In “Guys Do It All the Time,” her only song ever to top the country chart, she turned tables on the dudes by staying out till 4 a.m. having beers with the girls: a rocking boot-scooter, surrounded on the album with other line-dance-ready two-steps about young ladies out on the town, ‘cause it ain’t a party till they get here. Even that hit about demonic temptation sounded totally optimistic, affirming Nashville’s fallback stance that, sure, things might go wrong now and then, but ultimately stuff will work out, because at least if you stick to home and hearth and God and the comfort of your small town, all is right with the world.

McCready probably already knew by then what a crock that is. But she was ambitious — she’d graduated high school early to get her career going — and in the wake of Shania Twain, Nashville had its eyes on photogenic young women. Ten Thousand Angels, which went on to sell 2 million copies, came out just a couple of months before 14-year-old LeAnn Rimes’ Blue, which went on to sell 6 million in the U.S. alone. The idea, it seems, was maybe to build a demographic coalition between suburban tween-girl pop fans and their country-fan moms; Lila McCann (1997), Jessica Andrews (1999), Rebecca Lynn Howard (2000), Alecia Elliott (2000), Cyndi Thompson (2001), and others had all come and gone before Taylor Swift finally hit the jackpot starting in 2006.

Which is to say: the industry is hell.


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