Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shut Up and Sing: shoulda taken the advice

Starz is showing a lot of documentaries these days. The Warren Miller stuff is cool, even though I don't ski. I didn't realize how old he is, and he still spends a LOT of time on the slopes. That's awesome. The other stuff...at least they haven't shown Michael Moore's garbage yet.

One of those is Shut Up and Sing, which is a film about Natalie Maines' big mouth and how it affected the Dixie Chicklets and their company. The thing is, if they'd just have followed the advice in the title of the documentary, they'd have been fine. That's not what they-specifically Natalie-did, and there were issues stemming from it. The thing is, if they had any idea who their audience was at that time, they either would not have put themselves in that controversy, or they wouldn't have made the comments they did. To quote my boy Sneaky: Situational Awareness of an F'n Rock (hereafter referred to SOAFR).

In case you don't remember, at a concert in London a few years ago, Natalie Maines said "We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas". Now, just so we're trackin' here: the 1st Amendment gives an American citizen the right to say whatever they want, short of the "yelling 'Fire!' in a crowded theater" scenario. She, as well as every other American, has the right to speak her mind, think what she wants, dissent what the government is doing, and on and on. Anyone saying that she, or any other American, doesn't have that right is at least un-patriotic and at worst anti-American. Its how the whole blogosphere exists. Its one of the reasons that America is the greatest country on earth.

The whole reason for me to write this, though, is to point out that they just don't get it. They don't understand who the country audience is, they don't understand that exercising their rights is not done in a vacuum. They just don't get it. At all. That blows me away.

Several years ago, the Chicklets were being interviewed by some network TV anchor guy. I don't remember who it was; it doesn't really matter. They were talking about success, and how the Chicklets weren't seeing the money commensurate to their sales. TV anchor guy did some quick math in his head, and said "this doesn't add up". The dumbfounded looks on the Chicklets' faces were priceless. Turns out they had to sue their record label or management (don't remember which, but they sued somebody) to get the money they were owed. So they seem to have a track record of being less aware.

Then The Comment happens. Now, when you make comments in a culture of hard work, morals, doing the right thing, and conservative politics, they need to be thought out and need to take that culture into account. That there would be a backlash would seem to be, to anybody with two halves of a brain cell to rub against eachother, obvious and inevitable. We're in what's called The Communication Age. There's just about nowhere in the world you can go that what you say won't be noticed by somebody. If those comments were made thinking that they wouldn't be noticed because they were in Europe...well...that's just stupid. They got the backlash that anyone would expect from fans of country music.

And they don't get it. Maines said "I can't believe anyone cares what I say". Here's the double edged sword of the 1st Amendment: you can say anything you want to. But if you're in a position of celebrity, you're automatically under a microscope. Because you're in the spotlight, you automatically are going to be noticed and have attention paid to you. And, because you make money selling a product to the public, you're dependent on their money, which they vote with.

They cried "Censorship!" because country radio wouldn't play their songs. Well...here's the thing. What you say has consequences. Just because no effort was put into thinking about the repercussions doesn't mean that they don't exist. Guess what? Saying things in the context of your job probably will have an effect on your job! What a surprise! Words actually matter? Who'd a thunk it? What happened to the Chicklets wasn't censorship, it was consequences. When the President was asked if what was happening to them was censorship, he said "''the Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind,'' adding, ''they shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street.'(TMZ)
Can't put it any better than that. I guess that's the difference between a Yale graduate and somebody who allegedly went to UC Berkley and didn't finish.

This film isn't going to do them any favors. If anything, if it gets widely seen by the people who used to be their fans-who they call the source of "redneck bullsh*t" in the film-their careers really could be over.

It appears that they're trying to break from country music and do something different. The problem is, that's not what got them where they are. It rarely works to go down one road to get to gain a fan base and then take a road in a different direction. Ask TSOL. Never worked for them, and they're a good band. Ask Faith No More. They tried going in a different direction and ended the project. Same thing happened to Was Not Was, except that they had a hit that sent them in a different direction. Don Was even went so far as to say that "Walk the Dinosaur" was both the best thing that ever happened to them, and the worst at the same time. Bottom line: I'm betting the Chicklets are doing all this because its all they have left. If they're banking on the dislike for the President to be their fan base, they might wanna look at Congress's 11% approval rating. And Congress is run by the Dems now. It was a good run, Chicklets, but its pretty much all over now. Thank Natalie for not knowing who your fan base was.

3 comments:

DirtCrashr said...

The fact that they don't even "get" who comprises the main, base-audience of Country Music is pretty dense and the notion that they could make up for declining sales by finding fans in Europe - that's just cranially inverted...

Haji said...

Some of what I've seen come out of Europe is so flash-in-the-pan that it makes some of the stuff that's still popular here in the states seem timeless. lol

DirtCrashr said...

Oh yeh, that Eurovision song contest, such really-really hilariously bad acts - the fact that they even take it serious is insane - except there's money involved.