By Anne T. Donahue
This week (see: two days ago), the Dixie Chicks released their first new song in 14 years and I immediately took to the streets and began screaming, “I was right! I was right the whole time!”
The single, “Gaslighter,” is largely about Natalie Maines’ divorce from her ex, and the video features footage of various incidences of sexism in history and pop culture which, obviously, isn’t exactly nottimely. The album itself (also called Gaslighter) will be out on May 1 and if you are anything like me, you will be listening to their entire discography on repeat for the next two months.
Because here’s the thing: Dixie Chicks have always been the fucking best, and I’m thrilled that this seems to be the general consensus despite some of us old millennials failing to recognize their genius in our teens and early twenties. (Well not “us”: I have always been obsessed a.k.a. been on the right side of history, particularly as my best friend and I made “Goodbye Earl” our friendship anthem, which is truly worth writing another essay about, but that essay won’t be written today.) In fact, the Chicks have been unequivocally punk rock. They called out President George Bush and the war on Iraq in 2003 that saw them ostracized to the point of receiving death threats. Then, instead of issuing comments clarifying “what they really meant” (or some other PR bullshit), they double-downed and released not just a documentary (Shut Up and Sing) about the fallout, but an album (Taking the Long Way) that included “Not Ready to Make Nice,” the ultimate and most powerful fuck-you anthem of all time.
This, before social media. This, while nestled in a genre that very much aligns itself with traditional aspects of Americana that in no way include a country singer saying they’re ashamed that the sitting president is from their home state. This, while in the prime of their careers; when they’d finally hit the mainstream after working up the ranks for so goddamn long. Like, are you kidding me. Are you kidding me? The Dixie Chicks did that. And are doing it again. 14 years after the shit-storm and then some, they’re triumphantly returning and their first song goes deep on its lead singer’s messy, horrible divorce. Like: holy shit.
In the movie The Town, Jon Hamm refers to himself as part of the “not fucking around crew.” For so long, I’d come to believe that he was referring to himself and the rest of the FBI. Now, I know he was referring to the Dixie Chicks. Three women who collectively give so many and yet give none. Three women who used – and use – their platform to say what matters, regardless of the consequences. Three women who proved nearly two decades ago that it doesn’t matter what genre you primarily exist in; you speak up when something is wrong.
So to my fellow Dixie Chicks stans: our time has come. Scream-sing to “Taking the Long Way” and “Ready to Run” and “Travelling Soldier” and revel in the majesty that we are finally sitting front row to a long overdue comeback. Not that they owed us one. But that’s just another example of why they’re my favourite punk act of all time.
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