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In what appears to be a nod of approval to the ostracized Dixie Chicks, the Grammy Awards lavished five wins on the politically-charged country trio. For the first time in 14 years the “Chicks” swept the top three categories of the popular music awards show. The decision has all of the music industry analysts wondering if this was more of a response to the Country Music Awards (CMA)—who has all but ignored them since their infamous London concert—than it was to the award-worthiness of the Chicks music. Well the wondering can stop. Of course it was politically motivated! Just as the CMA’s consistent rejection of the Chicks in their awards show has been a political statement, so it was when the Grammy academy decided to send them home with a lot more gold than they arrived with. Ideology rules both decisions; to postulate otherwise borders on the ridiculous.
Freedom of speech cuts both ways
When lead Chick Natalie Maines told London concert-goers in 2003 that the band was “ashamed that President Bush was from Texas,” she set off a firestorm of criticism in the country music world. Despite their large fan base among country music listeners, the CMA shunned them and made a decidedly political statement of their own. While Maines apologized for making the comment and seemed to repent for a short time, she later repented of her repenting and stood by her initial anti-Bush comments. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to reconcile her freedom of speech with the CMA’s. President Bush spoke clearly about the controversy when he said: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say... They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out... Freedom is a two-way street.”1 For Maines, the “martyr complex” was too much to let go of and she and the other Chicks used the next four years to wring every bit of publicity mileage out of it. That persistence was apparently enough to catch the attention of the Grammys; the ideological and political equivalent of the Oscars.
Praise for the moment
While Maines and the Dixie Chicks may think they have won their four-year battle against the evil forces of country music ignorance, they have effectively walked away from the very fan base that put them in a position to have a voice. By capturing the wandering ideological eye of the Grammys, they have secured their place in history as a political message. If they are naïve enough to think that their music has made a statement, they will find out next year just how wrong this notion really is. The Grammys saw an opportunity to poke a finger in the eye of the CMA and, by extension, all of red-state America. Heaping awards on the Chicks was the music industry’s way of circling the wagons and making a statement about their views of Bush and the Iraq War. Next year, when the Chicks are still gloating over their new found “fans,” the Grammy academy will have moved on to the next flash in the pan. The Chicks from Dixie are going to find out that forsaking the loyalty of the CMA for a photo-op at the Grammys is nothing more than a cold bowl of pottage.