Lyrics Uncovered: Delta Rae, ‘Hands Dirty’
Delta Rae’s Brittany Holljes was the victim of sexual assault at age 13, and she airs her grievances within the lyrics of "Hands Dirty, a bold, angry anthem.
But the foundation of the song wasn’t her idea at all.
“[Delta Rae member and Brittany's brother] Ian (Holljes) brought me this concept earlier this year," Brittany recounts in a recent interview with Taste of Country. "He wanted to write a song that would empower women, and virtually put a stake in the ground about how we feel through the song’s lyrics. We wanted the song to plead for social equality and activism, and I think that’s what it does."
Once the writing process for the "Hands Dirty" lyrics began, it proceeded at a frantic rate.
“Quite literally, there was so much brilliance tumbling out of his head that I was the one just catching and straightening up the lyrics," she recalls. “I feel like we wrote it so every line could essentially be a gut punch. Every line is going to make you think.”
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The brother-sister writing team proceeded to attack the writing session with their feelings about how hard women work and how corrupt the system is, and how, according to Brittany, "people in power, particularly men in power, are treating women as objects rather than human beings."
But there was one thing she didn't want the song to say.
"We didn’t want this to just talk about how women are victims," she insists. "Rather, we wanted to talk about how women are going out there and kicking ass."
The song starts off with a reference to the Holljes family's beginnings: "I could raise the crops from the earth / I could raise my children from birth."
"I love that first line," she says of the "Hands Dirty" lyrics. "Our family used to be farmers, and women have long been caretakers of the land, so I think that line grounds us literally right from the beginning."
From there, the anger seems to intensify: "I could lead impossible missions / Occupy the highest position / But when I ask them to listen/ They disregard my opinion."
“The second verse could be construed as anti-Trump, but it's more about the problem of representation in this country,” Brittany says. “Little girls aren’t growing up thinking of being president, and that’s a problem.” The boundaries continue to be pushed in the second verse, as Delta Rae sing: "I’m breaking every glass ceiling/I’m building skyscraper buildings."
“We are hitting glass ceilings left and right,” she says. “We are all living in this reality, so we wanted to be sure we included in the song.”
At the song’s final notes, Delta Rae find themselves within the ultimate emotional and lyrical crescendo, even specifically bringing up the #MeToo movement: "I have seen the other side of the mountain / Where every queen will be afforded her throne / And I will stand beside my sisters / And all persistent resistors / They’ll say I knew it would come true / And I’ll say darling, Me Too."
“I’m hoping that the final line is not controversial,” Brittany assures. "As far as I am concerned, I simply see it as balm for a raw world right now. The sad truth is that so much that we touch on in the song has been happening since the dawn of civilization. Because of this, this song will always feel fresh in some way."
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