Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

Rae Isla’s Country Is Out of this World

By Dale Geist, Editor-in-Chief

“But is it country?”

True, a banjo can be made out amid the synth washes, choral “oohs”, and booming bass drum of the intro to Rae Isla’s astonishing video for her song “Lovely Lies,” but the visuals – well, it ain’t exactly a bunch of good ol’ persons partyin’ around a pickup truck down by the river. The otherworldly setting, the blue light, the white-robed dancers – these have more in common with the visual explorations of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush in their 80s videos and performances than anything I’ve seen out of Nashville in…ever.

So, is it country?

That’s a hell yes.

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Before we get 30 seconds in, there’s a smash cut to Isla, alone in an ordinary room, in an everyday peasant blouse and leather cowboy hat, singing directly into the camera, as the rest of the instruments drop out, leaving only the banjo. Ah. We’re back home.

“Lovely Lies” ends up being about a relationship that has run off course. “When we go to sleep at night / Both our heads tell lovely lies”. Familiar stuff.

So, country it is. But ordinary it’s not. The composition and production are more akin to the pop suites of Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson (up to and including sax riffs!) than your typical Froggy radio fodder. Not to mention that the subject is explicitly queer: it’s a woman singing a love song to a woman.

This isn’t to say the song is without its flaws – the occasional syllable sits uncomfortably on the wrong stress – but it’s absolutely worth your time. Some pop pundits are predicting a post-genre future based on the eclectic listening habits of the playlist generation. This song and video are a hell of an argument for that.