Thirty years in music
The Chicks, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, are a Grammy award winning American country pop group founded in 1989. The group currently consists of lead singer Natalie Maines and sister instrumentalists Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer. While the band originally began with a bluegrass country sound, after a few years making music, member changes and song changes, the group’s sound evolved to a more country-pop style and found mainstream success a decade later with their song “There’s Your Trouble.”
The Chicks earned some criticism from their target demographic in 2003 when they spoke out against the war with Iraq and former President George W. Bush. They stepped away from the limelight a bit and went on hiatus shortly after. In 2010 they began to tour again. Now, in 2020, the band took out the “Dixie” from their name due to its negative connotations and also released their first album in over thirteen years, titled Gaslighter.
Gaslighter opens on its namesake, a track that sounds like the epitome of pop-country, with its upbeat acoustic guitar music and pretty vocals. The song also has some of that classic country storytelling with lyrics like “You think it’s justifiable I think it’s pretty cruel/ And you know you lie best when you lie to you/ Cause boy you know exactly what you did on my boat/ And boy that’s exactly why you ain’t comin’ home/ Save your tired stories for your new someone else.”
One of the songs with less country influence is track “Julianna Calm Down,” which is co-written with two of pop’s biggest songwriters and producers, Jack Antonoff and Julia Michaels. People can hear Antonoff and Michaels’ essences in the indie-esque instrumentation and the pleasant, but unique vocalization style. Another collaboration on the project is with American singer songwriter St. Vincent, featured as the guitarist on the quirky, fun song, “Texas Man.”
Another track that leans a little more pop is “My Best Friend’s Weddings” which is surprisingly comprised of a sweet and sad pop ballad-sound, but the lyrical storytelling quality of a classic country song. “For Her” is a song that treads very finely on the line of country and pop, with it’s twang tinged vocals and empowering lyrics like “So dig a little bit deeper/ And be a little bit kinder/ And a lot less guarded/ Cause it takes it takes/ It takes a lot of hard work/ To get a whole lot stronger.”
The album ends on a bit of a more solemn note than the rest of the album. “Set Me Free” is composed of a melancholic melody paired with reflective, sad lyrics like “Decency, would be for you to sign and release me/ If you ever loved me/ Then will you do this one last thing/ Set Me Free.”
Gaslighter is a prime example of how The Chicks’ sound has evolved over the course of their thirty year career, from an eclectic sub-genre of country to a soft pop sound with remnants of country elements. A great listen for country and pop fans alike.