As CMT's Alison Bonaguro wrote, the song is "about a girl obsessing over another girl because that girl stole her lover ... On the other hand, it could also be about a girl obsessing over the girl who is with the man that she wants but has never had." Bonaguro added that it is not a girl crush (on another girl) per se, but rather a girl desiring to taste her rival's lips in order to taste him and "to drown in her perfume, to have her long blond hair -- and so on -- all in an effort to get him back".
Lori McKenna stated that when she presented the idea to co-writer Liz Rose that Rose disliked the idea at first but that Rose changed her mind after hearing the first verse that Hillary Lindsey had written. Group members Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild heard the song and asked that it be saved for them.
"Girl Crush" received mostly positive reviews. CMT's Alison Bonaguro writes, "If anyone knows how to write a country song that's never been written before, it's these three": Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, and Liz Rose. Billy Dukes of Taste of Country states, "Karen Fairchild's lead on Little Big Town's new single 'Girl Crush' may be the best vocal performance of the year. Her anguish drives through you like a steam engine, and afterward she's nothing but a puff of white smoke barely holding on to existence." Dukes adds, "listen to the song on repeat and find yourself exhausted ... in the best possible way" and "mass homogeny on the radio makes it seem impossible to create a sound or write a song that's truly unique. It's as if all the good ideas have been used up. Little Big Town prove this is not the case on each album they release."
B^ "Girl Crush" as performed by Adam Lambert and Leona Lewis was nominated as 2016 CMT Performance of the Year for their rendition of the song on the "CMT Artists of the Year" TV special on December 2, 2015. Their performance was in honor of Little Big Town in recognition of CMT's selection of the group as a "CMT Artist of the Year."
"Girl Crush" debuted at number 48 on the BillboardHot Country Songs chart for the week ending November 8, 2014, before it was released as a single. It reached number one and remained there for thirteen consecutive weeks until it was knocked off by "Kick the Dust Up" by Luke Bryan. It debuted at number 55 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart for the week ending December 27, 2014. "Girl Crush" sold 10,000 copies in its debut week of November 8, 2014. The song reached more than two million in sales by early February 2016. As of April 2017, "Girl Crush" had sold 2,398,000 copies in the United States.
"Girl Crush" is Little Big Town's highest charting single on Billboard's all-genre Hot 100 chart, having peaked at number 18 for the week ending May 9, 2015 chart, besting the number 22 peak of "Pontoon" in 2012. It is also their highest showing on the Canadian Hot 100, besting the number 39 position of "Pontoon" in 2012. It is also their longest-running number one single, 13 weeks atop Hot Country Songs. It broke the record set by The Browns' 1959 hit "The Three Bells" as the longest-running number one on the BillboardHot Country Songs chart by a group of three or more members.
Some radio stations were reported to have pulled "Girl Crush" from their playlists, in response to concerns from listeners who interpreted the song to be about lesbianism. In response, Fairchild said, "That's just shocking to me, the close-mindedness of that, when that's just not what the song was about...But what if it were? It's just a greater issue of listening to a song for what it is." In addition, the label created a short commercial in which the band discusses the song and its actual meaning.Billboard consulted several radio program directors on its panel and found only one who detailed a specific complaint from a listener; the magazine concluded that the controversy surrounding the song was mostly fabricated.
The music video is in black-and-white. It was directed by Karla and Matthew Welch and premiered in April 2015. The music video was filmed in Los Angeles, California and produced by Meritocracy Inc. The music video is nominated for a 2016 Academy of Country Music Award for Video of the Year