You don't like the Dixie Chicks? Yes you do, you just don't really know it yet. Trust me. The Dixie Chicks are three badass women that are way cooler than you. I can guarantee you that. I'm a 23 year old man (boy), I certainly don't have any girl-power things going on, and the only Dixie Chicks song I had ever really paid attention to was "Long Time Gone," because it has a fantastic lyric in it ("Now they sound tired but they don't sound Haggard/They've got money but they don't have Cash/They got Junior but they don't have Hank"). Why am I even talking about the Dixie Chicks? It's simple really. Two Academy award-winning directors, Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, made a movie called Shut Up And Sing that is about the debacle that came out of the band's criticism of President Bush. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing this film on Monday night. EXTREME pleasure.
Natalie Maines, the incendiary singer of the Dixie Chicks, opened her mouth at a concert in England one night. She mentioned in between songs that she was embarrassed that Bush was from Texas. Oh shit. No you didn't! The Associated Press picked up on it and before the band knew it, radio stations weren't playing their music, fans were boycotting their shows, and Maines was getting death threats. This was back in 2003 during the beginnings of the war in Iraq. All of the footage of fans protesting, politicians lying, and Toby Keith defending his "Boot In Your Ass" lyrics are absolutely laughable in a very sad way. Were we really that stupid? Are we still? I don't know SHIT about politics and I don't pretend that I do. And to tell you the truth, the strength of this movie wasn't in the politics, the boycotts, or the "decline" of the Dixie Chicks career. The strength of this movie lies in what a fucking fantastic band the Dixies Chicks are.
Natalie Maines can sing her tail off, more so than I have heard in a real long time. The movie mostly takes place during the recording of their latest album, Taking The Long Way. The album is their first after the Bush comment. Rick Rubin produces it, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks, Neil Finn of Crowded House, and Dan Wilson of Semi-Sonic, and Pete Yorn of Pete Yorn help out in songwriting duties. What comes out is a really fantastic album. (I'm listening to it right now as I write. You go girls.) These women don't take shit from anyone and while the sudden "downfall" had some effect on them, they stay true to what they believe. They claim that their "outsider in a conservative industry" label is the best thing that has ever happened to their career. Maybe that's true. I sure as hell think so.
It seems as though Kopple and Peck got real lucky in the I Am Trying To Break Your Heart way that Sam Jones got lucky. "Holy Shit! I was just going to shoot the band and...something happened!" Maybe that's not the way the story went, I don't know. It wasn't made real clear. But what is clear is that Shut Up And Sing is a fantastic documentary about a band that is facing the ultimate bump in the road. You think the Dixie Chicks are too girly for you? Go through your iTunes right now and see if you can find any bands that you like that were BANNED from the radio and whose concerts were BOYCOTTED. Good luck.
Watch the trailer here.