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.''