There were few groups more polarizing in the mid-2000s than the Dixie Chicks. Though not the first members of the entertainment industry to overstep their platform, comments made during that fateful London concert reverberate even today.
The Chicks hail from Texas, as does the 43rd President of the United States. Apparently there’s nothing in the water down there, unifying all country folk to the right side of the political spectrum. Maines’ declared that she and the Erwin sisters were “ashamed” the POTUS was from Texas because they opposed his allegedly hasty decision to invade perceived hostile nations in the Middle East.
War is parlous, war is expensive, and war is indiscriminate; but war is not a reason for anyone’s rights to be decreased or eliminated.
I felt then and I believe now that the Chicks were entitled to voice their opinion, though it did kind of teeter off into the ‘vanity’ realm of the attention-sphere they earned.
The aftermath of ‘the controversy,’ was an awkward time in pop culture, with the Chicks being all but ignored at awards shows and ostracized even from fundraising (the American Red Cross declined to accept a $1 million donation in 2003). Their junior album, Home, fell down the charts, with sponsors and endorsement deals disintegrating by the day.
The result of this mass shunning is without question their greatest album: the 5-time Grammy winning Taking The Long Way. The defiant tone and desperately personal lyrics, mixed with the bluegrass-infused sound they were known for, helped the album go double platinum.
"Freedom of Speech is fine as long as you don’t do it in public." (Documentary’s Tagline)
SHUT UP & SING chronicles the ambiguous time of apologies and analysis within the group between 2003 and 2006. Directed by Barbara Kopple, a disciple of the Maysles, SHUT UP & SING accomplishes so much in its mere 93 minute running time. The women seem ambivalent, at once positive because they’re standing tall for what they believe, and unsettling because they don’t really care that they’ve alienated their fanbase. The film examines it all, and provides a perspective uncaptured by traditional interviews: showing audiences what it feels like to have someone threaten to kill you for speaking your mind.
The title is commandeered from conservative commentator Lara Ingraham, whose 2003 book was titled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America. (This sentiment is inflammatory in itself, Ingraham’s tin foil hat has always been a little tight.)
Though Taking the Long Way was commercially and critically successful, the Chicks toured only sporadically after 2007 (2010 with The Eagles and 2013, as well as individual festivals or engagements). The Chicks appear to be on continued hiatus, with Maines releasing solo work (Mother) and the Erwin sisters performing as the Court Yard Hounds.
Released in the midst of the reality TV revolution, SHUT UP & SING is equal parts MTV Diary, The Real World and CBS’ 60 Minutes. If you’ve ever wondered what these celebrity scandals are like behind the scenes, you will be glued to your television watching SHUT UP & SING.
SHUT UP & SING
The Weinstein Company