Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Morning Musical Musings: Dixie Chicks and Nashville Star-Making

I guess this one was bound to happen, but that's ok. To each his own, as they say.
Scott Chaffin, aka The Fat Guy, in comments to this post:

Man, I was with you until the Dixie Chicks bit. They are where they are thanks to image people. Wide Open Spaces isn't even their song, cute little Natalie Maines was brought in to sing lead, they fired the kinda-hefty chick, and the remaining two got complete make-overs. Nashville star-making at it's finest, pard.

I'm not disputing your taste, but they're as manufactured as Shania. I only know this because I had the luxury of seeing them live in Dallas when they started out. And if they'd changed their name, I wouldn't care, either.

He makes some good points that I really can't deny or even try to rationalize. That's one of the reasons I hate what modern country music as symbolized by the Nashville star-making process has become -- it's all about the image, and who that image is aimed at. Some folks might call mine and Mr. Chaffin's complaints sour grapes because folks like us aren't who that image -- or the so-called "music" behind it -- is aimed at. But to the extent that's true, it's only true because it's people like Mr. Chaffin and I who liked country music when country music wasn't cool, if you'll pardon the cliche -- and it's people like us, the loyal audience, who are basically being told to go to hell because we're not where the money is. Never mind the fact that we're the ones who will be there when the fickle pop fans -- and all their money -- are gone.
As far as the Chicks go, though, I suppose if I'd been a Chicks fan before Nashville got ahold of them I'd have felt the same way Scott Chaffin does. As it is, though, I still like most of what they did after they hit it big. It might well have been part of the Nashville star-making process, but it still sounded great. And I'll freely admit that another part of my fondness for the post-makeover Chicks was what else was coming out of Nashville as the Fly cd was about to drop in the middle of 1999 -- Faith Hill's Breathe comes to mind, as well as Shania Twain's Come On Over. The Chicks might well have been just a product to be marketed after Nashville got ahold of them, but at least they sounded like they belonged on a COUNTRY radio station, which could hardly be said of way the hell too much of what's come out of Nashville in the last ten years. And that's just an observation on my part; I am not accusing anyone of saying they didn't sound like they belonged. But is it hypocritical to decry that star-making process when it does actually sound good? When it actually sounds like it's aimed at the most loyal demographic as opposed to the most profitable one? Some of it I wasn't so big on, but just for a few examples, "Tonight the Heartache's On Me," "Hello Mr. Heartache," and "Long Time Gone" were some of the best bona-fide country records to come out of Nashville in a long time. (I heard it said here and there back in late '02 that if "Long Time Gone" had been cut by anyone other than the Chicks, country radio wouldn't have touched it. Makes me wonder what country radio would have done with "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" if it had been a Chicks record back then, but I digress.) It may have been marketing at its finest, but at least it sounded good, and there's something to be said for that, and I know that might sound like a stretch. Still, though, Nashville will market anything if they can get away with it, I think. Even if it IS an authentic part of the star whose music they're trying to sell...that's the way it is, and yeah, it sucks.
Now playing here: Cory Morrow, "Beer," from 2003's Full Exposure.
"...if you're drinkin', you know that you're my friend, and I say, I think I'll have myself a beer..."