“Not Ready to Make Nice” by Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks in “Not Ready to Make Nice”, respond to critics following Maine’s controversial comment at their London performance in 2003, which nearly cost them their careers.

The artists particularly take a hit at whoever was responsible for using the said controversy as a means to hurt their career, stating that they will find it difficult to forgive them. In the chorus, they take it further by admitting that they are upset about the turn of events and will not succumb to pressures to make them apologize for doing what they felt was right.

Throughout the rest of the track, the writer suggests that they are ready to face the consequences of their actions and will not be bullied into backing down. They reference their documentary “Shut up and Sing” which details how they received a lot of hate and death threats because of the comments Natalie made.

Summary

Not Ready to Make Nice captures the singers’ response to the controversy and somewhat breakdown of their music career that resulted from a comment made by Natalie Maines concerning former President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

Who wrote “Not Ready to Make Nice”?

Martie Maguire alongside the following wrote this hit:

  • Natalie Maines
  • Emily Strayer
  • Dan Wilson

Subsequently, it was produced by Rick Rubin. Dixie Chicks released it as the third track from their 2006 studio album Taking the Long Way.

Notable Achievement(s) of “Not Ready to Make Nice”

Won the 2007 Grammy for “Song of the Year”. In the process, “Not Ready to Make Nice” beat songs such as James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel“.

The Controversy

During a 2003 performance at the Shepherds Bush Empire theater in London, Dixie Chicks’ lead vocalist, Natalie Maines criticized President George Bush as well as the imminent invasion of Iraq. The concert which was the first of their Top of the World tour was organized to promote their sixth album, Home. While introducing the audience to their new song titled Travelin’ Soldier, Natalie Maines made this statement: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Following these remarks, another member of the band seconded by stepping forward and saying, “But you know we’re behind the troops 100 percent”.

The Guardian reported a portion of Maine’s opinions stating that the London audience cheered. When the U.S media propagated the story, the Dixie Chicks received severe backlash from country listeners, most of whom were pro-war and right-wing. Thousands of country radio stations soon blacklisted them particularly because of the numerous phone calls from listeners. WTDR-FM in Alabama reportedly removed the Dixie Chicks from their playlists after receiving over 250 phone calls in one day, all complaining about the lead singer’s comments. Two DJs were suspended at the Colorado radio station KKCS for playing the band’s music. While the band members were bombarded with death threats, some protesters in Louisiana destroyed the girl-band’s CDS by running a tractor over them. A poll conducted by an Atlanta radio station posited that more than 76 percent of its participants were willing to return their Dixie Chick CDs if it was possible. Kansas City radio station WDAF-AM displayed several emails from listeners who had written in support of the boycott and provided trash cans outside their office for people to discard the band’s CDs.

The Dixie Chicks’ music career, reputation and sales were gravely affected with their single “Landslide”, dropping from number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts to number 45 within a week, later exiting the charts completely the following week. Lipton ended its promotional deal with them while their tour bus driver simply resigned as a sign of protest.

Maines issued a disclaimer two days after the concert, explaining that the band was in support of American troops, but was frustrated that the President was not listening to other opinions but putting innocent lives at risk in the war with Iraq. When her disclaimer did not please listeners, she issued an apology two days later to President Bush, accepting that her remark was disrespectful. Fast forward to 2006, Maines revealed that she no longer felt that President Bush deserved respect. In response to the comments, President Bush, who was speaking to Tom Brokaw in April mentioned that the musicians were free to voice their opinions and that they shouldn’t be hurt because people refuse to patronize their records when they exercise their freedom of speech. He added that he didn’t really care about the statement they made and is only concerned about doing what he thinks is right for the people.

The Dixie Chicks were featured naked on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, only covered with labels depicting those that had been given to them following the backlash such as ‘traitors’, ‘Dixie Sluts’, ‘Free Speech’, ‘Brave’, ‘Hero’, ‘Proud Americans’, and ‘Saddam’s Angels’. This appearance did not help much, further alienating the group from fans. Perhaps the main reason for the backlash was that the listeners hated the idea that Natalie condemned President Bush on foreign land, terming it as cowardly. Many listeners whose family members were part of the armed forces also felt abandoned because of her comments. Security at the Dixie Chicks’ shows were beefed up following death threats, with metal detectors being installed, police escorts and 24-hour security surveillance particularly at Natalie’s home.

The band’s career went further downhill as their nomination for Entertainer of the Year during the Academy of Country Music Awards was met with boos. The award was eventually handed to Toby Keith who displayed a doctored picture of Natalie and Saddam Hussein during his concerts. While performing at the ceremony, Maines was clad in a T-Shirt with the caption “FUTK”, which critics interpreted as “Fuck U Toby Keith”. In response, the band’s critics wore T-Shirts with the caption “FUDC”. It was later confirmed by a Dixie Chicks spokesperson that ‘FUTK’ meant “Friends United in Truth and Kindness”.

Following the backlash, the Dixie Chicks donated an amount of $10,000 for non-profit website Rock the Vote, supporting young people to register and vote. Maguire, in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel expressed that the group felt ousted from the country music scene because of the Academy of Country Music Awards experience and because other country singers did not openly show them support. She however noted that they now considered themselves part of the rock n roll scene, and had won three Grammy Awards amidst stronger competitors.

The Dixie Chicks in 2006 documented the whole controversy and its unfolding events in a documentary film titled Shut Up and Sing. The band also released the track Not Ready to Make Nice to address it. Several radio stations were still not playing their music as of 2006 and their album Taking the Long Way did not make much sales. The group went on a hiatus from 2007 after they performed at the Grammy Awards, returning to produce music in 2013. Country artists such as Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift have cited the band and their stance on Bush’s directive as a great influence. American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen and Pop Queen Madonna voiced their support for the band’s right to express their own opinions. Country singer Merle Haggard likened the backlash to a verbal lynching which in his opinion was an insult to people that had died during wars.

The band comprising Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer (nee Robison) was formed in Dallas, Texas in 1989, becoming the bestselling female group and one of the most famous country acts in the United States. In June 2020, The Dixie Chicks changed their name to The Chicks coupling it with the release of a new album and new song titled March March.

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