After a 14-year-long hiatus, The Chicks are back with a new sound and a new name. Formerly the Dixie Chicks, the country icons have released a 12-track album titled Gaslighter. The lead single and title track, “Gaslighter,” was released earlier this year and marked the official comeback for Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie McGuire.
A lot has changed in 14 years for The Chicks. In the early 2000s, they were “canceled” by the country music community for speaking out against George W. Bush and the Iraq war. They were blackballed, cast aside and highly criticized for expressing their political beliefs. More recently, amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, they’ve dropped “dixie” from their name. Not only does it leave behind a name that glorifies the pre-Civil War south, but they also get to start a new chapter.
Although Gaslighter is still a country album, The Chicks have almost been adopted by other genres during their comeback. They even worked with Jack Antonoff, long-time collaborator of Taylor Swift and other mainstream pop stars, on every track.
The title track sets the tone for the whole album. It’s written specifically about Natalie’s ex-husband, but was also written to be applied to multiple situations. It’s for anyone in your life who has made you feel crazy or has treated you terribly. It can even be applied to current American politics, which are relevant for a comeback single from The Chicks.
The next track, “Sleep at Night,” is the second single from the album. It continues the story of Natalie’s divorce, directly asking her ex-husband how he can sleep at night, considering what he’s done. Throughout the album, it’s no secret that he cheated on Natalie during their 20-year marriage. The two have children, which is referred to in the heart-wrenching lyric, “My husband’s girlfriend’s husband just called me up // How messed up is that? // It’s so insane that I have to laugh // But then I think about our two boys trying to become men // There’s nothing funny about that.”
“Texas Man” is about finding new love, even when you’re not shiny and new. In the context of the album, it serves as Natalie seeking romance after a failed marriage. It chronicles the feeling of new relationships, expectations and still deserving love after being more “traveled.”
One of the most special tracks on the album is “Everybody Loves You,” which is a cover of a song by Charlotte Lawrence. The song was written about surviving sexual assault, which makes it extremely vulnerable and beautiful. The Chicks added their own elements to it, like a string section and more of a country vibe. The song fits into the narrative quite well, as it’s essentially about the feeling of anger when everyone loves the person who hurt you, even if they might not know who they truly are.
“For Her” is an anthem for women, talking to their past selves. In the chorus, Natalie sings, “So dig a little bit deeper // And be a whole lot kinder.” It’s a reflective track where the Chicks try to prepare their past selves for the hardships they’ve faced in life. The next track, “March March,” is another anthemic song. It was a pre-release on the tail-end of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was extremely appropriate. The song is commentary on the current political climate in America, which is powerful, considering they were blackballed for speaking their minds on politics in the early 2000s. In the lyrics, they encourage listeners to listen to the youth and comment on issues such as climate change, gun reform and abortion policies.
The rest of the album continues the story of Natalie’s divorce, starting with “My Best Friend’s Weddings.” In typical country fashion, this track begins and ends with the same sentiment. Natalie sings about meeting her ex-husband at her best friend’s wedding and attending her best friend’s second wedding, but this time alone. It’s a reflection of how much can change, but recognizing that change is sometimes for the best, with lyrics like “Strangest thing not having you here with me // Then I realized // That I prefer my own company // To yours anytime.”
“Tights on my Boat” is a cheeky, stripped-down track about Natalie waiting for karma to take action. Although in an interview Natalie revealed she didn’t actually find another woman’s tights on her boat, she confirmed that something did happen on her boat (which is referenced in the title track as well), but we have a feeling it will stay a secret.
The last pre-release track, “Julianna Calm Down,” is one of the most unique tracks of 2020. It’s basically therapy for anyone who has or will have their heart broken. Natalie talks down your panic attacks with lyrics like “You know he’s about to leave, but don’t panic // Don’t give him the satisfaction that you can’t handle it // Breathe, it’ll be okay.” The lyrics also address different names, such as Julianna (of course), Harper, Katie and more. This lyrical choice makes the song feel personal and as if Natalie is speaking directly to the listener.
In “Young Man” — a raw, emotional ballad — Natalie sings directly to her sons and provides them support while their parents go through a nasty divorce. She puts away her anger toward her ex-husband and tells him to “Take the best parts of him // As your own life begins.” It’s devastating to listen to, but she assures him that everything will be okay.
“Hope It’s Something Good” and “Set Me Free” close out the album in a perfect way. They provides closure for Natalie and the story she has painted for listeners. They’re both slow, vocal-heavy tracks that focus on the lyrics and the weight of the situation.
Gaslighter deals with important topics and serves as a release for The Chicks’ lead singer, Natalie, after her hard divorce. It feels like an inside look into her diary, and her vulnerability is applauded. Although the tracks are very specific, they’re also broad and relatable. After waiting for fourteen years for new music from the country trio, fans were certainly not disappointed.
Featured Image: Columbia Records