Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Last Laugh

The Dixie Chicks had the last laugh. After being vilified by the NASCAR set for speaking candidly about George W. Bush, the Texas trio circled their wagons and channeled their feelings into a monumentally successful hit single. The dramatic video spent the maximum number of weeks as the number one video in VH-1’s weekly countdown and just last week the girls raked in the most coveted awards at the Grammies.

The Dixie Chicks were country music mainstays who enjoyed marginal mainstream success before they denounced sharing Texas with George W. Bush. The pressure of winning back a fan base blinded by rage, tobacco juice and discount sales at Walmart nearly tore them apart but the Natalie and the girls stood strong, spoke their minds and penned a powerhouse. Millions of record sales later they were honored on their industry’s biggest night.

There are some country music fans that dismiss the success of Not Ready to Make Nice as a desperate sell out to the liberal left, but political sentiment rarely tops the pop charts. You can make some waves but eventually people get tired of being preached to. That’s why Paul McCartney topped the charts while John Lennon pontificated. Lennon was more talented and intelligent, but Paul wasn’t afraid to write marketable crap. The Dixie Chicks weren’t guaranteed any airplay. A lot of stations resisted .The fact of the matter is the song was great and it demanded an audience. The lyrics were deep, the music was well-crafted and the video was excellent.

If you want to talk about sell outs look no further than Toby “Chicken Heart” Keith who exploited indulgent nationalistic anger to sell hayseed records and fill redneck venues with inbred hicks by taking cheap shots at the Dixie Chicks. As if milking patriotism for every penny it was worth wasn’t crass enough, eh? How much money is tough-talking Toby making off those stereotypical Ford commercials? And why is a guy so verbally committed to the working man still schilling for a company currently cutting loose tens of thousands of blue collar workers? Talk about selling out.

Unlike Keith, who is an able bodied man capable of serving his country in deed rather than word, the Dixie Chicks have courage. They knew they were taking a big chance by turning their backs on the ignorant fans that make up the vast majority of the people who buy country records. Maybe there was a time Natalie wished she would have kept her opinion to herself but after standing on top of the world of music, if only for one night, she has to be pleased with the consequences of her actions. She spoke her mind, stood behind her words and eventually, after a lot of abuse, got what she deserved. If Toby stood behind his words he’d be in Iraq right now fighting for his country.

There are three lessons to be learned from all of this. The first is that country music fans are small-minded idiots. The second is that Toby Keith is a bloated, cowardly hillbilly hack and the third is that sometimes living well really is the best revenge. The Dixie Chicks could have pointed that out as they accepted their awards, but they let the moment speak for itself.