- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Dixie Chicks are emerging from “self-imposed exile,” according to a flattering report on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. (Find a write-up of the segment here.)

Three years after lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience she was embarrassed that President Bush was from her home state of Texas — and subsequently incurring the wrath of country fans — the Chicks are, as their new single tells it, “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

Correspondent Steve Kroft, who has yet to meet a celebrity he doesn’t adore, said: “The song is powerful and unrepentant. The anger isn’t directed at the war or the president — or at their many fans who deserted them. It’s about the hatred, and narrow-minded intolerance they encountered for expressing an opinion.”

Let’s forget for a moment how flatly contradictory that statement is: The song’s not directed at anyone in particular; it’s only about the “hatred” and “narrow-minded intolerance they encountered.” More interesting is that there seems to be a similar cognitive dissonance among music fans. While “Not Ready to Make Nice” flopped on the country music charts, it was the top download on iTunes.

This could mean a few things: a) All is forgiven among red state Dixie Chicks fans, but country radio DJs still have an ax to grind, b) corporate-owned radio stations caved to the mau-mauing of a minority of actively displeased fans, or c) the Chicks have indeed found a bluish crossover audience that admires their pluck.

We’ll know more later this month when the full-length “Taking the Long Way” is released. In the meantime, I’m having trouble feeling sorry for the Chicks. They’re young and talented. They made an excellent choice in collaborating with producer Rick Rubin. And, quite simply, they don’t deserve pity - especially when their lead-off single is an expression of defiance.

The Chicks will be fine. No matter how fans they permanently alienate, they’ll always have the likes of Bruce Springsteen and CBS and ABC to go bail for them.

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