On Friday, Nashville-born, Alabama-raised teenage alt-pop artist Jessie Murph released a new song—a duet with Arlington native Maren Morris called “Texas.” The song is a minor key, genre-spanning breakup ballad that dips its toes in country, pop, and rap as it spins its saga of heartbreak following a fella who left a lover alone when he went back to Texas. To drive the point home, the video features the two singers glammed up on a rainy night, watching a rodeo. 

There’s a lot of Texas signposting in the release (not least of which is the song’s name!), but just calling a thing “Texas” doesn’t necessarily make it Texan. So let’s explore the question: Just how Texas is “Texas”? 

Maren Morris’s presence on the song is a mark in its favor. She’s a Texan through and through, and she takes the first verse, which is a brief four lines that conclude with the country star accusing a man of “[running her] around like a motherf—ing rodeo.” From Murph, that analogy might be a bit try-hard, but given that Morris’s parents still operate a hair salon two miles from the stadium that once hosted the highest-payout rodeo in the country, we’ll allow it. 

Beyond that line and the title, though, there’s not a whole lot of Texas to the song. In the canon of great Texas breakup songs, “Texas” doesn’t really rate. It doesn’t have the cleverness of an “All My Exes Live in Texas,” nor the pathos of a “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Those two tunes are, of course, high bars for any song to reach—but “Texas” doesn’t even stack up well against, say, indie country act Plains’s 2022 track “Abilene,” which has specificity and a sense of place in its tale of heartache. A song doesn’t have to be full of steel guitar or fingerpicking to sound like it’s from Texas—Murph’s parts on “Texas” are built around minor key piano and autotune, both of which Travis Scott uses to great effect on his sadder songs—but we’d settle for some additional depth of feeling, a sense of why this fella running off to Texas feels like such a betrayal. 

Instead, we get some rapping. Murph delivers the lines “I hate that s—, I wanna break that s— / I wanna do the same to your head” with conviction and awkward references to parking lots and wildfires. While both can technically be found in Texas, the way Murph sings about them doesn’t attempt to conjure much in the imagination of the listener. 

All of which is to say that “Texas” is a bit too thin to be worthy of a title that carries such weight. On the great list of songs named “Texas,” it rates somewhere between the one by Chicago punk rockers Big Black and that of Colorado hippies the String Cheese Incident—not unlistenable, but fairly belabored in its attempt to earn its name. 

Still, Murph, the lead artist on the track, is young; conjuring the vastness of Texas as an outsider is a tall order—she only played her first show in the state last year, and she’s younger today than Buddy Holly was when he started his famously brief career at nineteen. “Texas” might not be particularly Texan, but swaggering up to a superstar from the state, getting her to appear on your song, and laying claim to the mythology of a place you’re not even from in order to tell an ex who did you wrong to go to hell? That makes the grade, even if—maybe especially if—the confidence is unearned. So how Texas is “Texas”? On its own terms, not very—but if you’ll allow a little meta commentary, we think it qualifies.