Tuesday, September 12, 2006

These chicks had best prepare for the backlash

A few years ago the Dixie Chicks found themselves number one on the hit list, but not on the charts, that after some comments deemed derogatory to President Bush.

Taking to the stage in London, England Natalie Maines expressed the opinion that "They were ashamed to be from the same state as the President." That little off hand remark, boomed into a controversy of epic proportions in country music and by extension American society. Nashville went apoplectic, Toby Keith and others waded in on the attack the Chicks parade and country radio dumped their tunes at a record pace. They were booed by crowds and received more than a fair share of hate mail for their efforts.

Many suggested that the Chicks had committed the ultimate sin in the newly politically correct Nashville, that of not waving a flag and saluting the leader. While Kris Kristofferson or Johnny Cash might be able to speak their minds on the issues of their day, in America as a new century turned, Country music divas should really have known their place.

Needless to say, the spirited trio weren't inclined to as they say "ready to make nice" (coincidentally the title of a recent release.) And instead went on a different path.

Rather it seems instead of mending those country fences, they went their own way, on their own time and with their own plan.

Tonight in Toronto the Toronto International Film Festival will premiere a documentary called "Shut up and sing", and if the pre showing buzz is any indication. Controversy will soon revisit the Chicks.

Filmed over the last three years, it picks up the trail of the Dixie Chicks as the backlash began and follows them through the last three years, moving from the toast of the country scene to the playthings of Satan and then reborn as the heroes of the progressive cause, no longer at home in the genre that once gave them their start.

There is one scene that will surely once again illuminate that split between red and blue states, where Ms. Maines goes far beyond suggesting that she's embarrased by the President, refering to Mr. Bush as a dumb....... uh, well go look up the quote yourself, or wait until tomorow and Fox gives you their version of the latest expressions of the Chicks.

The recent album has done rather well, reaching number one for a bit there, but the tour dates in the USA were a disappointment, leading to an increase in nights in Canadian venues, where there is still an exuberant audience waiting for their music. A point not lost on this blogger, who one can safely assume does not have any Chicks tunes on the iPod.

The backlash is still there, fueled on by the right wing which seem to have an occassional problem with the concept of freedom of speech. Urging radio stations to ban their music and fans to burn, or crush their discs. Both of which happened back in 2003.

Regardless, they'll soon be back at the centre of the spotlight. The film is currently looking for an American distributor which should be interesting to watch. It no doubt will find someone willing to take on the controversy, which of course will equal box office.

From there, who knows. The country music boycott seemed to die off as the new album came out, but could be back on as soon as a new Nashville fatwa is place again. Theatre chain owners may be the next to feel the heat, fearing for a backlash against their more lucrative commercial releases, should they take a flyer on the documentary.

Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and the rest to the right of the spectrum must be licking their lips, The Chicks are back and with them, more ammunition for the great cultural wars that seem to be roiling in America these days. Who knew there was so much power and fear from a couple of songs!

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