By: Alyssa Trybus

Social criticism played a huge role in the Dixie Chicks’ song, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” The song itself was a response to the negative reactions lead singer, Natalie Maines, received following comments she made about the President of the United States, George W. Bush. Her comments were under public scrutiny, and then this song brought about another round of harsh criticism by the public because it was so unapologetic. The lyrics, “It’s too late to make it right, I probably wouldn’t if I could” simply say that Maines stands behind her words even though they were challenged.

I spoke about how genre influenced this negative reaction immensely, but her comments would not have been received well if she was an artist in a different genre either. Speaking out against a president almost always brings about controversy, as we elect the president by a majority vote. This typically means that this individual has a larger group supporting him/her than opposing. Maines’ statement that the group was, “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas” was direct and offensive to not only the President, but the Americans who support him. Such a comment would not have been brushed off if it was about a president of another political party, but the conservative audience country music often has only increased the criticism she received.

In the bridge of the song, Maines addresses the fact that her words stirred up enough trouble to have her life threatened by an angry fan. She sings,

“And how in the world

Can the words that I said

Send somebody so over the edge

That they’d write me a letter

Saying that I better

Shut up and sing

Or my life will be over?”

Her response following this is the repeated refrain. She is “Not ready to make nice” and “Not ready to back down”. She sings that she won’t just “shut up and sing” and that she means what she said.

In April of 2003, President Bush responded publicly about the comments made by Maines, which collectively became the words of “The Dixie Chicks”. Bush 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. I don’t really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people, and if some singers or Hollywood stars feel like speaking out, that’s fine. That’s the great thing about America. It stands in stark contrast to Iraq.”

Because of an argumentative political statement, the Dixie Chicks were addressed directly by the President of the United States, leaving the music realm and entering the political. With the Increased controversy but brought publicity. No publicity is bad publicity right? Eventually stations started playing their music again and when this song came out the group was more recognized than ever, giving them a platform to really deliver their message.