Dixie Chicks: Triumphant or Bush- Whacked?
Thu, 01 Jun 2006 15:59:18
Depending on who you talk to, the Dixie Chicks are either flying high or still suffering political fallout from their anti-Bush comments on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Last week, they released their first album since country radio effectively banned them in 2003, in the wake of lead singer Natalie Maines' famous remark to a London audience that the trio was "ashamed" to be from the same state as George W. Bush. Taking the Long Way shot to number one on the Billboard album chart, selling 526,000 in its first week, while the album's lead single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," jumped as high as number 23 on the Hot 100 pop singles chart.
So what's the problem? Well, as an uncredited story released on the Reuters news wire puts it, those 526,000 copies sold "paled against the 780,000 copies that their last studio release, Home, sold during its first week in August 2002." The Reuters story goes on to point out, somewhat gratuitously, that apolitical country trio Rascal Flatts sold 722,000 copies of their latest album in its first week of release -- but fails for some reason to mention that the Chicks' archrival, Toby "Shock'n Y'all" Keith, only mustered 330,000 first-week sales of his latest album, White Trash With Money. In other words, while the Dixie Chicks may no longer be at the top of the country music heap, they're still outselling their archconservative counterparts.
So all things considered, it seems like the Chicks are doing just fine, thanks. After all, as the otherwise negative Reuters story points out, first-week sales of Taking the Long Way surpassed "industry expectations by more than 100,000 copies" -- since everyone was expecting the Chicks to take a much bigger hit because of continued indifference from country radio, where the admittedly very uncountry-like "Not Ready to Make Nice" has gotten less rotation than on pop radio. Plus, as the media has loved to discuss, there was the lingering perception that the Chicks had permanently alienated their core audience -- even though it's hard to find Bush supporters these days even among hardcore country fans.
As for the Chicks themselves, they remain defiantly unapologetic and unafraid of losing fans for standing by what they believe in. "I'd rather have a smaller following of really cool people who get it," founding Dixie Chick Martie Maguire told Time magazine, "who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith. We don't want those kinds of fans."
--The ARTISTdirect Staff