The Chicks Drop “Dixie” & Drop Out of Country on “March March”

Here ye, here ye, here ye, henceforth the country music trio formerly known as the “Dixie Chicks” will solely be known as “The Chicks.” In this arresting moment we’re living through where we feel the need to eradicate anything and everything that can be tied directly, tangentially, or indiscriminately to the American South, “Dixie” has become the latest casualty, along with, somehow, statues to Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant who commanded the army against the rebellious Confederate South, and Abraham Lincoln who emancipated the slaves. Can’t be too safe, I guess. Wait until the mob hears what Germany did, and some 80 years more recently, or Mao with his cultural revolution. And meanwhile many of the actual pillars of racism remain erect throughout society because we’re mostly focusing on the symbolic ones.

To tell you the truth, the term “Chicks” is arguably just as problematic, if not more than “Dixie.” If you happened to refer to the American South as “Dixie” in passing as sort of a form of shorthand, not many if anyone would look at you sideways and consider the term or you as racist. If you refer to a woman as a “Chick,” it would be a taken almost universally as an act of reductionism, and if you’re male, misogyny. You’re discouraged from referring to women as “female” or a “girl,” or by their first name as well.

Similar to the recent move by Lady Antebellum to change their name to Lady A, the concern with The Chicks is not the name change specifically, but the slippery slope it presents toward what language can and will be deemed as problematic. Lady A changing their name made it almost essential for the Dixie Chicks to change their name as well. So now that we’ve moved the goalposts once again, what further names will be deemed problematic? I’m sure they’ll let us know very soon.

Some were pointing out a double standard when Confederate Railroad was being criticized for its name while Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks weren’t. So turning around now and complaining these groups changed their names does not make a whole lot of sense. Of course, the main problem some have is the perception that The Chicks gave into public pressure. But similar to what happened to Lady Antebellum, this is somewhat misguided. You can’t proclaim you’re all for freedom of speech, and then complain when someone voluntarily chooses to change their own name because they pondered the situation, and deemed it problematic. It’s their name. They can do whatever the hell they want with it. That’s freedom. If there was a mob out to Dixie Chick (a.k.a. cancel) the Dixie Chicks for their name, that is where it would be problematic—mob rule compelling someone to act against their will or succumb to cancellation, like we saw with Confederate Railroad. Similar to Lady Antebllum, that’s just not the case here.

This name change was in the works for a while. The only real surprise is that it took so long. It just happens to be coming now because, oh, The Chicks have a new song to promote, and on the same day they announce their name change. Total coincidence of course. And if your beef is with the Dixie Chicks in general is still what they said about President George W. Bush, good gosh, let it go already. It was almost 20 years ago, and was an opinion that the current President of the United States regularly shares on both foreign and domestic soil. It’s also an opinion that the prevailing sentiment and history now agrees with.

But the next question is if any of this is even relevant to country music anymore. Coinciding with the name change is the latest song from The Chicks’ upcoming album Gaslighter called “March March.” A pathetic, droning, electronically-programmed monstrosity mostly constructed at the hands of producer Jack Antonoff with the narcissistic notions of Natalie Maines as the centerpiece, it’s in no way good, and certainly not country.

After the mild, but acceptable title track from Gaslighter was released, and then the deflating, but forgivable “Julianna Calm Down,” we get even more electronic production, more cussing, while Emily and Martie Erwin are once again relegated to bit players, adding a little fiddle and banjo, which is about the only redeeming quality of the song, but way too fleeting as Antonoff becomes enamored with his own MIDI programming and clap tracks. “March March” is a straight up EDM song with hip-hop callbacks effervesced with scant fiddle and banjo for texture.

Meanwhile Natalie Maines has morphed into some alternate universe version of a Kid Rock character. But instead of waving the Confederate Flag around and packing her trashy Nashville bar with patrons with the express purpose of pissing people off and flaunting authority, Natalie Maines taunts her detractors with self-important lyrics and purposely polarizing proclamations. She wants to make people angry. She gets off on it. And even if you may think that anger is understandable with what happened to The Chicks now some 20 years ago, at this point she’s just being extremely petty, and childish.

“March March” takes pride in not learning, not growing, not listening or understanding the perspectives of others, and even more alarmingly, presenting it as a virtue, while Maines also proclaims herself an “army of one.” If you consider how little we’ve heard from Emily and Martie Erwin on Gaslighter so far, that doesn’t sound too far off.

And of course any and all criticism of The Chicks will be seen singularly as sour grapes from country fans unwilling to bury hatchets when in truth it’s vice versa. The Chicks will be applauded for sowing anger. That’s how you know they’re being effective. And though hurt feelings from the past remain an issue with some country fans, the simple truth is what The Chicks have been releasing from this record so far is so outside the norm of country, it’s beginning to feel more like a Taylor Swift situation where you have to wonder why we’re even continuing to pay attention to them? Jack Antonoff is one of the guys who lured Taylor Swift away from country music, and now it appears he’s doing the same with The Chicks. Wonder why there’s so few women in country? This is partly to blame.

What made The Chicks so cool is they were country, they were good musicians, and they were strong women taking center stage. Now they’re just a studio project with Jack Antonoff looking to make his stamp. Despite the loud voices of some misguided rednecks who will never make amends, country music wants to make right with The Chicks and move on from the embarrassment that was their cancellation before we even knew what cancel culture was. They were the centerpiece of the 50th CMA Awards, and radio was initially receptive to their new lead single.

But as time has gone on, it’s Natalie Maines who appears to be the the one not ready to make nice, more interested in pissing people off and being proud of it, than allowing what was once the most important project in country music to return to their rightful place, and put a needed injection of woman power back into the genre.

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