The Dixie Chicks have a new album coming out in May, Taking the Long Way. It is their first album since the pre-war unpleasantness. They have released the first single, which addresses that controversy. It’s called “Not Ready to Make Nice.”
Full disclosure/brag: I’m proud to have been the first person to cuss Natalie Maines out on the internet when the story of her infamous London remarks surfaced. Oh how I hate Natalie Maines, though I can’t stop looking at all these Dixie Chicks pictures. In short, me and Natalie have history. It’s a thing, you know. Natalie – I ain’t mad atcha. Just call me.
But to get to the point, this song really sucks. Now obviously, I’m going to have some thoughts on the autobiographical lyrics but we’ll get back to that. Let’s start with parsing this out as a song.
“Not Ready to Make Nice” is the biggest bunch of whining, self-pitying shitlickin’ I’ve heard on a record in a good while. The lyrics are only part of that effect, though. The whole expression of cheap calculated, homogenized self-righteous self-compassion is particularly unappetizing.
“Not Ready to Make Nice” is basically a third-rate Faith Hill song. It’s the worst end of that whiny victim crap, only she’s a tough old broad who’ll stand up and fight back, thus the title.
The title almost has a musical hook, but it’s just so bland and generic in every possible market-calculated way as to defy description. It’s like a response crafted by a PR firm – only not a very good one. It doesn’t go anywhere. The climactic bit of tune supposed to carry “or my life’ll be over” was particularly totally flat and bland.
This is musically regressive even for the previously mediocre at best Dixie Chicks. This song, though, is less melodically memorable, and even less country than their previous records. Rick Rubin produced this, so advocates want to basically transfer a bit of Johnny Cash karma on to the Chicks. Rubin produced his exemplary final albums, and really brought Johnny back.
But that was Johnny, and Rubin didn’t get those results by producing sounds like this arrangement. It’s a big, awful, bland pop arrangement with just the least hint of fiddle (mixed in with 10x more generic violins) being the only clue I can take that this is even nominally a “country” song.
It’d be fine for them to try something different, but this sound isn’t particularly anything else, either. Not as in doesn’t sound like anything else, but that it sounds a little bit like a whole lot of things – just a stylistic gray muck of nothing in particular. They could play this at commercial country radio, or VH1, or some adult contemporary format.
It could play at pop radio. Heck it sounds as much like Britney Spears singing about being “Lucky” as anything. The general not-really-rock-not-country-not anything in particular thing runs between both songs. They also have a similar self-sorrowful emotional tone about being a poor suffering rich singer. But “Lucky” has a considerably more memorable tune than this.
About the only thing I’d say this record definitely is NOT is country. There’s next to nothing here musically to connect this to any rural music tradition. Nor is this whiny tone of victim-hood worthy of a country gal. In short, this Dixie Chicks record makes Shania Twain sound like Loretta Lynn. There’s no Dixie left in these chicks at this point.
Now this crappy corporate contrivance could well turn out to be a huge hit. “Lucky” was. If all the Britney Spears and Faith Hill fans tune in, they won’t be able to print this crap up quick enough. I’m just saying that in the holy name of Buck Owens, I’m gonna put my boot in the ass of the first fool what tries telling me that this is country music.
OK, now let’s draw a line, switch gears, mix some metaphors, and whatnot. That was the song and the production. Let’s conclude with a brief examination of the text of the lyrics.
For starters, this is not any kind of political statement. It might have turned out more interesting if they had written lyrics detailing why W is such a doo-doo head.
But instead, what Natalie Maines thought was noteworthy was how bad she felt with everyone being all mean to her. Poor thing.
She apparently got a couple of dumb death threats, which she milks here for all it’s worth. Now, obviously it’s wrong for people to do that. Idiots who would make physical threats against a singer over a little of nothing like this need to be knocked upside their stupid heads with a 2×4. If I knew of anybody in my part of the country responsible for such a thing, I’d do it for her. Maybe it’d get me a date. I’ll defend you, Natalie!
But that doesn’t make it cool to milk a couple of half-assed threats for public sympathy. Nor, especially, does it excuse the self-serving hatefulness of generalizing a couple of schmucks out to tar the other 99.999% of their critics who were NOT threatening them. In short, she’s not ready to make nice with ANYBODY. Whatever. She’s trying to steal an unearned sense of moral superiority. I for one am not inclined to recognize it.
Plus, did I mention that this song sucks?
“Not Ready to Make Nice”
Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting
I’m through with doubt
There’s nothing left for me to figure out
I’ve paid a price
And I’ll keep paying
I’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
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should