The Chicks Team Up With Pop Producer Jack Antonoff For Their Return To Country Music

Country music’s leading ladies light up and persevere in the ever-changing musical landscape with a little help from friends like St. Vincent and Julia Michaels.  

The Chicks
Columbia Records

You can count on country music trio The Chicks to always hold fast to their beliefs and persevere, no matter how many social movements and controversies they find themselves in.

They’re back for the first time since winning the 2007 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Taking the Long Way—a somber and reflective look at a world that had recently sent them a firestorm of sexist comments and death threats for criticizing former President George W. Bush. This time with a new name that once again sees them harnessing the current social climate.

Honouring the current social upheaval of the Black Lives Matter movement, the band opted to drop “Dixie,” a word with several problematic ties to the ideals and values of the U.S. Confederacy. Thirteen years later, The Chicks are once again here to tell their story in their traditionally blunt and unapologetic way with their new album, Gaslighter. This time, however, it’s a lot more personal.

Inspired to start writing music again by her recent divorce from actor Adrian Pasdar–the titular gaslighter in question–lead vocalist Natalie Maines sets to work on laying out exactly what happened to her without any hint of subtlety or metaphors. She gestures at the pair of tights left on her boat, implores her bandmates’ young daughters to stand up for themselves against toxic relationships in the future, and wishes a painful death on her ex-lover in the same breath she prays that he loses one of his socks.

In an especially powerful moment, she expresses her frustration that nobody else is capable of seeing what she sees, blinded by his charismatic public front. The narratives she weaves across the album give context to and enhance the others, making the listener understand how it’s possible that these events could have transpired in the way they did.

Of course, they don’t hold back on the politics either. The Chicks address a wide gamut of the ills of society on the protest song “March March,” plainly and fearlessly sharing their opinions on abortion, climate change, school shootings, and Trump’s shady dealings with Russia. Maines’ powerful vocals and acerbic pen are both as strong as you remember, coming together to enforce their messaging.

Musically, The Chicks fit right into the modern landscape as if they never left. Teaming up with pop producer of the moment Jack Antonoff, who they met through their feature on Taylor Swift’s latest album; his work behind the boards allows them to keep the aspects of the band that made them superstars while translating their theatrical country harmonies over to the slow builds, euphoric pop melodies, and hip-hop adjacent beats that Antonoff is known for. Only this time, they’re frequently interspersed with a plucking banjo. With other superstars including Julia Michaels and St. Vincent in the writing credits, The Chicks have reclaimed their place in the country music genre. 

Best Track: “Everybody Loves You”