Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Megan McKenna – High Heeled Shoes

Essex: The Nashville of the United Kingdom?


Iain Mew: At the height of size-zero models outrage in the UK, I remember seeing a woman on TV commenting on how small even a size 6 was and grappling with the unimaginability of zero. Unmentioned was the fact that the irresistibly extreme sounding “size zero” came from US sizing, and UK sizes don’t go down as far. I’m reminded of this as Megan McKenna sings about a size 2. As a fellow Brit listening to her doing well-worn country for a so far primarily British audience, that’s the point where the seams show most, and it’s weirdly charming. After all, here is someone asking men to walk a mile in her shoes, singing about the difficulty of understanding another gendered experience, and lamenting expectations — and clothes — she can’t fit into. The element of dress-up in the genre presentation is thematically perfect enough to elevate the song’s emotion and call for empathy.

Katherine St Asaph: On the one hand, it’s refreshing for a song like this to dispense with girls-night-out clichés in favor of reality. On the other hand, if you borrow the cadence to “Before He Cheats,” you’ve already lost that comparison.

Lauren Gilbert: Country music has more to offer than yet another song about performative femininity.

Jonathan Bradley: Country music is an alien object for English performers; something about the genre’s ideologies of space and class, property and nation-building, fail to translate in a way they do not for Canadians or Australians, or even Scots and Scandinavians. Something like Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” is a more logical translation of country into English than Megan McKenna’s “High Heeled Shoes,” which traces its American source material’s signifiers without comfortably fitting into them. Even the title is awkward: the vernacular would demand “high heels,” rather than this strained idiom. Perhaps the cultural disjuncture explains why McKenna’s approach is so tonally irregular: she seems unable to decide whether she wants to nod wryly at the specific trials of performed femininity qua RaeLynn’s “God Made Girls” or Kelsea Ballerini’s “Stilettos,” or to scorch the earth of the entire patriarchal society. A better performer — or one more practiced in genre convention — might better negotiate the whiplash from a winked “it’s not that time of the month” to lingering rape threats, but McKenna instead sounds undecided as to how real she is prepared to get.

Edward Okulicz: Yes, men are terrible and urgently need to have empathy bashed into their stupid skulls, no argument there, but I think even thick-headed men might have more intelligence than this dispatch from the gender wars, twenty years ago. There’s been so much more and so much smarter said about women’s lives just in country music that this is nothing more than tame.

Alex Clifton: Every time I feel like I can’t remember what “middle-of-the-road” sounds like, I hear something that reminds me, “oh, yeah, it’s that.” Megan McKenna’s voice is serviceable, but I’m so confused by the entire enterprise (a TOWIE star gone country, singing simultaneously about societal beauty standards and the deep fear of ending up alone) that I can’t quite wrap my head around it. It’s inoffensive in the background, but never really hits a high point.

Alfred Soto: A British reality TV star absorbing American country mannerisms with aplomb: she stretches syllables and leaves space between phrases like a pro, which I’d expect. Lyrically it treads Pistol Annies terrain if not Dolly Parton’s “Just Because I’m a Woman,” using humor to disarm opponents, including rather cute allusions to rape culture. But someone tell McKenna that she needn’t wear high-heeled shoes in 2017.

Crystal Leww: When you google Megan McKenna, you get a couple of hits proclaiming that McKenna is giving Taylor Swift a run for her money. Honey, tbh, this isn’t even good enough to give Lauren Alaina a run for her money.

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One Response to “Megan McKenna – High Heeled Shoes”

  1. Oh darn; I forgot that I wanted to compare this to Amy Studt, in that it’s ultimately more like a Brit tracing Avril than it is anything really country. (“Misfit”>>>>>>> tho)