Have the Dixie Chicks become relevant? I really enjoyed the 60 Minutes interview with the Dixie Chicks tonight. It was nice to see them get some air time to bring us up to date on what they're thinking and why they have chosen to record a new album after three years out of the public spotlight. Though he didn't use these actual words, what Steve Croft was essentially trying to determine was how relevant the Chicks are today. For three years, most country music stations have refused to play their music. Many of the DJ's who took offense at Natalie Manes' comment in a London pub that she was ashamed that President Bush was from her state (Texas). At the time she made her statement, the war in Iraq was really heating up and Bush's popularity was high. The entire band, which was among the most popular in the world at the time, was "punished" by having their music taken off radio, thanks to immature, self-righteous program managers who worried more about losing a commercial sponsor than about that pesky little freedom of speech thing that raises its ugly head now and then. (As an aside, why is that country music stations never declared Willie Nelson "unpatriotic" when he failed for years to pay taxes? Instead, they helped him raise money.) Now the Chicks are back and have the number one most downloaded song on iTunes. As they explained on 60 Minutes, they haven't changed their anti-war stance, nor are they ready to apologize or do anything to win back the country music fans who abandoned them. Instead, they've produced an album full of music they like that reflects how they feel. The public be damned, in other words. It will be interesting to see how the Chicks are accepted, not just by country music fans, but by crossover fans as well. Bush's popularity is in the tank right now and more people than ever now agree with the Chicks' opinion on Bush. On the surface, then, it seems they just may make a big comeback and be seen as "relevant" just because the country, generally speaking, has shifted more in their direction. Relevance often has a short shelf life, so it's entirely possible that the Chicks will ride a wave for a while, then find themselves drowned out once more, based on an increase in Bush's popularity. The way they can remain relevant over the long haul is to either broaden their appeal or recreate themselves every time the wind blows. Personally, I hope they're wildly successful in this come-back and that they make the necessary crossover to other music fans so they remain relevant for a long time. I've been a huge fan for years and have all of their songs on my iPod, which I frequently put into loop mode. We can all learn a valuable lesson from the Dixie Chicks: we can create our own relevance or we can get lucky that we become relevant based solely on outside sources we can't control. The Chicks are either really lucky or really smart. I vote for the latter.


At May 25, 2006 4:38 PM, Anonymous Marc Marton said...

Because the offending remark was made outside of the US, where disdain for President Bush was and still is very high, it could be looked upon as pandering, whether you agreed with Natalie or not. I'm sure no Bush apologist, and the backlash was over the top, but it was pandering.

At May 26, 2006 10:50 AM, Blogger Marilynn Mobley said...

Excellent point, Marc. The Chicks probably were pandering, which makes all the backlash even more puzzling. Why not just make a few sarcastic remarks, even make fun of them, for kissing up to the audience and be done with it? Branding them as unpatriotic and trying to hurt them financially is just immature and, oh by the way, pandering to the pro-Bush crowd.

At June 09, 2006 8:21 PM, Blogger Latraviette Smith said...

I think that anytime we remain true to ourselves, we remain relevant. To be quite honest, I'd never listened or paid much attention to the Chicks prior to the fallout from Natalie's comment. But what piqued my interest in them was that despite the absolutely inappropriate and over-the-top backlash and threats they received, they didn't back down and supported Natalie and each other. Forget "relevance" as defined by our often-fickle, celebrity-driven culture of "what's hot/what's not." I'm talking about the relevance that defines who we are as people. As far as I'm concerned, in their response to that situation, the Chicks branded themselves (more than any album or endorsement or campaign ever could) as truly strong women - which for me transcends time, race, music preference (I happen to be more of an R&B fan) and anything else. Yes, after seeing/hearing them all that week on GMA, I actually bought their new album (my first country music purchase!!) as a show of support for their enduring relevance...and I applaud them even more for standing their ground and not being "ready to make nice" - quite frankly, they don't have to.

At June 30, 2006 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point you made Marilynn about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not only for the very liberal like Manes, but also for the pro-Bush crowd that chooses not to spend their dollars on something unworthy.

At February 05, 2008 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chicks work for the market and the market fired them. It wasn't program managers stepping on freedom of speech. The PMs were simply "pandering" to their listeners as the Chicks were pandering to a European market. If you like the Chick's music and want to blame someone for thier demise, blame the market. But, don't hold your breath for an apology - from either the Chicks or their once fans.


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