of both the confederacy and wife-murdering are staples of the genre, then it obvious that you aren’t going to know about the artists who challenge those tropes and the consequences they have faced within the industry.

    1. Except I wasn’t talking shit about country music. I don’t listen to much pop music in general — hence the “I don’t own a radio” comment, instead of “I don’t listen to country music.” I had also never heard a Justin Bieber song until a few months ago. I just am pretty disconnected from what the kids are listening to these days.

      Point being, this post wasn’t about country music and my shock at the genre. It was about a specific band’s name, which I had never heard until last night. There are plenty of things that I don’t give a shit about, but write about when I notice that they’re sexist or racist or whatever (see, e.g., pick-up artists, Heath Shuler, Katy Perry, Peta, drunk men who expose themselves on street corners, Ashton Kutcher movies, and making your own pet food. And that’s just in the past 30 days). But this should be different because, I dunno, I am not properly deferential to people who love country music when writing about a band with a really fucking stupid name?

  20. The Lost Cause of the Confederacy was romanticized into existence the way only a loser in a war can do. Growing up in the South as I did, its evidence was everywhere. One cannot understate the popularity of Gone with the Wind, first in book form, then in a hugely successful film that, with dollars adjusted for inflation, is still the top grossing movie of all time.

    A defeated Germany did much the same thing, except that theirs was not quite so gauzy or romantic. The “stab in the back” myth placed blame for losing the First World War upon anyone but Germans, and contributed to rise of Hitler and the start of a second World War.

  21. I have some very bad news for you, you may want to sit down. The top selling female group in the Nelson soundscan era is, the Dixie Chicks! Where is there post of outrage?

  22. Annalouise, but don’t you think the fact that a person who’s never heard of the band and who hears the name is off-put? If Lady Antebellum wants to have greater cross-over success than they do now, the fact that their name is causing potential listeners to be all “No, thanks,” is interesting.

    And I am curious about what the industry will do in response to that. It’s one thing to let Trace Adkins or Hank Jr. sit in a corner and pout about how great things were back in the Confederate day. They have a finite and loyal audience and no one’s trying to get them to have great cross-over success.

    But when you have a group you want to reach as wide an audience as possible, this name is a foreseeable strange misstep.

    And you can say what you want about the genre being conservative, but let’s not forget that it was people in the industry who shut down John Rich’s “Gay people are icky” tantrum and who brought the pressure on Belmont University to publicly take a more gay-friendly position.

    It’s not easily “conservative,” though they do often pander to conservatives. But I’m sure they’re paying attention when the people whose money they want are like “Um, wow, that’s not the name of a group I’d give money to,” especially since nothing about Lady Antebellum other than the name says “music that’ll make some folks angry.”

    So, I’m curious to see what, if anything, this leads to.

  23. Kathryn Bjornstad: Thanks for linking to that article; it was interesting. As a history major, I really dislike it when people glorify different periods of history. It always has this air of, “We should go back to the good old days where (black people knew their place/women knew their place/most people didn’t go to high school/nobility had the right to kick the peasants around/people could be considered property).” They speak of glory days that never existed, or that are far prettier in the fantasies of fools than they were in reality. When governments do it, it’s a very bad sign.

    Win!Win!Win!

    The thing is, if you did want to glorify it, there are other things to look at for this period of history. I feel there’s an unusual amount of ignorance about antebellum America, as far as periods of history go. It wasn’t all plantations. There were religious awakenings and reform movements, including abolition and feminism and free love, fights over labor and trade and “monetary policy”, arrival of factories, canals, railroads, telegraph and cotton gin, utopian communities, mini-revolutions and the spread of the franchise, land rushes and speculative fevers, gold rushes, the rise of literacy, American novels and poetry, and a vibrant partisan press, the birth of political machines and modern campaigning, and waves of immigration. GWTW just doesn’t do it justice.
    ………………………………………………..
    But mostly it was a very small place consisting of endless boring, dirty, oppressive shit, hard labor, ignorance, and for eastern tribes in the US, genocide of o/c.

  24. edgy1004: I have some very bad news for you, you may want to sit down.The top selling female group in the Nelson soundscan era is, the Dixie Chicks!Where is there post of outrage?  

    I’ve only heard, like, 2 of their songs and I don’t know much about them at all, so I don’t know if there are reasons I should be outraged at them… but one of those two songs was “Not Ready to Make Nice” …and it was awesome.

  25. annalouise: Huh… I guess I prob’ly meet your qualifications. Native Southerner, big fan of alt country and outlaw country and indie country and even a little bluegrass and newgrass now and then… But I detest commercial country. Also? I don’t see a lot of wife-murdering or confederacy glorification in my music, unless you’re talking about, I dunno, songs from the 1700’s as revived for, say, the Songcatcher soundtrack.

    That was some, eh, righteous indignation there. Here’s the thing… Lady Antebellum is about as country as their equally bland crossover counterpart, Taylor Swift. And, in any case, is not “classist” to criticize a band for having a racist name. Or to be annoyed by the kind of bland, vapid, utterly insipid and meaningless fluff that constitutes Lady Antebellum’s claim to fame.

    And it’s not problematic to call out bands because they are associated with country in some tangential way (their stupid name, for example). Also, *Lady-fracking-Antebellum* is a piss poor example (Thought you’d appreciate the local flavor/lyricism of my speech, being a fellow working class hero ‘n’ all…) of a country band with wide ranging *working class* appeal. They’re played on Top 40 radio. They don’t even get country radio play. They’re not bloody Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson or Townes van Zandt or the Deadstring Brothers or…or even the *Zac Brown Band* if you’d like to talk working class appeal.

    Anyway, annalouise, I feel yer pain ‘n’ all, I guess… ‘Cause it really does irk the hell out of me when I come across people who say snide, classist things about the South. Only that wasn’t happening here. It’s just you decided to get all righteously indignant because Jill dared to comment about Lady Antebellum even though she doesn’t have a Master of Fine Arts in Country Music and didn’t write her thesis on Lady Antebellum and hasn’t published scholarly articles about commercial pop-country. Deal.

  26. Michelle: I never thought of the group name was racist. While I wish they had chosen a different name, but I love this group’s music. Yeah, it’s pop-py country, but there are some other songs on their second album (and the itunes session album) which I think are quite beautiful. That may not be a popular opinion on this post, but frankly, I’m tired of people making fun of the “popular” music. It may not be a soaring aria from opera or majestic crescendo from classical music or even some funky jazz number, but it has its own beauty and place in the world.

    I love Glee, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, even Taylor Swift. I also love the Beatles, Sara Bareilles and P!nk. It takes all kinds of music to make the world go round.

    I’m just saying! Michelle

    You’re just saying what? You didn’t realize that the group’s name was racist, according to your first statement. Then you went off on a whole different point about how you enjoy their music. But whether or not you enjoy their songs has nothing at all to do with whether or not the group’s name is racist. And whether or not you like Carrie Underwood is entirely irrelevant. It certainly doesn’t serve as a defense against the argument that the group name is racist.

    “Lady Antebellum” is a name that continues a tradition of glorifying the slave-owning USA South. Which is a problem. As a fan of their music, are you going to blithely ignore that? So far, your answer seems to be: yes.

  27. I have to say, I’m a feminist lady living in the south. I occassionally listen to country music because I grew up around it, and I have some favorites, but I tend to like alt-country more than the pop-country that plays on the radio. Or cheesy 90s country, because that’s what I heard as a kid, and it makes me nostalgic.

    Until this post, I would have never equated the name Lady Antebellum with racism. And I’m with y’all on the Gone With the Wind obsessions (I’m from Georgia, seriously). I get that the “Old South” gets romanticised, and it really does make me nauseous. But I personally think Lady Antebellum is kind of a cool name. Their music is nothing to get excited about. It’s pretty generic. But their name stands out.

    If you’re going to get offended about their name, get offended by the anti-feminist undertones (Genteel ladies take different staircases so their ankles won’t show, after all.) Get offended by their bland music. But I really don’t think they’re waving the Confederate flag and waiting for “the South to rise again.” (Some people around here really are. Really.) I bet they just like the way it sounds. Like I do. Saying that you picked the name because you liked the architecture just makes you sound a little more intelligent than “I like the way it sounds.”

  28. You know, I knew what the band’s name was referring to..but I guess living all my life in Georgia & being used to apartment complexes with names ending “plantation” it just failed to register with me.

  29. kidglov3s: And architecture that would have been built by slave labor.That story has always rang so intellectually dishonest to me, or at least, as actively disavowing the suffering that lifestyle was built upon. I can’t believe this is not a big deal. It feels like when horribly transphobic things happen and no one cares. I guess it’s easier for me to accept that because there are so few of us, but come on this is ridiculous.  (Quote this comment?)

    BINGO! Lady Antebellum is sugar-coated mainstream fluffed up racist, period. They can say what they want but if they were talking about the “good old days of Hitler” and blamed it on fucking architecture they wouldn’t have a Grammy to speak of.

  30. kidglov3s: And architecture that would have been built by slave labor.That story has always rang so intellectually dishonest to me, or at least, as actively disavowing the suffering that lifestyle was built upon. I can’t believe this is not a big deal. It feels like when horribly transphobic things happen and no one cares. I guess it’s easier for me to accept that because there are so few of us, but come on this is ridiculous.  (Quote this comment?)

    BINGO! Lady Antebellum is sugar-coated mainstream fluffed up racist, period. They can say what they want but if they were talking about the “good old days of Hitler” and blamed it on fucking architecture they wouldn’t have a Grammy to speak of.

  31. edgy1004: I have some very bad news for you, you may want to sit down. The top selling female group in the Nelson soundscan era is, the Dixie Chicks! Where is there post of outrage?  (Quote this comment?)

    They may not have one but I can tell you right now I don’t listen to their music because of the name. Dixie, really? They couldn’t come up with a better name for their group? Anyway, racism is wrong no matter how “talented” you think the racist person/group is, they’re wrong. That’s not opinion, that’s a fact of humanity and that’s all there is to it. Making excuses for racism is NO less full of fucukery than is making excuses for misogyny.

  32. I have some very bad news for you, you may want to sit down. The top selling female group in the Nelson soundscan era is, the Dixie Chicks! Where is there post of outrage

    I have some very bad news for you edge, you may want to sit down. The “Dixie Chicks” is before the time of most of the kids here. You see, this is the kind of thing that tends to happen when an artist gets blacklisted for having political opinions…….

  33. In related news…people still watch the Grammys? “Hey, lets all pat ourselves on the back for how much money we made selling substandard mainstream crap while independent music is in the middle of it’s most productive period in history! Look at us, we’re totally successful and not at all desperate even though anyone with a laptop can do in a weekend in their basement what used to take us a month in a state-of-the-art studio!” Punk has been DIY for years, metal worked out that you can have a thriving scene (or a dozen separate scene, folk-metal anyone?) without even trying to be on the radio, indie is bringing pop and alt-rock out of the RIAA and into the hands of anyone with an internet connection and ill-considered skinny jeans, yet we’re all still pretending that the awards given to the least-offensive filler between commercials on a dying medium or your local shopping mall stereo are somehow significant.

    C’mon…

    All Lady Antebellum winning a Grammy really tells us is that middle America is still chock full of people who don’t really give two shits about who might be offended so long as it isn’t scary to white people. Its background music for boring mobs of mediocre minds possessed of little imagination. Its always going to be a little ugly and offensive because it needs to reflect it’s consumers. Elvis and Pat Boone, take # umpteen.

  34. For some reason I thought Lady Antebellum was the ironic name of a male or mostly male indie or altervative group. I really don’t know why I thought that but I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed it isn’t true. I guess I just thought that no one would be stupid enough to straight up give themselves a name like that.

    We listen almost exclusively to country on the radio as our options out here are 2 country stations or a bunch of crazy religious talk radio, and we’re dinosaurs who do listen to the radio all day while we’re working, and I’d never heard of them before. But maybe I don’t have enough country cred because we only listen to the radio. I have a few Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash albums too, but otherwise stuff I own is mostly folk and bluegrass.

    But just one quick question, why are the Dixie Chicks offensive? I always thought “dixie” was just a general term referring to the south both past and present, not really anything specifically to do with slavery or racism or the Civil War. I rarely make it east of the Mississippi though so I’m pretty divorced from that culture and I would like to know if I’m wrong on that.

  35. William: All Lady Antebellum winning a Grammy really tells us is that middle America is still chock full of people who don’t really give two shits about who might be offended so long as it isn’t scary to white people.

    Ding…ding…ding…..we have a winner.

  36. AK: But just one quick question, why are the Dixie Chicks offensive? I always thought “dixie” was just a general term referring to the south both past and present, not really anything specifically to do with slavery or racism or the Civil War. I rarely make it east of the Mississippi though so I’m pretty divorced from that culture and I would like to know if I’m wrong on that. AK

    Dixie is a geographic reference to the states formed the Confederacy not just the south in general. Its derived from the same from the same origin as the Mason-Dixon line as I recall.

  37. Oh thanks Kristen, that makes a lot of sense. I’m kind of embarrassed to have missed that actually. Seems pretty obvious in retrospect.

  38. That said, I was not part of the 26.2 mill. I did watch Cee Lo on the interwebz afterward though.

    I mean, I guess someone must be watching because they keep putting it on. It just boggles my mind. I get watching the preshow for the red carpet, I get firing up the old system of tubes to find performances after, I just can’t fathom sitting around for three hours watching shallow assholes pat other shallow assholes on the back for being the most successful shallow asshole in a given marketing demographic as judged by a highly esteemed pool of shallow assholes. Couldn’t people be…I dunno…listening to music?

  39. Was Pantera racist?

    I remember Dimebag Darrell had a guitar with a confederate flag…

    Believe it or not, I didn’t equate a confederate flag with racism until recently. I always thought of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard without realizing the connection to the Civil War….ignorant yes….

  40. I WTF’d at their name last year when they started trotting that horrid song around. I’m more offended by their ignorance of sung enunciation that results in “I need jew now” but the band name IS a real problem.

    As I said elsewhere, though. I can’t give a lot of credibility to a music industry that doesn’t see fit to give Janelle Monae one single award for one of the best albums released in my lifetime. And I turned 50 this year, so that’s a lot of albums.

  41. @Nahida from earlier – if you want a GOOD reason to shit on Justin Bieber, you can remember that there are an obscene number of people who listen to and idolize him – and that he said this (according to thedailywh.at):

    “I really don’t believe in abortion.”

    – Justin Bieber, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

    When asked “how about in cases of rape,” Bieber responded: “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.”

  42. PrettyAmiable: When asked “how about in cases of rape,” Bieber responded: “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.” PrettyAmiable

    You know, I felt sorry for him because he had a rough childhood and he is still a child of course…but still…he’s now on my shit list.

  43. i was horrified when i heard the name. i’ve informed people that it’s a direct reference to the slave-owning south, but people don’t give a rat’s butt. disgusting.

  44. Kristen J.:
    Dixie is a geographic reference to the states formed the Confederacy not just the south in general.Its derived from the same from the same origin as the Mason-Dixon line as I recall.  

    i had always understood dixie to be a slang term for the bank notes issued in french-speaking louisiana, expanded to refer to the region in which they circulated.

  45. I think ‘Dixie’ still refers to a region, while ‘Antebellum’ is a time-period. It is obvious from their interviews (“Lady Antebellum” is a trio) that they chose the name in ignorance, believing that the term meant a style of architecture, not the period when the style originated. The fact that they didn’t change it, well, that’s another matter.

    I wonder if contemporary country-western music producers believe that their listeners are white and at least a little racist. Can anybody think of a black country-western performer? I mean really current, gets-radio-play, Clearchannel-Communications-approved country-western music, not alterna-country or Americana.

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