Music Article

No. 8

Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson
Image credit: Gretchen Wilson Photograph by Mark Reitoff

Gretchen Wilson made our 2004 Entertainers of the Year list

You know that car commercial where the guy's belting out Shania's ''Man! I Feel Like a Woman!'' to the chagrin — if not the homosexual panic — of his fellow passengers? Cute, but it probably doesn't happen much in real life. Whereas we can verify sightings of men singing along with Gretchen Wilson's triple-platinum debut album — nuggets of Southern feminism like ''Well, I ain't never been the Barbie doll type'' and ''You might think I'm trashy, a little too hardcore, but in my neck of the woods, I'm just the girl next door.'' Pale men with reasonable-size belt buckles...who hail from effete coastal areas. (Not to get too personal about it.)

It's the 31-year-old Illinois native's gift that she's able to make almost anybody aspire to being a ''Redneck Woman.'' ''I don't think there's been a country female that was that big of a phenomenon, ever, first rattle out of the box,'' says Wilson's writing partner, Big & Rich's John Rich. With Here for the Party likely to end the year as 2004's sixth-best-selling CD, Wilson can now rightfully claim the crown — or jewel-encrusted cowboy hat, anyway — as country's new queen. Naturally, record labels are busily searching for clones. ''I hope with all my heart there's no girl out there that's being forced to sing Gretchen Wilson-type music,'' she says. ''My first couple of showcases, I tried to be what they wanted me to be, and by my last couple, I was saying, 'This is who I am. Do you like it or not? 'Cause I'll go somewhere else if you don't.' And it wasn't until I got that attitude that people liked it.''

Her transformation from teen bartender and high school dropout to quadruple-nominated Grammy belle could be described as a fairy-tale story, if not for the fact that Wilson eschews dresses and tucks chewing tobacco behind those high cheekbones. ''Well, it is a fairy-tale story,'' she laughs. ''I'm just not a princess.''

Originally posted Dec 22, 2004