Mickey Guyton Brings Country Back to its Activist Roots with "Bridges"

“We're gonna need more than prayers and wishes to build those bridges..."

After teasing us with singles since 2015, Mickey Guyton has stepped back into the limelight with her six-track EP that takes us on a winding journey of identity, personal struggle, and hope in the face of adversity. After recording her music for a decade - and writing within the industry for a whole lot longer than that - the 37-year-old artist opens up about race, gender, and her personal identity as a Black woman, both in America and in the country industry.

Opening with a moving cry to a creator, “Heaven Down Here” starts the EP with exquisite vocals that blend a heartbroken view of our ever-changing world with the hope of a better tomorrow, fueled by the love we’ve all got in our back pockets. Similarly, Guyton paints a picture of a phoenix rising from the ashes in “Bridges,” offering a clear reflection of the past several months of protests we’ve experienced following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. This same sentiment is echoed yet again in “Black Like Me,” a song she co-wrote over a year ago but felt compelled to finally release in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. This song closes the album as a heartfelt message of feeling unworthy and even ignored, only to break free into her power as the song continues. 

The EP progresses one song at a time, breaking the stereotypes so often placed on country artists and especially, one would imagine, on women of color in an industry oversaturated by white men. “Rose” offers a lighthearted answer to the common country trope of drinking beer and whiskey in which Guyton comically brushes off the expectations of others and embraces her femininity. Similarly, “Salt” turns the tables on the classic country-girl visage we’ve all come to expect, channeling a Carrie Underwood style as Guyton sheds the constraints of sweetness and domesticity. On the other hand, “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” strikes a serious chord, reminding young women of the struggles they’ll face, particularly at the intersection of race and gender, while also reminding men to take responsibility for the roles they play in the lives of the women around them.

From start to finish, this album feels like a fresh breath of honesty and transparency, packed full of messages that the genre has been excluding for decades. From her stunning vocals that can blend classic country into contemporary pop to her masterful lyricism, Guyton represents the future of country. She channels the powerful activism that characterized country music at its inception, creating a feeling of comfort and inclusion for people of color in a space that has historically turned its back on them. 

Guyton’s album challenges her listeners, the industry, and the world as a whole to confront so many problems that have been swept under the rug, and she does so with a musical mastery that I hope we’ll see a lot more of in the future. Something tells me we may be popping champagne - or maybe Rose instead - to some of Guyton’s music very soon.

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