A name says a lot. A name can be powerful.
That became crystal clear in the country music world on Thursday with the sudden and surprise announcement by the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum that the trio was now going by the moniker Lady A. The new name is what fans often called the band anyway. (it should be noted, however, that a Seattle R&B singer who goes by the name Lady A, was not happy with the name change and may take legal action. Lady A - the trio - had not responded for a comment).
In an online post from Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, the long-running group explained that the decision was quite clearly the result of the discussion about race in the U.S. - not to mention the world - in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Lady A acknowledged a mea culpa in the statement they released.
"When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us...southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and of course country," the band said. "But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the civil war, which includes slavery."
Whether Kelley, Scott and Haywood came up with the name themselves or were the tool of the record industry, who knows? But Kelley, Scott and Haywood were the ones who had to live with the name.
Antebellum is a Latin word meaning "pre war." In U.S. history, when the word Antebellum is used, it commonly refers to the pre-Civil War South.
And that is where Lady A ran into trouble. Slavery was part of the Antebellum period. What was there to glorify about that? Was the Southern way of life some idyllic period in our history?
Of course not. About the only ones who would are racists, white supremacists and bigots. (unfortunately, slavery still exists in the world today from economic to sexual).
Lady A addressed an obvious question head on about their lack of wokeness - sort of. ""We understand that many of you may ask the question 'why have you not made this change until now?' The answer is that we can make no excuse for our lateness to this realization. What we can do is acknowledge it, turn from and take action."
In other words, Lady A never much thought about the name - at least publicly - until now. Times change. Opinions change. Names change. That's just giving the group an easy out, but chances are they would not have adopted the name Lady Antebellum if there were a question in mind (and there probably should have been).
Lady Antebellum was never a name that seemed to fit the group by my ears as to what they stood for. Theirs was more of a pop country sound, perhaps with a bit of a soulful inflection vocally by Kelley.
There was nothing overtly southern in their approach to the songs. You were not going to hear about the greatness of the Southern way of life especially compared with other regions of the U.S. as you do with many, many other country artists. That in and of itself is exclusionary.
The name never matched the music.
Lady A received a good amount of heat for its decision on social media - some of it in effect accusing the band of caving into to political correctness. A few sarcastically wondered if the Dixie Chicks, Alabama and Florida Georgia Line were next up for name changes.
Bottom line - Lady A made the right decision.
While never particularly political, the name change itself is most clearly a statement from the band that they recognized their name was not what they stood for. Nor something they wanted to stand for any more.
It would be easy to criticize Lady A for being late to the table, but it's not as if there were protestations about their former name mounting. Lady A took the bull by the horns, and with one fell swoop, they made a statement.
There is a lot in a name.