' Cinema Romantico: Shut Up and Sing

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shut Up and Sing

I've written before of my fondness of the notorious "country" band The Dixie Chicks and so perhaps my saying that I would most certainly recommend last year's documentary "Shut Up and Sing" would seem to be a bit biased. Well, so be it. It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking. It's jumping off point - and what one may call the primary plot point - pertains, of course, to lead singer Natalie Maines still-infamous comment several years back of "being ashamed the President is from Texas". (It shouldn't need to be said although every single one of us knows it does and so I will - Ms. Maines has the God-given right to say whatever the hell she wants. End of story.)

And so I suppose this documentary which follows The Dixie Chicks in the years after this quote and the many, many repercussions is meant to be somewhat of a treatise of our current touchy, feely political climate. However, I'd like to go in a different direction. The documentary conjured up something entirely diffrent inside me. Namely, the fact that "Shut Up and Sing" could be considered one of the most damning pieces of evidence of the currently pourous state of our music industry.

This is not to say that breathtakingly brilliant music is not out there because we all know it is and I've spoken of it at length myself. But there is a line early in the film where someone (I forget who) says to The Chicks, "You're wonderful musicians, but you're a brand."

Woah, stop the presses. Right there. That's the line that cuts to heart of all this. The Dixie Chicks could make an argument for being the most famous band in the world right now. But despite the fact that their last album was a truly fantastic piece of work that status has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that their last album was a truly fantastic piece of work. It all has to do with the fact that Ms. Maines disparaged the President which caused a bunch of Americans who, let's face it, make me ashamed to be from America to disparage The Chicks which caused a bunch of spineless "country" stations (I put quotations around country since I'm willing to bet 98% of those station owners couldn't tell Lucinda Williams from Andy Williams) to essentially boycott The Chicks. All of this is what led to The Dixie Chicks becoming so famous.

And there, in a nutshell, is our music industry. Namely, pathetic. The music itself has nothing at all anymore to do with it. Who cares if you can play music well. You've gotta' be a brand. Yahoos from American Idol get record deals while I can check out someone at a teeny-tiny club here in Chicago who has more musicianship in his or her little finger who has to travel by bus and cut corners to make ends meet. And The Dixie Chicks become the most famous band in the world not because their most recent album is a skillful blending of their country and bluegrass heritage with a more a rock-feel and passionate, mature songwriting but because their lead singer said one thing and the press - which has nothing better to do with its time - ran with it.

At one point in the documentary some woman - a radion station dee jay, I think? - inevitably bellows of Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, "I wish they'd just shut up and sing." I'd like to say to that woman, they would if they could. It's people like you who continually make it so they have to do more.

No comments: