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Jewly Hight

Jewly Hight is a music critic and journalist based in Nashville. She contributes to NPR, The New York Times, Vulture/NYMag.com and Billboard, and was the inaugural winner of the Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism. She’s the author of Right By Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs.

"Good Girls and Crazy Ex-Girlfriends: How Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood Have Fine-Tuned Their Performances of Country Femininity"
Due to class-based perceptions of country music’s lack of sophistication, not enough attention has been given to how country performers shape their images and self-presentations. People tend to attribute far greater social, political and artistic significance to how performers from other corners of the musical landscape, from pop to indie rock, tweak and talk back to gendered expectations. And yet Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, the leading women in the 21st Century country music industry, have each spent the last decade fleshing out fascinating, and often contrasting, takes on the performance of femininity. Underwood has strived for middle-class respectability, and sought to convey strength through unfailing professionalism, the athleticism of her performances and discipline of her body, while Lambert has attempted to harmonize working-class resilience and skepticism toward snobbery with the trappings of glamour and celebrity. The differences are especially evident in the ways that their portrayals of wronged, revenge-seeking female protagonists have been received; it's viewed as playacting when Underwood has sung of taking a baseball bat to a sleazeball’s car or conspiring to knock off a two-timing man, but Lambert's gun-wielding confrontations of male abusers have been taken more literally, contributing to her reputation as an armed-and-dangerous woman. I'll unpack how the choices they've made--in terms of production aesthetics, performing postures, songwriting and song selection, stage attire, media interaction and more--have helped shape notions of the kinds of country women they are.