Idol Chatter

Redemption appeared to be the theme of the night at the Grammys, from the Dixie Chicks’ triumphs to Mary J. Blige’s gracious acceptance speech to Carrie Underwood’s win for the spiritual surrender anthem, “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Not everyone handled their redemption with grace. After the Dixie Chicks took their first Grammy–for best country vocal performance by a duo or group–it seemed clear that record-industry voters, if not all country fans, had sided with the Chicks in their red-state/blue state set-to over their comments about the Iraq War. By the time they won their second award–for country album–it was clear Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines was ready to gloat. “To quote ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Heh, heh’,” sneered Maines in accepting the Grammy.

It took her bandmate Martie Maguire to thank the fans who had stuck with them, and allude to the fact that their best-country album honors had come from liberal industry folk, not Nashville proper. “It’s a very strange place to be sometimes… without a genre necessarily,” said Maguire.

Maines later chimed, “I’m ready to make nice!” and called herself “humbled” by the group’s Record of the Year award, but it was literally too late–only the die-hard Red Hot Chili Pepper fans were waiting up to see their guys perform by that point in the over-long show–and too political. I don’t begruge Maines her freedom to speak. Anyone with a microphone that big has the duty to speak truth to power. But if you’re going to be a protest rocker, Natalie, be cool. Take your redemption, such as it was, as a gift, instead of sounding like a member of the newly ascendant congressional Democrats.

Underwood put a point on Maines’s chatter when she accepted her second Grammy, for best New Artist, immediately following the Chicks’ second appearance. She began, “I love country music, first of all.” How nice was that?

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