The Chicks, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, are a long-lasting Country Music group known for its neotraditionalist country and bluegrass influences. The most famous lineup consists of lead singer Natalie Maines and backing vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Martie Maguirenote and Emily Strayernote , who are sisters.
The Dixie Chicks founded in 1989 when the Irwin sisters joined with bassist Laura Lynch and guitarist/vocalist Robin Lynn Macy. The band recorded several bluegrass-influenced albums on indie labels under the production of Lloyd Maines. Macy left in 1992 and Lynch took over lead vocals for the band's last independent album. After signing to Monument Records in the mid-1990s, Lynch left as well and Lloyd's daughter Natalie was chosen as lead vocalist.
With a new sound led by Natalie's vocals, the band finally broke through in the latter half of the 1990s with its first Monument album, Wide Open Spaces. The album and its follow-up, Fly, both produced several big hits (including the controversial "Goodbye Earl") as well as Grammy and CMA awards.
Following the dissolution of the Monument Nashville branch (which had produced no other successful artists during its timespan), the Chicks moved to Columbia Records for the bluegrass-influenced Home. This album looked like it might bring the Chicks' career to new heights, with back-to-back crossover smashes in "Landslide" and "Long Time Gone," as well as "Traveling Soldier," which resonated well in the wake of post-9/11 patriotism. However, during a tour, Maines remarked that she was ashamed to be from the same state as then-president George W. Bush. This remark, combined with some friction between her and Toby Keith over his own 9/11 anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue", led to a huge backlash from the country music community, including a sharp decline in radio airplay and a longtime departure before Taking the Long Way came out in 2006. This album was a lot more vitriolic in nature, and although lead-off single "Not Ready to Make Nice" fared poorly at country radio, it was a massive pop hit and won three Grammy Awards.
Robison and Maguire wanted to record a new Dixie Chicks album in 2009, but after Maines said that she was not ready to do one, the sisters recorded one album under the name Court Yard Hounds. They had also planned to start touring as such, until Maines decided to join the other two and tour alongside Keith Urban and the Eagles in 2010. In 2013, Court Yard Hounds released their second album Amelita, while Natalie Maines released a solo album called Mother, trading in her old country sound for pop/rock, with cover songs from sources as diverse as Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder, and Pink Floyd.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests and subsequent removal of negative southern imagery from most forms of media, the group officially renamed to The Chicks in 2020. Their reunion album and first under the new name, Gaslighter, came in 2020. Despite positive reception by fans, the pushback from the 2003 incident still left them pretty much blanked by radio.
- Thank Heavens for Dale Evans (1990)
- Little Ol' Cowgirl (1992)
- Shouldn't a Told You That (1995)
- Wide Open Spaces (1997)
- Fly (1999)
- Home (2002)
- Top of the World Tour: Live (2003)
- Taking the Long Way (2006)
- Gaslighter (2020)
Their work provides examples of:
- Author Tract: Large tracts of Taking the Long Way were dedicated to those who lashed out against Natalie's comment, saying she's still "mad as hell" at them, but also questioning why the haters would go so far as to send her death threats (which actually happened).
- Album Title Drop: Several examples:
- From "The Long Way Around": "Taking the long way, taking the long way around..."
- "Let Him Fly" is this for Fly.
- "A Home" could be considered this for Home, though other songs mention home as well.
- Asshole Victim: The titular antagonist of "Goodbye Earl," a missing person "who nobody missed at all".
- The Band Minus the Face: Subverted with the albums that Martie and Emily cut, if only because they credited them to the Court Yard Hounds.
- The Cameo: John Mayer on "I Hope", Chris Thile of Nickel Creek on "White Trash Wedding" and "Lil' Jack Slade", among others.
- Clothing-Concealed Injury: "Goodbye Earl" has Wanda wearing dark glasses, long-sleeved blouses and makeup to cover up the signs of her abuse by Earl.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted with "Long Time Gone", originally recorded by a male artist. They didn't change the lyrics at all.
- Cover Version:
- "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac appears on the album Home.
- "Goodbye Earl" is a cover of an unreleased Sons of the Desert track — the "Earl" character reappears in several of writer Dennis Linde's songs — but the Dixie Chicks' version is much better known.
- "Travelin' Soldier" was recorded originally by Bruce Robison, and then again by Ty England. The version recorded by The Chicks was the first to be released as a single.
- Cue the Flying Pigs: "Cold Day in July"
- Declaration of Personal Independence: The song "Wide Open Spaces", and numerous other songs where the young person needs to "stand on their own" for the first time. Subverted in "Johnny Don't Take Your Gun To Town," where it turns out the kid wasn't ready to go out alone after all.
- Dream Team: Teamed with Beyoncé herself for a performance of her song "Daddy Lessons" for the 2016 CMA Awards and a studio version posted online shortly afterwards.
- They later teamed up to sing backing vocals on TaylorSwift's "Soon You'll Get Better".
- Early-Bird Cameo: Before she joined the Chicks, Natalie sang backing vocals on a Pat Green album.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first three albums were straight-up bluegrass with a different lead singer.
- Empathic Environment: Inverted in "Cold Day in July", which describes a painful breakup taking place on a beautiful sunny day.
- Hated by All: The title character of "Goodbye, Earl" is a scumbag through and through. After Mary-Anne and Wanda do him in, no one seems too broken up that he's gone missing.Well, the weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all
- The music video takes it a step further; Earl's zombified corpse is among the crowd dancing and celebrating with the rest of the townspeople in the last verses.
- I Have No Son!: Portrayed mercilessly in Court Yard Hounds' "Ain't No Son", which is sung mostly from the perspective of a parent whose son comes out of the closet.
- "Leaving the Nest" Song: "Wide Open Spaces" directly addresses a young lady's need to escape her small, closed-off life and embrace the "wide open spaces" where she'll have "room to make her big mistakes." While mostly confident and positive, the song does contain an element of uncertainty, ending on the phrase "she knows the highest stakes."
- Long Runner Lineup: The Maines/Maguire/Robison lineup (1997 onward, more or less).
- Loophole Abuse: The entire point of "Sin Wagon" can be summed up as "Raise as much hell as possible, then ask God for forgiveness at the last possible moment". Could be a case of Artistic License Religion, or Comically Missing the Point, or an unfortunate Truth in Television, depending on the listener.
- Mood Whiplash: The opening verse of "Goodbye Earl" sound like a country-western weeper about Domestic Abuse and the close relationship between best friends...and then takes a left turn straight to Crosses the Line Twice.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Tonight the Heartache's on Me"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Goodbye Earl" is awfully upbeat for a song about two women who kill an abusive husband and then dispose of the body.
- Murder Ballad: "Goodbye Earl". Although in this case the murderee completely deserved it.
- Ms. Fanservice: All three Chicks are fairly easy on the eyes, as evidenced by the photo up top.
- New Sound Album: Wide Open Spaces succeeded in part because it blended the band's existing bluegrass sound with mainstream country and pop influences. Oh yeah, and the fact that it was the first album with Natalie Maines on lead vocals.
- Home could be considered an Old Sound Album, in that it reverts to a completely acoustic, bluegrass-influenced sound, with drums only appearing on one one track ("Travelin' Solider", which has an in-story reason for them to be there).
- And then Taking the Long Way goes right back to country-pop after it.
- Police Are Useless: In "Goodbye Earl", the cops are in no way able to protect Wanda from Earl's abuse. It also works in Wanda's favor after she and Maryanne kill Earl, since they only do a half-hearted job in trying to find him: "And it turned out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all."
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The Dixie Chicks have become more famous worldwide in the early 2000s for opposing George W. Bush, the war in Iraq and the enormous backlash they received than for their music.
- Protest Song: "March March", which is about the spirit of protesting. The music video features various protests, including anti-Vietnam and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
- Precision F-Strike: Present in Gaslighter including in "Sleep at Night" and "March March"
- Revenge Ballad: "Goodbye Earl", about a woman and her best friend who take revenge on her abusive husband.Earl had to die
Those black-eyed peas
They tasted all right to me, Earl
- Runaway Bride: The music video for "Ready to Run" has the girls leave their would-be husbands at the altar and go wherever and grab whatever can help them get away fastest. They end up being chased by a mob of angry people and their fiances, before jumping in a pool and needing to be fished out. Ironically, the song is about avoiding becoming a Runaway Bride by bailing at the mention of marriage or long-term commitment.
- Shout-OutI'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and I don't have time
To go round and round and round!
- Sequel Song: "Goodbye Earl" is one to Sammy Kershaw's 1993 hit "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer". Both were written by Dennis Linde.
- Shotgun Wedding: Played for Laughs in "White Trash Wedding".
- Take That!: Many of the songs on Taking the Long Way address the reaction to Maines head-on.
- Similarly Gaslighter was written in the aftermath of Maines' divorce as well as the political situation of the late 2010s.
- During their feud with Toby Keith over the song "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," Maines wore a shirt with the acronyms "FUTK," claiming that the initials stood for "Friends United in Truth and Kindness."
- "Lubbock or Leave It" is one to the city of Lubbock, Texas, where it's implied that, like Buddy Holly before her, Natalie won't be appreciated there until she's dead and gone.
- "Not Ready To Make Nice" is an entire song telling anyone who has a problem with their political statements to fuck off.
- Taking You with Me: Subverted in "If I Fall You're Going Down with Me", since the falling refers to love and not death.
- They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: "Long Time Gone" compares the current sound of country radio to a few country music legends, which is a bit of a Take That! to the former and a Shout-Out to the latter:They sound tired, but they don't sound HaggardThey've got money, but they don't have Cash
- 13 Is Unlucky: Fly has a couple variants to make "Let Her Fly" the fourteenth track. Some pressings have track 13 as a one-second silent track listed in the booklet as "ain't no thang but a chicken wang"; others just have track 13 consist of the last couple seconds of "Heartbreak Town", which is track 12.
- Titled After the Song: The band named itself after the Little Feat song "Dixie Chicken."
- Wanderlust Song: "Cowboy Take Me Away"
- Wham Line: From "You Were Mine," sung from the perspective of a woman whose husband has left her for another woman. The majority of the song is about her own despair over the break-up, and then:I can give you two good reasons to show you love's not blind...He's two and she's four and you know they adore youSo how can I tell them you've changed your mind?