Monday, March 16th, 2020

Dixie Chicks – Gaslighter

Well, we’re ready to make nice…


[Video]
[7.67]

Jessica Doyle: I made the mistake of reading some of the hell-hath-no-fury-like-Natalie-Maines-on-vocals early publicity, and ended up expecting something a lot less jaunty. If you played “Gaslighter” for a non-English speaker, I’m not sure they’d hear the angry breakup from the music and vocals alone. That stray “Look out you little–” heading into the chorus at 2:05 sounds downright affectionate. This makes for a less emotionally clean song, and the video feels like overcompensation (was the “Daisy” ad really necessary?). But it makes a certain sense. This isn’t a fictional story à la “Before He Cheats”; the Chicks chose to eschew the luxury of marinating in two-dimensional righteousness. Adrian Pasdar, as much as he will now forever be known as That Guy Who Did Something on Natalie Maines’s Boat, is also presumably tied up irrevocably with Maines’s two sons and a couple decades’ worth of her memories; she’s allowed to refrain from hating him straightforwardly. “Gaslighter” is less cathartic than it could have been — it might get bellowed into karaoke mics less often than it could have been — but truer.
[6]

Katie Gill: Someone please just tell me what Adrian Pasdar did! I suspect that part of my love of this song is sheer nostalgia. I adore the Dixie Chicks and I’m so happy to see them make a comeback now, even if I worry that, with the current state of country music, it won’t go anywhere. And I am here for the big divorce energy this single has. It’s wonderful to see that the Dixie Chicks can summon up the beautiful cathartic anger that made their last album, Taking the Long Way, so good even over ten years later. And that anger is matched with gorgeous harmonies (that, granted, are a little bit too hidden by the arrangement), a cathartic chorus, and a brief moment of wonderful vulnerability from Maines near the end. Top that off with one of the best lyrics in 2020 in “you’re sorry but where’s my apology” and, look, I just can’t wait for this dang album to come out already.
[8]

Alex Clifton: “Gaslighter, you broke me/You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?” has rung in my ears for nearly two weeks. I wrote a boatload of bad poetry for years around that sentiment, and the Dixie Chicks sing ten words what I couldn’t do in a thousand, and I love them for it.
[10]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?” So many lines in “Gaslighter” speak truth to my experience of being emotionally and psychologically manipulated, but every time I hear this one in particular, several things happen. First, my blood starts to boil and race and I feel my hands get clammy. Then, I instinctively clench my teeth and get the urge to pump my fists in the air. Finally, I remind myself that if the Dixie Chicks can get through the past decades, I can too — and my anger dissipates like air from a balloon. That’s the argument the Dixie Chicks are making here: winning the argument means not letting anyone else’s actions consume your emotional state. 
[7]

Tobi Tella: “Repeating all of the mistakes of your father” cuts like a knife, the harmonies are tight, and the lightness of the production makes it clear that they can still do fun. If there’s any justice in this world, this would be a hit on country radio.
[7]

Michael Hong: “Gaslighter” is the Dixie Chicks’ first single in fourteen years, and by virtue of being that, is interwoven with each thread its own narrative: 1) the story of the Dixie Chicks — the rise, the fall, the good, the bad, all of it always culminating in the idea that the women had something to prove. 2) Jack Antonoff on writing and production, straying into bold country territory, furthering his influence in modern music. 3) The rampant use, and in some cases, overuse, of the term “gaslighting,” and how it’s already led to thinkpieces on whether or not Natalie Maines was actually gaslit. And finally, 4) the politicization of the Dixie Chicks, broadcasting the political as a mirror of the personal. All of these narratives matter, and yet, none are necessary to understand “Gaslighter.” The track is compact in all the right ways, with tight harmonies on top of fiddle and banjo arrangements and verses that pick up right where the chorus lets off. The Dixie Chicks package the gleeful realization of the truth into a chorus so jovial you can’t help but sing along. All that’s to say, even divorced from every narrative that you can throw at “Gaslighter,” “Gaslighter” still demands you turn the volume up when you hear it through your car stereo.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The inevitable emphasis on the dropped hook is purest Jack Antonoff, not Dixie Chicks, but the best of their tunes relied on outside help anyway. “Gaslighter” squeaks by on chutzpah, skill, and nostalgia from the silent minority of lib country listeners. But Antonoff’s infatuation with percussion gives the Chicks the gaslighting urgency necessary to sell the songs in Labelle, Lynchburg, and Mena. They’re still not ready to make nice — except with Taylor Swift’s producer’s platinum cred. 
[7]

Joshua Lu: Jack Antonoff is perhaps the last producer I’d expect or want to produce a Dixie Chicks comeback song, largely because his limited palette of plinky pianos and muted synths isn’t something I’d think I’d like to hear in country music. To Jack’s credit, though, “Gaslighter” is a veritable romp, even in spite of how unfulfilled some of the instruments are and how the chorus sounds like it’s coming from a couple of rooms over. The real charm, though, is in the lyrics, so full of the charm and wit that really signify that this is a Dixie Chicks song — “you know exactly what you did on my boat” alone makes the song a perfect addition to the sizable “My Partner Cheated on Me and Now I Must Destroy the World” section of the country music canon. Fourteen years might’ve been a long wait, but at least it was worth it. 
[8]

Jackie Powell: So while 2020 has absolutely been an abysmal year, here’s it’s one redeeming quality: it set up an absolute glorious return for the Dixie Chicks. Their new single “Gaslighter” comes in at the right place at the right time. So do we have Taylor Swift to thank for this? Is it fair to assume that their vocals on “Soon You’ll Get Better” (which might be the most beautiful song on Lover) were an introduction to Jack Antonoff? His signature drums on the second chorus and beyond provide the track with the train that will entice stans of Spacey Kacey Musgraves. A divorce anthem that is also reflexive to frustration with the world in 2020 is so on brand I want to cry. But tears of joy this time. The Dixie Chicks were some of the original victims of cancel culture. But really they were gaslit by their entire genre. Tomato-gate didn’t happen until 2015, but the sexism the Dixie Chicks faced preceded the incident. What’s fascinating about their return is they won’t be in this fight with their genre and the country music establishment alone. Since the Dixie Chicks’ hiatus, Musgraves, Maren Morris, The Highwomen and others have taken a spot on the no bullshit mantel next to the trio. It’s refreshing. In classic Natalie Maines fashion, she regrets nothing, calling the repercussions of “Not Ready to Make Nice” a “blessing.” But really, in 2020, we are the ones who are really truly blessed.
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Gaslighter” is triumphant both in its specificity (“you know exactly what you did on my boat”!!!) and its broadness (the harmonies, Jack Antonoff’s shiny-as-hell production.) Despite that glory, though, “Gaslighter” feels a little empty at its core. It’s the rush of the breakup without the consideration of the fallout, the thrill without any crash.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: On first listen, this sounded too small, too restrained, too modest for its concept. These aren’t things that you would expect from the big ambitions and big voices of the Dixie Chicks. But when the chorus comes in a second time with the drumbeat, it works as a mantra for a protagonist no more ready to forgive than she is to forget. And, as if you needed to be told, their voices still sound gorgeous together.
[8]

Oliver Maier: A tumbling boulder of rage for a chorus and Jack Antonoff graciously refraining from turning “Gaslighter” into a big echoey 80s-inflected synth pop confection. “We moved to California and we followed your dreams” is such a great opening line for the verse, charging the events of the song with a mythological, Dust Bowl-era resonance and signalling the relationship’s disintegration before it even occurs, like something out of a Steinbeck novel. Maines rattles off each charge against her ex just vividly enough to get the raw emotional beats across, without fixating long enough to stall the song’s momentum. A relationship is cremated and catharsis is achieved; no need for an autopsy when there’s no ambiguity left.
[8]

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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