It’s the year 2020 and the prodigal Dixie Chicks have finally returned, no thanks to George W. Bush and his ilk. Their new Jack Antonoff–produced single and music video, “Gaslighter,” dropped today, ahead of the May release of Gaslighter, the first new Chicks album in 14 years. Naturally, we have a landslide of feelings about it. Cowboy, take us away!
Madison Malone Kircher: The Dixie Chicks are back! I could cry. In fact, I did.
Rachel Handler: Let me begin by saying, for perhaps the 500th time in my brief life: Fuck you, George W. Bush. I cannot believe our erstwhile president nearly ruined music forever. I, too, shed a tear for my long-lost Chicks. For many reasons! First of all, one can only do “Goodbye Earl” so many times at karaoke from 1999–2020. I’ve been waiting for a new Dixie Chicks song for, well, 14 years, and I’d essentially given up hope that we’d ever get one. And not only did we get it, but it’s a furious banger that blatantly and unrepentantly addresses all of the bullshit they had to put up with back in the olden days of the early aughts (and beyond).
MMK: I, too, am ashamed that George W. Bush is from Texas, Natalie Maines. Despite being a place I have been only once on a trip that mostly involved visiting the Dallas Book Depository to learn about JFK’s assassination, I feel for you, Texas. This song is everything my little heart has been waiting for since I got drunk off Bud Lights with my mom (she would like me to tell you she was not drunk, just me) while scream-singing my face off at a stop on their last tour, 2016–2017’s DCX MMXVI World Tour.
RH: I would like to take a moment to thank our ancestors for inventing divorce. Just think about it: If Natalie Maines’s ex-husband hadn’t ended up sucking so hard, we may have never gotten this song and this album.
MMK: She finally got the nerve to file for dee-vorce, you might say. Natalie, I’m really sorry because this whole situation sounds shitty but, if I may quote ABBA at you, thank you for the music.
RH: What do we think her husband did, exactly, to deserve such a ceremonious fuck-off song? Outside of, you know, trying to steal her unreleased music and apparently setting his own bed on fire? And is this song just about him or is it about the curse of heterosexuality in general?
MMK: A brief pause to shoot my shot and just say … Natalie. Date me. I am literally begging you and I promise I will never attempt to steal your music. I will also say I was worried when I first saw the title of the track. “Gaslighter.” That word gets tossed around too much these days. It really felt like it could easily fall into the trap of the “Yass, queen. Go off. This pussy grabs back” feminism of the Trump era that doesn’t actually say anything. I, obviously, never should have doubted the Chicks.
RH: To your first point, Madison, I refuse to believe that a woman with that haircut and a single cross earring stomping around in feathers and military drag is 100 percent straight. I’m rooting for you (but also myself). And yeah, I was also gently concerned that the song might be a sort of commodified, pseudo-feminist anthem because that’s the sort of hell we inhabit currently, but I love how unapologetically specific and personal it is. Especially the imagery in the video, which is irreverent enough that it will probably incite some sort of Republican pearl-clutching.
MMK: I really dig the Americana vibe. The paramilitary Girl Scouts thing is really working for me, too. Feels exactly right for all the fights this group has quite literally survived in the last nearly two decades.
RH: It’s also delightful because it will piss off the exact same people who got mad at them for saying something relatively benign (and true) about politics in the first place. Plus, allow me to reiterate, it’s gay!!! I also really enjoy the implication that her ex-husband is a potato.
MMK: Right, we’ve got this deliciously literal burn, but then they’re also weaving in things like that clip from that old controversial LBJ campaign ad — the clip of the little girl picking flowers and counting — which was about the very real threat of nuclear war. The Chicks are not messing around here.
RH: It’s funny how Jack Antonoff has become the producer who women go to when they’ve been wholly screwed over: Lorde, Taylor Swift, St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey, and now Natalie. Does he have some sort of hotline you can call when a man isn’t shit?
MMK: Yeah, it’s just his iPhone. There’s a moment in the video (2:04 if you want to get specific) where Natalie sings, “Look out you li’l” in a lead-in to the chorus. She does this little vocal flip on the last word that is extremely OG Dixie Chicks but also made me go, Oh, yes, there it is. The Jack Antonoff special.
RH: I’m just really happy about how angry this song is. When she’s like, “Acting all above it when our friends divorced. What a lie, lie, lie, lie lie.” Ya burnt, Natalie Maines’s ex-husband, whose full name I will not bother to Google (Earl?). When the Chicks popped up on Taylor’s album to sing a tender ballad, I was like, Okay, this is … nice. But I really prefer the Chicks in righteously pissed-off mode. More Dixie Chicks songs about burying men alive, figuratively and/or literally!
MMK: Not to fact-check but … they poison him with black-eyed peas first at a picnic on the lake, Rachel! Earl’s dead when they bury him.
RH: MAYBE. They don’t really specify …
MMK: Dark. I hadn’t considered. Don’t think I’m going to let you get away with referring to Taylor’s “Soon You’ll Get Better” as “nice.” It’s way better than “nice.”
RH: I just like everybody — including Taylor — better when they’re a little bit mad.
MMK: Okay, fair. I think why this video works so well is because it doesn’t feel like a hard-left turn — being a vocal, unruly woman is trendy now. But this isn’t a shtick. It’s the way the Dixie Chicks have always been.
RH: It’s true! They have always been non-ready to make nice. Taylor has talked a lot about how she was afraid to speak up about politics because of “what happened to the Dixie Chicks,” but it’s also because of the Dixie Chicks that she’s even remotely able to do what she does now (kill men at picnics). We all owe them a huge debt for their prescient political outspokenness and also for the official ho anthem “Ready to Run.”
MMK: That is always my go-to Dixie Chicks karaoke song, though I always forget it has an extremely long musical break in it where you’re stuck standing holding the microphone between “ready to runs” and you look like a real dummy and your only choice is to dramatically down your whole drink as choreo. Still slaps, though.