From That Guy Named David
Shut Up and Sing (A-)
Continuing my jaunt through the genre of musical documentaries, I picked up this one the other day which chronicles the backlash to Natalie Maines’ statement regarding George W. Bush in the weeks preceding the invasion (or “liberation,” should you vote Republican) of Iraq. In case you were in a coma or on another planet back in the spring of 2003, our country was making its allegedly rock-solid case for sending hundreds of thousands of troops and spending billions of dollars to take over a country in an area of the world that is known for not being too friendly to the good ol’ U.S.of A. The country was rallying, Congress was actually agreeing, people were tying that yellow ribbon around the old oak tree, dogs were loving cats, etc. It was at this time that Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, a group that had sold more records than any female group in music history, committed herself to eternal damnation by commenting on a stage in England (the U.S.’s biggest ally) that she was ashamed the leader of the greatest country in the history of civilization was from her home state of Texas. Blasphemer!!! Hanoi Jane redux!!!! This documentary does a fantastic job of showing the snowball effect that this one, relatively benign comment had on sending the careers of the Dixie Chicks into a tailspin. Its strength is demonstrating the dynamic between the artists, who believed the reaction was completely overblown, and their handlers (managers, publicists, sponsors, etc.) who were trying to keep the band afloat during a time when the entire country music industry (and large portion of the country) began turning their back on the group. The documentary does an exceptional job of showing how the group, based upon this one comment, became demonized by the section of this country that sees everything in black and white. USA – good; people who disagree – bad. “You’re either with us or against us.” Dixie Chicks = communists, traitors, terrorists, sluts, etc. The most poignant portion of the film dealt with the group’s reaction to a death threat against Maines, in which it was communicated to her that she would be shot and killed on a stage in Dallas in the summer of 2003. In dealing with the backlash and threats, the documentary does a good job of demonstrating how it all brought the group closer and led to the production of their most-recent album (which is their best in my humble opinion and one of the best records I have heard in several years). If you like their music, a definite A. If you don’t (or think they are communists), you probably won’t grade it as high.