Dixie Chicks not ready to make nice (And neither are former fans)
By Greg Strange
The Dixie Chicks are back from exile. They've got a new album, they're doing interviews and they're plumb dang full of sassy attitude. Take one of the singles off the album, for instance: "Not Ready to Make Nice." Gee, I wonder what that's about?
Unfortunately for former fans, that sassy attitude is the same one that got them pretty much shunned from country music after lead singer Natalie Maines bad-mouthed George W. Bush while onstage in Britain during the run-up to the Iraq war.
Hey, everybody has the right to criticize the president and the war if they want to. But when you're in the field of entertainment, it would help your career to be a little more savvy about the core values of your primary target audience. So, for instance, since fans don't come any more patriotic and flag-waving than those who follow country music, common sense says you steer away from public and gratuitous anti-Bush, antiwar remarks.
Maybe it was the intoxicatingness of being in another, more sophisticated country and performing before a presumably more enlightened audience that caused Maines to succumb to the unfortuitous urge to bash the president who hails from her home state of Texas, the fact of which she was so ashamed. And at that moment and in that place, her comment was probably a real crowd-pleaser.
But modern telecommunications being what they are, the word got back in a hurry to the country faithful in the States and before you could say "no blood for oil," the Chicks were being avoided like a batch of bad moonshine. They definitely picked the wrong genre of music through which to express their discontent with the Bush administration's handling of contemporaneous geopolitical exigencies.
That was three years ago and now they're back, not only with a new album, but a recent cover of Time magazine as well, where they appeared in what seems to be a mutually protective embrace, staring into the camera unsmiling and defiant. Underneath the large headline, "Radical Chicks," is the line, "They criticized the war and were labeled unpatriotic." You know, as if to suggest that such is the fate of all dissenters in the stifling, McCarthyistic atmosphere that has prevailed since right-wing warmongers pulled off their coup and took the White House.
And as if to suggest that just because the Dixie Chicks disagree with the war doesn't mean they're not every bit as patriotic as any country music fan.
But the Chicks' own words put the kibosh on any such suggestion. No, not in the Time article because the issue isn't even raised there. But it was raised in a subsequent interview with a British newspaper and any country fans who want to give the Chicks the benefit of the doubt in the patriotism department will be sorely disappointed.
In that interview the Chicks first complained about the lack of support from other country artists. Said Emily Robison: "A lot of artists cashed in on being against what we said or what we stood for because that was promoting their career . . . A lot of pandering started going on and you'd see soldiers and the American flag in every video. It became a sickening display of ultra-patriotism."
Well sure, what could be more sickening than a strong display of patriotism?
Then Maines got right down to the crux of the matter. "The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country . . . I don't see why people care about patriotism."
There you have it, country music fans, straight from the horse‘s mouth. The Chicks aren't simply patriotic dissenters who got a bad rap. They are utterly clueless about why anybody would be patriotic for any reason!
It wouldn't be gentlemanly to suggest that they‘re dumb as a box of rocks, but these are the statements of people who seem to be profoundly and abysmally ignorant of the dangers in today's world, unappreciative of how good they have it in their home country and clueless about how it got that way and what it takes to preserve it.
Anyway, Maines needn‘t worry about the "entire country" not agreeing with her. That's because the country is crawling with Bush-hating America-bashers who not only agree with her questioning of the need for patriotism, but who sympathize with terrorists and actually hope America will be defeated in Iraq. But most of those people aren't listening to country music.
When it comes right down to it, just how country are the Dixie Chicks, anyway? Their new album, "Taking the Long Way," is being described as a shift from country to pop. One review says they "are now savvy, sophisticated urbanites . . . like they've stepped out of ‘Sex and the City' -- and the music reflects that. It's rooted in . . . country-rock . . . but sounds more suited for upscale apartments and coffeehouses."
Fine. There's no law that says the Dixie Chicks have to continue the country charade with all its oppressive baggage, such as the expectations of patriotism. If they prefer "Sex and the City" to Haggard and Twitty, more power to 'em. Like it said in the Time magazine article, "This is what talented musicians are supposed to do: aspire to get better, braver."
Chick Marty Maguire summed it up pretty well in Time: "I'd rather have a smaller following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith. We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."
In other words, stick it in your ear all you Reba and Toby lovers. The Chicks are leaving all you white trash, country bumpkin losers behind -- and saying good riddance while they're at it. They're movin' on up to bigger and better things. They're looking to cull a new audience of "really cool people" from "upscale apartments and coffeehouses" and get shed of all their old fans who were mainly just filling up America's decidedly unsophisticated trailer parks and rural route addresses.
Maybe the Dixie Chicks will find happiness with their new peeps. The old peeps aren't likely to be too broken up over their departure from country. They're "not ready to make nice" either.
Greg Strange's web site can be found at http://www.greg-strange.com. (c) 2006 Greg Strange.
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